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September 2003

The Ivory Soap® Contest
Sometimes small paper mementos tell us big stories. Rispah Porter and her family kept this telegram and snapshot as a reminder of an exciting event.


MORE: The Ivory Soap Contest

Ivory Soap advertisement for a prize contest in 1939, similar to other contests that Procter & Gamble held during the late 1930s. Ladies' Home Journal, February, 1939, p. 10, Periodicals Collection.

Portrait of Miss Porter from a newspaper article about her industrial nursing career, at the time of her retirement, The Milwaukee Journal, October 11, 1959, Part 6, Page 13.
ID 99.255.3
Gift of Monica Lepine Starrett


Miss Porter, a Registered Nurse for the Chain Belt Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, formed their medical department and pioneered workplace safety equipment from 1929 through 1959. During the 1930s Depression, she felt fortunate to have a job, let alone an interesting career. Although she worked hard, she could not afford a car and got around Milwaukee by walking, taking the bus or the streetcar. On weekends she often visited her parents in her hometown of Elkhorn about 45 miles southwest of Milwaukee, traveling by train or hitching rides with relatives. She dreamed of someday owning her own car.

In 1937, Rispah Porter took a step towards fulfilling this dream and entered Procter & Gamble’s Ivory Soap contest hoping to win the prize of a new Pontiac automobile. She may have read about this Ivory Soap contest in a magazine or heard about it on the “O'Neills” radio program, which was sponsored by Ivory Soap. To enter the contest, the contestant had to write a letter explaining why they liked Ivory Soap. According to family members’ recollections, her letter began “As a Registered Nurse…” and went on to explain why she only used Ivory Soap in the medical clinic of her company.

On March 19, 1937 she received a telegram informing her that she was the winner of a 1937 Pontiac and a year’s supply of gasoline. She quickly took driving lessons and was soon able to drive herself to visit her parents in Elkhorn. Her family kept the telegram and photograph of her with the car and donated them to The Henry Ford in 1999. Her niece, Monica Starrett gathered the family stories about her Aunt Ris and the Ivory Soap contest for this online exhibit.

® Ivory Soap is a Registered Trademark of the Procter & Gamble Corporation.

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Cynthia Read-Miller, Curator, Photography and Prints


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