Of late, I have been once again going through items in cabinets and drawers and vetting out items I no longer use or wear. It amazing me how things end up overflowing even when I go through this procedure regularly. This last time I discovered a jar of Noxzema stuck way back in the corner of a cabinet beneath one of the bathroom sinks. Now, I must say this was quite unusual, for I do not recall using Noxzema recently, if ever. I suppose I purchased it for a sunburn, but I certainly had no idea of its existence in my cabinet. However, it got me thinking of the cream and when was the last time I saw it upon a shelf at the pharmacy.
There are two tales on how Noxzema came into existence.
Tale #1 concerns George Avery Bunting. Bunting began his career as first a school teacher and later as a school principal, after graduating from Washington College in 1891, but he left the profession after a mere six years and enrolled in the University of Maryland’s pharmacy school, from which he graduated in 1899. Eventually, he opened a drug store in Baltimore and quickly became consumed with the idea of developing a skin cream. Stories have it that Bunting’s customer care often suffered because he was so consumed with his experiments. Even so, Bunting was not hurting for business because many of his customers enjoyed watching him pour out his cream from an old coffee pot into small blue jars. The cream at the time was called Dr. Bunting’s Sunburn Remedy. Soon, other druggists carried Bunting’s product.
Eventually, Bunting’s product had a foothold in the skin cream marketplace, but Bunting thought the product required a more “progressive” name. At length, one of his customers told him, “Doc, you know your sunburn cream sure knocked out my eczema.” Dr. Bunting’s Sunburn Remedy transformed into Noxzema Skin Cream.
Tale #2’s alternate character is Dr. Francis Townsend of Ocean City, Maryland. Townsend had an extensive background in medicine and chemistry. He created a product labelled as Townsend R22. It was designed to relieve the pain of sunburn, but customers soon purported its usage beyond over exposing oneself to sunlight along the Atlantic shoreline.
Some say that Townsend gave the formula to George Bunting (now we are back to Bunting). Thrilled with his creation, Townsend wanted it to spread. By some accounts, he gave the formula to another physician, Dr. George Bunting of Baltimore. Bunting never gave credit for his invention to Townsend.
According to Joshua Kennon, “Regardless, Bunting was an incredible opportunist and knew a good thing when he saw it. According to Charmed Life: Getting Creamed by Brennen Jensen, published in the Baltimore City Paper, November 3, 1999, Bunting earned $4 each week operating a soda fountain in a drugstore; a pharmacy that, according to another source, he later purchased. It didn’t take him long to fully comprehend what he had on his hands; gold in a jar. In 1914, he setup a factory in a house located at 102 East Lafayette Avenue, using a coffee pot to mix the original batches.
“Dr. Bunting and a woman named Elizabeth Buck formulated, combined, poured, and packaged the medical product for several years as the business wasn’t, yet, able to support a proper workforce. It began selling like crazy. Although it was first known as ‘Dr. Bunting’s Sunburn Remedy,’ it was soon called ‘The Miracle Cream of Baltimore.’ In what is now a well-known legend, one customer told Dr. Bunting, “Your product knocked out my eczema!”. Realizing he had a brand name, he repackaged it as ‘Noxzema.’ Though the public didn’t pronounce it in that spirit (it sounds like ‘nocks-zeema’ rather than “no-eczema”), the new product packaging debuted along with a formal organization. Around 1917, the Noxzema Company issued shares and moved to 1817 North Charles Street, picking up production as sales climbed higher. Consumers realized it worked not only for sunburn and facial cleansing, but as a makeup remover and anti-aging cream, too.
“It was in the 1960’s that the company changed its name to Noxell Corporation, presumably to represent its expansion beyond the core activity for which it had been known.”