WALLED LAKE, Michigan – If you have ever purchased ammonia, the oldest and best-known brand is Parsons Household Ammonia, which dates from 1881. That makes it one of the older consumer products in the United States. Today, it has a new life as a sister product to the Brillo pad.
The brand was originally a product of the Columbia Chemical Works of Brooklyn, with offices on Jay Street. Through the 20th Century, it was known on every grocery shelf across the country, and under most kitchen sinks.
Ammonia has a slew of uses. Today, it is mostly seen as something that is used in window cleaners, but it was seen as a laundry item in an earlier time.
Ammonia is better on on many surfaces than Clorox bleach, and works better at cleaning things without ruining them. It also removes stains. Bleach, however, disinfects better, and it is the liquid that actually has a special dispenser in most new washing machines. Pictured here at right and below, a promotional trade card from the collection of the Boston Public Library. In this image, it is ammonia that is the laundry agent, not bleach.
Today, Parsons is owned by Armaly Brands. Armaly dates from 1908, when W.J. Armaly began harvesting, processing, and shipping natural ocean sponges in the Bahamas. Armaly is growing as a maker of cleaning products, and own the Brillo. In 2016, they acquired the cleaning brands SnoBol, Cameo and Parsons.
The company has been featuring the Brillo brand as the companion of Parsons and Cameo, with the bright Brillo in the top left corner of the package, rather like the Nabisco logo in the corner of cookies and crackers. Brillo is better known, and the fresh packaging is catchy. Brillo is, after all, a brand that Warhol featured; read our post on Warhol’s Favorite Brands.
However, they are wise to continue to promote Parsons, which has generations of goodwill. They would do well to do some occasional vintage packaging. Other brands like Buffalo and Little Bo Peep seem to have disappeared.
While the product went on the market in 1881, Parsons Household Ammonia was originally filed as a trademark on Oct. 14, 1905, and registered in 1907 by Columbia Chemical Works. Surprisingly for such a well known product, the trademark expired at the hands of Dial Corporation. Armaly filed for a new trademark for the product Jan 3, 2017 and it was registered later that year.