Wednesday, June 11, 2014
As Colman’s Mustard nears 200 years of trading, we look at how the iconic company went from a one-man show to a household name. LAUREN COPE visited the museum to pick out some of the most interesting – and unusual – finds from the Colman history.
Mustard bath items
Putting mustard powder in the bath might seem bizarre, but in the early 20th century it was a popular use for the condiment.
And it was taken seriously - a sifter and stirrer ensured that the mustard was evenly distributed.
It was believed that the heat would stimulate the circulation, soothe the nerves and ward off colds and muscle pain.
An advert in 1914 even said: “If women fully realised what a beautifier of the skin mustard is when used in the bath, they would spend less on cosmetics.”
This worn pot has had an interesting life - it accompanied polar explorer Ernest Shackleton on his 1907 Nimrod Expedition to the Antarctic, where the team hoped to be first to the South Pole.
Although the dream wasn’t realised, the journey was the longest southern polar journey at that time.
We can only assume that Shackleton had a soft spot for Colman’s, or that he planned to rely on its warming qualities when the low temperatures kicked in.
Colman’s plasters and mustard oil
In the early 1900s mustard was often used for medicinal purposes.
Colman Victorian mustard plasters - also known as sinapisms - were made with a pastelike mixture of powdered black mustard, flour and water.
The mustard’s heat meant they were used to treat inflamed areas or improve circulation.
Mustard oil was also used to treat rheumatism - the heat was believed to ease muscle pain.
Although mustard is still used as a remedy today, its popularity has dwindled.
The Mustard Club
In September 1926, Colman’s launched the Mustard Club campaign - one of the earliest examples of guerilla marketing.
The first adverts appeared as bus posters, asking “has father joined the Mustard Club?” Eventually, there were card games, ornaments and badges for members to declare their status.
A special department at Colman’s was established to deal with the 2,000 applications a day to join the club and by the time the campaign closed in 1933, 500,000 badges had been given to new members.
Used as a way to maintain advertising throughout the First World War, these story books were given to children as Christmas presents.
Traditional tales such as Beauty and the Beast would fill the pages, while the front and back covers were dedicated to promoting the business.
As the war continued and the budget for the books was slashed, the subtlety was dropped - promotion became top priority and the stories were pushed to the side.
A popular method of promotion was to give customers branded Colman’s products.
Everyday items including pin cushions, golf tees, pencil sharperners and looking glasses were distributed around the city - cheap to produce and useful around the house, the offerings would ensure the brand name was not forgotten.
Issued in the late 1930s to special customers, privilege pots were made by DG Ware of Stourbridge.
They were awarded to the most affluent, and influential, customers.