by Susie Hodgson

The Jergens Soap Company was founded in 1882 by Andrew Jergens Sr. in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was coconut soap. Andrew Jergens Sr. put up all his life savings into his company - $5000 - which is the equivalent of about $137,000 today. The Cincinnati location is still there and it’s still going gangbusters. But what does this have to do with Burbank? Plenty.

In the 1920s, Jergens built another production facility in Burbank – at 99 W. Verdugo. Jergens Sr. died in 1929 and his son, Andrew Jergens Jr. reluctantly took over – reluctantly because he and his father did not have a great relationship. Still, Jr. did his duty and took over. Turns out he was very successful at it, too. Soon there was another scent to the soap – one we all know to this day: cherry-almond. Jr. also put in radio advertising which included endorsements by such luminaries as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Walter Winchell, and Louella Parsons, among others. Joan Crawford and Gloria Swanson were also (separately) showcased in Jergens’s print ads.

Over time, Jergens bought up other brands such as Woodbury Soap and Eastman Perfume Company (who remembers Ben Hur perfume?) Throughout the decades, Jergens purchased Ban Roll-On deodorant, "Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific" shampoo and John Frieda Hair products. Its slogan became "Did you know [Jergens] makes powder cling with peach-bloom softness?" Jergens also procured Biore, Curel, and more. Jergens was the best-selling lotion in the country. It also scored a huge hit recently with Jergens Natural Glow, a product that sold out in its first week on the market. Leslie Mann, actress and wife of comedian/director/producer/screenwriter Judd Apatow, “stars” in the commercials. So does her daughter!

Many locals worked at the Burbank facility. Everyone in town knew the time by the loud steam whistle at the plant that marked the morning and afternoon coffee breaks and, at 5 pm, the whole town knew it was the end of the shift. (The whistle can now be found at the Burbank Historical Society/Gordon R. Howard Museum!) People who drove or walked by the facility could always recognize that they were near the Jergens facility: Why? Oh, that smell! It smelled so good – cherry-almond! As an aside, we have a bottle of Jergens at the museum and you can take in that wonderful scent.

Unfortunately, the Burbank plant closed in 1992. Andrew Jergens Jr. was long gone; he died in 1967. The California plant was just too expensive to maintain. So back to Cincinnati it went, breaking many hearts in our fair city.

A few little facts about Jergens:

In 1988, Jergens was sold to the Japanese company, Kao Brands.

There is a Jergens Park in Cincinnati on the grounds where Andrew Jergens’s mansion was located.

Jergens was the first to sell its brand in chain stores - not just beauty shops.

Jergens’s first successful soap product, which was made with coconut oil, was specially designed to be used in hard water.

The employees of the Burbank Jergens plant had one month’s notice to leave. (In 1988, that became the minimum time period required by law.) Pretty sad for the employees.

But that cherry-almond aroma sure smells good!

The Burbank Historical Society/Gordon R. Howard Museum
Located in George Izay Park, right next to the Creative Arts Center
Phone: (818) 841-6333
Web site:

Return to Burbankia