Before the advent of deodorant, people generally tried to smell good by masking body odours with perfumes. This practice dated back to the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks. However, that changed in 1888 when an inventor from Philadelphia, USA developed a wax-like cream with antibacterial zinc oxide. The product was to be used not only to prevent armpit odour but also foot odour. It was hoped that the very expensive silk stockings worn in those times would last longer by using the antibacterial cream. This was the birth of the first deodorant worldwide.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no record of who the inventor was. All that is known is that the Philadelphia-based man trademarked his invention. He distributed it through his nurse, under the name of Mum. Some believe that the nurse’s nickname was Mum. The company was bought by Bristol-Myers in 1931.
The deodorant, Mum, had very little in common with the deodorants of today. Unlike roll-ons, sticks or aerosol deodorants, the zinc-based Mum deodorant was a cream intended to be applied to the underarms (and feet) by the fingers. This formula and application helped people smell good for over 50 years.
In the late 1940s, Helen Barnett Diserens joined the Mum production team. A suggestion by a colleague inspired Helen to develop an underarm deodorant based on the same principle as a newfangled invention, the ballpoint pen. In the early 1950s the first-ever roll-on deodorant hit the market under the name Ban Roll-On. In 1958, the product was launched in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations as Mum Rollette.
Mum is still available today.
Watch this Mum Cream Deodorant Commercial “Mums the Word” circa 1956.