Hello! Every seven days, for the rest of the year, This Week in Portland History is bringing to light a person or event from the city’s past.
Aurelius S. Hinds was the hand cream king of Maine, and maybe the whole world. He died in Portland 88 years ago this week on March 18, 1929.
Hinds invented a honey and almond lotion that contained neither honey nor almonds. The goop was made mostly from glycerin, beeswax and borax. But he made a fortune selling the stuff.
He came up with the formula sometime in the 1870s. He owned a drug store on Congress Street and sold it there, at first. By 1904, he churned out the stuff in a small factory on West Street. He had agents selling it all over the U.S., Europe and Asia.
A 1906 advertisement for the cream read, “Hinds’ Honey and Almond Cream prevents and heals chapped face lips and Hands…It quickly softens dry, rough, cracked and bleeding skin; is antiseptic, purifies and cleanses better than soap; promptly heals tender or sore surfaces… Guaranteed to contain no grease, bleach or chemicals; will not cause the growth of hair.”
In 1907, Hinds sold his company to Lehn and Fink. They were the New York-based marketers of Lysol disinfectant. The deal got him much better distribution of his products. They mostly left him alone to manufacture it.
In 1920, Hinds built a 60,000 square-foot factory on Forest Avenue. He was making a whole slew of beauty creams by then. The building was designed by famed architect John Calvin Stevens.
Northeast Historic Film in Bucksport has footage of the factory in action. The film was donated by Aurelius S. Hinds II, grandson of the inventor.
But, by 1926, the Lehn and Fink closed the Portland factory. It moved all production to New Jersey.
In 1929, the year Hinds died, the cream saw its biggest grossing year. It was being cooked up, and churned out, in far-flung places like England, Spain, Australia, Cuba and Argentina by the mid-1930s. But by the 1940s, the brand’s popularity was waning.
Today, the brand is owned by GlaxoSmithKline. It still makes creams and lotions with the Hinds label, but they’re marketed mostly in Mexico and Latin America.
Incidentally, if you were ever a Boy Scout in southern Maine, you probably spent some time at Camp Hinds in Raymond. I sure did. Aurelius Hinds’ son, Charles, donated the money to but the land in 1927. It was named Camp William Hinds in honor of his 6-year-old son. He’d died the year before after being struck by a car in Portland.
So, that’s what’s left of Aurelius Hinds: A grave in Evergreen Cemetery, a couple of old factories in Portland and an obscure, Mexican skin cream label — not to mention a 90-year-old Boy Scout camp built on ladies’ hand cream.
Disclaimer: I’m not a historian. I owe everything I know to the dedicated research of those who have come before me. These character sketches and historical tidbits are assembled from multiple (often antique) sources and sprinkled with my own conjecture. I’m happy to be set straight or to learn more.