Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Great Oreo vs. Hydrox Competition

I came across this 1960s ad for Hydrox cookies and it reminded me of the eternal question (not really): why are there Oreos AND Hydrox cookies? And which are better? Which came first?

This ad states that Hydrox is "the original cream-filled chocolate cookie" and they did indeed come first - they were first sold in 1908 and the Oreo came along in 1912; the Oreo, made by Nabisco in New York City (the street the factory was on, 9th Avenue between 15th and 16th, is now called Oreo Way).

No one seems to know why it is called an Oreo. It might have something to do with "or," the French word for gold. And it might not. As for Hydrox, the name was a portmanteau word made from hydrogen and oxygen. It was supposed to stand for a modern, scientific goodness in your sandwich cookie. The Hydrox IS science.

Oreo on the other hand was unscientifically golden. It became the best selling cookie in the US and it has been that way for the Oreo ever since. Poor Hydrox. I've never had one but I gather that they were a bit less sweet, and less crumbly when dunked, than Oreos.  A lot of people loved them, according to this Wall Street Journal story. If you were a Hydrox fan, you were (I gather from the WSJ) a little edgier, a little more "in the know." It was the hipster of cookies. Oreo was for the hoi polloi.

But alas for Hydrox. Between 1999 and 2003, Keebler (who bought the Sunshine Biscuit Co. in 1996) made
ABC News
something similar to the original Hydrox, called Droxies. In 2008 in honor of the cookie's 100th birthday, Keebler began making the original Hydrox cookie again - only for a year, though. But take heart, Hydrox hipsters. Leaf Brands bought the trademark Hydrox Cookies this very year and apparently will start making them again. They should be out at the end of the year, so you can start looking for Hydrox again pretty soon.

If you are in the US, that is. I'm in Canada so I probably won't be looking. There is a Canadian version of the Oreo/Hydrox though. It has a surprisingly bossy name (ironic, because Canadians are are so agreeable and polite, you know): Eat the Middle First. This is the cookie that orders you to approach it in a very specific way. This cookie does not want to be dunked headfirst into a glass of milk. It wants to be analyzed and deconstructed like a poem. What do you think it is, a doughnut?

And the convenience-friendly, ready-to-eat, instant-coffee version of all this is over on Tumblr.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Such Actress, Much Doge Cream

I got to the Doge meme a little bit late. I don't really know why but I know it amused my kids to see me checking out all the Doge stuff and laughing my head off when they'd known about it for ages. So when I rediscovered this ad I knew it had it all: history plus humor. Not only that, but it also has the celebrity endorsement of the fabulously-named Miss Madge Titheradge.

Before we get to Madge, though: the Doge Cream. It was named for the Venetian title doge - roughly equivalent to a duke in English. The almond oil based cream was supposed to be "prepared from a secret and priceless Venetian recipe."

1926 ad on Flickr
Doge Cream was made in the 1930s by the Shavex Zee-Kol Company in London, England and was advertised widely in British magazines of the period as the "Marvellous Complexion Restorer" (although in this ad it is Magic, not marvellous).

The company also sold Zec-Kol Ointment and Zec-Kol Toilet Soap and had done so since the early 1920s. My Google Books sources say that Zykol was a British version of Lysol. Fun fact: in the early and mid 20th century, Lysol was marketed not as a household cleanser but as a personal cleansing/disinfecting product, as bizarre as that sounds to us today. It sounds like  Zee-Kol/Zykol/Zec-Kol was the same sort of thing.


Venetian ladies were indeed renowned for their beautiful complexions. Venetian soap was an olive oil soap - it was also called Castile soap. It was a common ingredient in Victorian recipes for face washes and preparations. In 1837 one beauty guide advised that if you wanted clear skin, you must mix Venetian soap, lemon juice, and almond oil and apply it to your face. A recipe for Milk of Roses in 1872 included Venetian soap, almonds, wine and rose water. Doge Cream was probably similar. I don't know if it had any Zeekol in it, though.

Madge Titheradge (1887-1961) was born in Australia to a theatrical family, and was known for playing Peter Pan in London in 1914. She also appeared in a couple of silent movies and in plays by Ibsen, Noel Coward and Shakespeare.
For the bigger version of the Doge Cream ad (and as good a doge-meme joke as I could cook up) please do visit me at Kitsch and Retro, this blog's Tumblr-sister.