Brown Bag Lecture: A Better Mousetrap for Your Armpit: Deodorant and Technological Innovation

Cari Casteel, Auburn University

Monday, February 20, 2017 -

12:00pm to 1:00pm

Chemical Heritage Foundation (Philadelphia, PA)

As of 2016 over 97% of men and women in the United States apply a deodorant or an antiperspirant every day--and some more often than that. The store shelves are filled with a dizzying array of applications and scents. Before the 1950s deodorants only came in two forms--liquid and cream. By the 1960s the choices seemed endless. In the years following World War II the deodorant market underwent a period of rapid technological innovation. With the market at near saturation technology and innovation had become the way to win consumers. New application methods including roll-ons, sprays, and sticks filled the shelves. These new deodorants drove many consumers to frequently switch brands, opting for the newest, most modern product. This made it possible for an innovative deodorant to go from nonexistent to the market leader in a matter of months. Deodorant makers found themselves locked in a constant struggle to--in the words of an English Leather deodorant ad--"build a better mousetrap" for the armpit. Cari Casteel is a PhD candidate at Auburn University studying the history of technology. Cari is interested in the intersection of gender, science, and technology. Her dissertation focuses on deodorant and the role of artificial body smell in the construction of gender. It examines the history and technological evolution of deodorants and antiperspirants in the United States and explores the hypergendered nature of scented cosmetics. Her research has been featured in Smithsonian Magazine as well as Allure, Men's Health, and Girl's Life.