Darkie Toothpaste Box

Darkie Toothpaste Box

Usage conditions apply
In 1939, Walter Landor arrived in the United States to help install the British training pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. At twenty-six years old, Landor had left his home in Germany to study art and design in Britain, where he became the youngest Fellow of the Royal Society of Industrial Artists. With whispers of war circulating around Europe, Landor decided to stay in the United States and travelled to the West Coast in search of design work. In 1941, Landor and his new wife Josephine Martinelli founded Walter Landor and Associates (today Landor) in their San Francisco apartment. The company specialized in packaging and label design for a number of iconic brands ranging from Marlboro cigarettes to Aunt Jemima to Sara Lee. As the company expanded, Landor’s base of operations moved from his home through several locations until it settled in 1962 on the Klamath, a docked ferryboat in the San Francisco Bay that would become an iconic part of Landor’s own brand.
Hawley and Hazel Chemical Company created Darkie Toothpaste in Shanghai in 1933 and based their marketing on the minstrel performer Al Jolson. Minstrel performances featured White actors wearing blackface and relied on racial stereotypes of African Americans to entertain White audiences. They maintained popularity in the United States until the Civil Rights Movement. The company, and the toothpaste, remained based in Asia.
In 1985 Colgate-Palmolive acquired Hawley and Hazel. Colgate-Palmolive never marketed the brand outside of Asia, but the company received criticism and complaints about the offensive name and packaging until the brand name was changed to Darlie. As part of this change, the company simplified the image on the packaging to be less reminiscent of minstrel shows and blackface. However, the Chinese name of the product remains “Black Person Fluoride Toothpaste,” as it was before and the product is still for sale in Asia.
Currently not on view
Object Name
toothpaste box
overall: 20.5 cm x 4.7 cm x 3.7 cm; 8 1/16 in x 1 7/8 in x 1 7/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Bequest of Walter and Josephine Landor
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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