Born January 25, 1783

By William Colgate’s 37th birthday in 1820, it seemed that God blessed everything the businessman touched. But that same year, some dubbed William’s latest venture “Colgate’s Folly.” That’s the year he moved his soap manufacturing operations from New York to New Jersey. He built a factory there and started producing starch as filler for his hand soaps.

Colgate Clock Jersey City (1 of 2) (3157735699)


William first saw America as a teenager when his family left England to settle in Maryland. When the young adult William moved to New York, he gained an apprenticeship with a soap-maker.  He learned well, soon starting his own business. It prospered.

William’s innovative practices are credited with bringing America’s soap-making business out of the dark ages. Traditionally, soap on this side of the ocean didn’t even smell good. He introduced perfumed soaps to the United States. He made individual bars of soap available. He offered home delivery service. What some considered his folly in 1820 proved to be one more wise business decision. The starch additive reduced his costs, which lowered prices for the buying public.


Why did God continue blessing William Colgate? Because William’s Christian faith advised all parts of his life. He committed his family to God (William and his wife Mary raised their sons in the faith); he served as a wise steward of God’s money (not only tithing but giving generously to missions and other Christian causes); he led his business with a servant’s heart, constantly improving his products for the public.

He wanted others to benefit as he had from God’s word. The devout Christian, fondly known as Deacon Colgate, helped launch the American Bible Society and, later, the American and Foreign Bible Society. Along with sponsoring Bible distribution, he was personally involved in and heavily supported New York’s Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution.

English: Colgate University's chapel

Colgate University chapel


He didn’t create the toothpaste bearing his name. That came later. William Colgate did reinvent the world of soap for America. Although he died on March 25, 1857, his  influence lives on through his company’s products, through the distribution of God’s word by the American Bible Society and through the university to which he donated so much. In 1890, the governing board renamed the institution Colgate University.  William Colgate also left a great example for all Christians in business.


LET ME KNOW:  How has William’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped  you? I welcome your comments.


Learn more about William Colgate and the results of his Christian influence from the following resources among others——————————————————————-


  • Brackney, William. The Baptists. New York: Geenfield Press, 1988.
  • Hardin, Shields, T. The Colgate Story. New York: Vantage Press, 1959.



About William E. Richardson

I'm married to a wonderful woman named Deb. We're the parents of a son and daughter who bring great joy to our lives. I currently pastor the Assembly of God church in Afton, Iowa.
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4 Responses to WILLIAM COLGATE

  1. Ruthie Oberg says:

    LOVE the new blog, William!!! I’ve bookmarked it and will be checking back often. Thanks for your time and work shared with us. – Ruthie

  2. Bill Juoni says:

    I enjoyed the blog very much. Very informative and inspiring. Great job!

  3. cspindler says:

    I am enjoying all your posts, William. Great job!

  4. What great stories of men and women of God! And great (sermon) illustrations too! Way to go on this new endeavor, William. I look forward to reading this throughout the year. Congratulations and keep up the good work!

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