c.1900 Pears Soap box in the collections of The Mary Baker Eddy Library
and Contemporary Pears Soap box.

Possibly some of the most unique items in the collections at The Mary Baker Eddy Library are three cakes of Pears Soap. Pears, a transparent soap first produced in 1789 in London, is said to be the first registered brand in the world.

Pears Soap is still available today, and is the oldest continually existing branded product.

1896 Munsey’s Magazine: According to this advertisement, Pears was an important part of a soldier’s hygiene routine

1896 Munsey’s Magazine: According to this advertisement, Pears was an important part of a soldier’s hygiene routine

Three bars of soap were sent to Mary Baker Eddy from the Philippines in 1900 in the name of Lieutenant J. Malcolm Graham. In response to a letter of thanks from Eddy dated May 17, 1900,1 Lt. Graham wrote back on September 1, saying he did not send the soap.2 In a second letter dated September 18, 1900, Lt. Graham suggested that an inquiry to Company C of the 19th Infantry (U.S. Army) might uncover the true identity of the person who sent the soap.3

Calvin Frye, Eddy’s longtime secretary, wrote Company C, and received a reply from one George Doble. In a letter dated December 26, 1900, signed only G.D.D., Doble acknowledged that he sent the soap, but maintained that he had meant to remain anonymous.4

So, what’s so unique about these bars of soap? Embedded in the cakes of soap were ten $5 Liberty Head, or half eagle, gold pieces! According to the letter from G.D.D., these gold coins were four months’ pay that he had received upon his release from a four–month hospital stay. He attributed his survival of a severe bullet wound to Christian Science, and sent the money to Eddy in gratitude.

threee bars-flat
Pears Soap with $5 gold coins Mary Baker Eddy was so humbled by this generosity that she spoke of it in her Message to The Mother Church for 1900:

Only last week I received a touching token of unselfed manhood from a person I never saw. But since publishing this page I have learned it was a private soldier who sent to me, in the name of a first lieutenant of the United States infantry in the Philippine Islands, ten five–dollar gold pieces snuggled in Pears’ soap. Surely it is enough for a soldier serving his country in that torrid zone to part with his soap, but to send me some of his hard–earned money cost me a tear! Yes, and it gave me more pleasure than millions of money could have given.5

The three cakes of soap with the coins still embedded in them and the correspondence mentioned above reside in the collections of The Mary Baker Eddy Library.

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  1. Mary Baker Eddy to J. Malcolm Graham, 17 May 1900, L09532.
  2. Graham to Eddy, 1 September 1900, IC673a.
  3. Graham to Eddy, 18 September 1900, IC673a.
  4. SF – Eddy, Mary Baker – Gifts To
  5. Eddy, Message to The Mother Church for 1900 (Boston: The First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1900), 10.