The advertisement to the left appeared in the Chicago Daily Tribune on May 27, 1893. And, since I'm a curious sort...
I easily found two more ads: One from the The New Albany Ledger in 1889 and the other from The Bloomington Bulletin in 1888 (courtesy of The OldenTimes.com) It seemed that "Santa Claus Soap" was quite the household name back in the day and was even the subject of seasonal "trading cards."
According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago:
Fairbank (N. K.) & Co.
In 1864, Nathaniel K. Fairbank and John Peck established Fairbank, Peck & Co. as the successor to Smedley, Peck & Co., a Chicago lard processor and soap maker. Using materials generated by the city's large meatpacking industry, the company expanded. By 1870, its new plant at 19th and Blackwell Streets employed about 160 men, women, and children, and produced about $2 million worth of lard, soap, and cottonseed oil a year. In 1875, it was purchased by American Cotton Oil and was renamed N. K. Fairbank & Co. By 1880, it had 400 employees and $5 million in annual sales. A decade later, the company had sales branches in St. Louis, Omaha, and Montreal and had become famous for its distinctive advertising. The company employed over 1,000 people at the 19th Street plant in Chicago into the 1910s. In 1921, the plant was closed as American Cotton Oil moved its manufacturing to newer plants in the South.
Wikipedia provided more information about Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank (1829-1903).
Fairbank was the original owner of the land that now comprises Streeterville in downtown Chicago; now some of the most expensive real estate in the city. Despite unanimously winning several court cases Fairbank, the Pinkertons, and the Chicago Police were unable to remove the squatter and Chicago legend, George Streeter, from the property for 28 years. As a testament to the long running feud a street running near the outside (western) edge of Streeterville is named Fairbanks Court.
(I'm going to have to save the battle of Streeterville for another day, but for more information, see George Wellington "Cap" Streeter by Richard F. Bales. Today we focus on the N. K. Fairbank & Co. products and sample ads.)
She walks the waters like a thing of life,
And seems to dare the elements ot strife,
With all hands active, both on deck and yard,
Happy because they have Fairbank’s pure Lard.
The lard was packed in attractive cans, pails, and pots and often bore the warning, "Beware of Inferior Lard packed in pails similar to ours, CALCULATED TO DECEIVE." (Ad from OldPostCards.com)
"Advertising card for Woodward, Faxon & Co., Wholesale Druggists, showing two pigs trying to crack a safe. Front of card says: "Hold on my boy, don't let us try,/ This good safe lock to spoil/ The owner, as I read above/ Sells Fairbanks Pure Lard Oil." Sign above safe says: "L. U. Bricator Dealer in N. K. Fairbank & Cos. Lard Oil." (Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library) Othere lard cards can be seen here and here.
RusticAdvertising.com has some background on the Fairbank's products provided by Nathalie Bell Brown, granddaughter of Nathaniel:
My grandfather, Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbanks, was born in Sodus, New York in 1829 and came west to Chicago by canal boat and train after the Civil War. He brought cottonseed oil and was involved...in the manufacture of soaps, among which were Fair Soap (pure, white, floating), Sunny Monday (washday soap) and Gold Dust (soap granules). Fairy Soap was named, of course, from the first four letters of his last name. The trademark of the little fairy was modeled for by a young girl...The Fairy idea was very effective advertising and many people remember their mothers insisting on Fairy Soap being used for their Saturday night baths! I even ran across a reference to Fairy Soap in Helen Hayes' biography! The Gold Dust Twins were drawn by E.W. Kemble, a staff artist for the Chicago Daily Graphic. The Fairbank Company compiled his drawings and published them as a coloring booklet to go with the soap in 1904. The Twins were on the package for 75 years.
Fairbank's Fairy Calendar 1901 from The Art of the Print More vintage Fairy Soap ads available at VintageAds4U.
An excellent History of Fairy Soap is recorded on Fairies World and includes an extensive pictorial of the charming ads.
"Fairbank's Gold Dust Washing Powder - The Many Purpose Cleaner. The N. K. Fairbanks Soap Company produced numerous types of soap and cleaning products. The business started in 1897 and eventually folded in the 1930's. The Gold Dust products were represented by the Gold Dust Twins, two African-American children surrounded by gold coins. The orange box with the universally recognized twins practically jumped off the shelf. In fact the twins were one of the best known trademarks of the 19th century. Let the Twins Do Your Work was the tag line. The back of the box shows the twins tackling several household chores as well as a list of 34 cleaning jobs made easier by using Gold Dust."(From: the-forum online-Antiques-Mall) For more Gold Dust ads, see the 3 Fairbanks Soap Gold Dust Twins Ads at CyberAttic and the Duke University Libraries Digital Collection on Emergence of Advertising in America.
My curiosity was peeked when I stumbled upon a collectibles website called Ruby Lane. Listed for sale was "Chicago World's Fair 1893 Cottolene N.K. Fairbanks Booklet." "In 1884 the first lard compound (marketed as such) was introduced by the N.K. Fairbank Co. and in 1915 its brand name was registered as Snow White. In 1886 Fairbank introduced Victoria (registered in 1912), and in 1887 Cottolene (registered that year); it contained 80-85% cottonseed oil and 20-15% oleostearine."
(From: The History of Soy Oil Shortening. Lots of information on N. K. Fairbank & Co., lard rendering and cottolene. Cottolene can from Aubrey's Antiques.)
In order to promote cottolene and instruct a wary public on how to use the product, N. K. Fairbank & Co. published cookbooks. Home Helps: A Pure Food Cook Book appeared in 1910 and Fifty-two Sunday dinners; a book of recipes, arranged on a unique plan, combining helpful suggestions for appetizing, well-balanced menus, with all the newest ideas and latest discoveries in the preparation of tasty, wholesome cookery followed in 1913. A cookbook of 600 recipes was also offered at the Columbian Exposition to any lady who would send three cents in stamps to the N. K. Fairbank & Co.
For more information on brand names and advertising (including the Fairbank company) in the early twentieth century, see Productive Advertising by Herbert W. Hess published in 1915 and Poster Advertising by G.H.E. Hawkins (Advertising Manager of the N. K. Fairbank Co.) published in 1910.
Of all the beautiful and whimsical ads for N. K. Fairbank & Co. products, the following from the Library of Congress is my favorite:
Sources and Recommended Reading:The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles: Poems in Food Advertising
The Story of Chicago by Joseph Kirkland, published by Dibble Publishing, Co., 1892
The Mysterious Disappearance of Lard: Cottolene by Alice Ross