If you are like me growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, you are acquainted with the chemical bicarbonate of soda under the brand name of Arm and Hammer. Baking soda, as it was called then, was used as an antacid for the stomach. I recall my mother making me swallow a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with a glass of water to make my stomach feel better, and it worked.
I was personally acquainted with the soda’s logo, a red circle with a muscular arm holding a steel sledge hammer inside. I really never thought much about the company, however, a little research indicated a rather interesting history.
I always thought that the company was started by the tycoon Armand Hammer. But, my research tells me that the product was in use 31 years before Mr. Hammer was born.
The logo of the brand depicts the ancient symbol of a muscular arm holding a hammer inside a red circle with the brand name and slogan. This arm and hammer represents Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking. This logo is a registered trademark of Church & Dwight, a major American manufacturer of household products.
Originally associated solely with baking soda and washing soda, the company began to expand the brand to other products in the 1970s by using baking soda as a deodorizing ingredient. The new products included toothpaste, laundry detergent, underarm deodorant, and cat litter.
Armand Hammer started out as John Dwight & Company in 1846 when John Dwight and Austin Church used their sodium bicarbonate in their kitchen. They formerly made the COW BRAND trademark on their baking soda. In 1886, Austin retired and his two sons succeeded in selling their Arm and Hammer Baking Soda through their name, Church & Company as a competing company which continued selling Cow Brand baking soda. The Church & Dwight Company was formed when the two companies were merged.
Armand Hammer was so often asked about the Church & Dwight brand that he attempted to buy the company. While unsuccessful, Hammer’s Occidental Petroleum in 1986 acquired enough stock for him to join the Church & Dwight board of directors. Hammer remained one of the owners of Arm & Hammer Company until his death in 1990.
The Arm and Hammer logo has been used in heraldry, appearing in the Coat of Arms of Birmingham, and the Seal of Wisconsin.
The similarity to the name of the industrialist, Armand Hammer, is not a coincidence as he was named after the symbol. His father, Julius Hammer, was a supporter of socialist causes, including the Socialist Labor Party of America, with its arm-and-hammer logo. This symbol is referred to by Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities. As of 2016 the original sign is being held in the Charles Dickens Museum in London. England.
“ARM AND HAMMER”
BY: NEAL MURPHY
PO Box 511
San Augustine, Texas 75972