Today in 1912, the birthday of TV and movie actor House Peters Jr.

He was in a lot of westerns and at least one episode of The Twilight Zone, among other roles.

But maybe his most famous performance was serving a live action mascot in commercials: he was the first Mr. Clean!

The character Mr. Clean dates back to the 1950s.

So does the product, which was originally meant to clean ships.

Linwood Burton owned a marine cleaning company, but his workers kept getting sick by the strong and dangerous chemicals they used to keep ships in ship shape.

Burton and his business partner, Mathusan Chandramohan, came up with a cleaner that was hard on dirt but not on people.

An ad agency came up with the name Mr. Clean when Procter and Gamble bought the formula.

Focus groups preferred the name “Town Talk,” somehow, but the agency stuck with the more personable name, especially when they came up with a persona to match it.

It’s said Mr. Clean was originally modeled after a big bald sailor, someone who projected strength in the campaign against grime.

That said, the ads have sometimes suggested that he was actually a genie in a magic bottle of liquid cleaner.

Some consumers also thought Mr. Clean looked like then-president Dwight Eisenhower or movie star Yul Brynner.

Whatever it was, Mr. Clean had the it-factor from the start.

Thanks to a catchy jingle and those live-action commercials featuring House Peters Jr., it became the best selling cleaner in the country just six months after it launched.

Nine months after its debut, Mr. Clean had sold 35 million bottles.

Since then he’s gone global, though sometimes under different names.

In France, he’s known as Monsieur Net and in eastern Europe he’s called Mr. Proper.

Speaking of names, in 1962 the company held a contest to give Mr. Clean a first name.

The winning entry: Veritably.

His full name is Veritably Clean.

Tomorrow in and around Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota, it’s day one of Frostival!

It’s more than a month of wintry activities including snowflake scavenger hunts, a winter volleyball tournament and cardboard sled races.

Just a reminder, dress for the weather!

Search for new Mr. (or Ms.) Clean is on (Toronto Sun)

MR. CLEAN AT 40 (Chicago Tribune)


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Photo by Mike Mozart via Flickr/Creative Commons