Name: Robert Augustus Chesebrough 1 2 3
Birth: 9 JAN 1837 in City of London (originally in Middlesex)/ City of London, Greater London, England
Death: ABT 11 SEP 1933 in his home, Spring Lake, Monmouth County, NJ, USA
Baptism: 8 FEB 1837 Old Church, Saint Pancras, Middlesex (now Greater London), England/Old Church, Saint Pancras, Greater London, England
Burial: 11 SEP 1933 Woodlawn Cemetery/ New York City, New York County, NY, USA
Reference Number: 64060
1. Robert was the inventor of Vaseline and founder of the Chesebrough Pon ds Corporation that manufactured Vaseline, Ponds hand lotion and other pro ducts worldwide. He was also noted for his inventions of commercial heati ng and ventilating appliances he used in the buildings he built and whi ch attracted the attention of other builders and architects.
Robert began the manufacture of petroleum and coal products in 1858, bei ng among the first to embark in the industry. The business steadily devel oped, and in 1870 he discovered and patented the product universally kno wn as Vaseline. This product was early also called "Skunk Oil." In 18 76 he organized The Chesebrough Manufacturing Company, which, in 1903, h ad branches in London, England; Paris, France; Berlin, Germany; and Montre al, Canada. In 1881 he erected an office building facing Battery Park, N ew York City, which was later removed and replaced by the Battery Park Bui lding, the new Chesebrough Building was erected on the corner of Pearl a nd State streets, facing the park, and the new Maritime Building, in the r ear of the Battery Park Building. The Chesebrough Building Company that w as also founded by Augustus owned all three buildings.
2. From Wikipedia:
Robert Chesebrough, (1837-1933) was a British-born chemist and invent or of petroleum jelly, trade-named Vaseline. He also founded the company t hat later became Chesebrough-Ponds, a leading manufacturer of personal ca re products. Chesebrough patented the process of making petroleum jelly (U .S. Patent 127,568) in 1872.
Chesebrough began his career as a chemist distilling kerosene from the o il of sperm whales. The discovery of petroleum in Titusville, Pennsylvan ia rendered his job obsolete, so he traveled to Titusville to research wh at new materials might be created from the new fuel.
Chesebrough's success stemmed from firm belief in his product. Before Ches ebrough began selling petroleum jelly, he tested it on his own cuts and bu rns. Having demonstrated the product's efficacy on himself, Chesebrough w as still unable to sell any to drug stores until he travelled around New Y ork State demonstrating his miracle product. In front of an audience he wo uld burn his skin with acid or an open flame, then spread the clear jel ly on his injuries while demonstrating past injuries, healed, he claime d, by his miracle product. To further create demand, he gave out free samp les.
Chesebrough opened his first factory in 1870. The first known referen ce to the name Vaseline is in his U.S. patent: “I, Robert Chesebrough, ha ve invented a new and useful product from petroleum which I have named 'Va seline…'" . The name has been anecdotally claimed to be from the German wo rd for water, wasser (pronounced vahser), and the Greek word for oil, elai on, but this is unconfirmed.
Chesebrough lived to be 96 years old and claimed to have eaten a spoonf ul of Vaseline every day. He was such a believer in Vaseline that duri ng a bout of pleurisy, he had his body completely covered in the substanc e. He soon recovered.
3. From Henry Hall's "America's Successful Men of Affairs: An Encycloped ia of Contemporaneous Biography", Vol 1, New York, NY; New York Printing C o., 1895; pages 137 - 139:
"ROBERT AUGUSTUS CHESEBROUGH, inventor and manufacturer, while bo rn in London, England, Jan. 9, 1837, is
a scion of some of the most patriotic and ancient American familie s. The paternal ancestor of the family was William
Chesebrough, who sailed from Cowes with Governor John Winthrop, Mar ch 29, 1630, and settled in Boston, Mass.
Here he filled several official positions, and in 1634 was chosen Hi gh Sheriff. In 1651, he obtained by grant from
Connecticut, about 2,300 acres of land, which grant was confirm ed by the general court at Pequot, on which he
settled and built a homestead. On this land now stands the present ci ty of Stonington, Conn., where live many of
his descendents. A new commonwealth was here established. William Che sebrough, the first 'Comytioner' or
magistrate thereof, was in 1664 chosen as first representative to t he General Court at Hartford to adjust the dispute
as to boundaries with the State of Connecticut. Robert Chesebrough, t he paternal grandfather of the subject of this
sketch, was the fifth son of Nathaniel, who was the grandson of Willi am Chesebrough.
Henry A. Chesebrough, father of Robert A. Chesebrough, was a dry goo ds merchant of New York city, who lived
at No. 7 Bridge Street, then a fashionable place of residence, and gr andson of Robert Chesebrough, dry goods
merchant and founder and president of The Fulton Bank.
Through the maternal line, the subject of this sketch descends from W illiam Maxwell, founder and president of The
Bank of New York, the first financial institution ever establish ed in this State, who upheld the cause of the American
Revolution and derived his pedigree from a family prominent in Scotti sh history. The Maxwells were earls of Nithsdale
and barons of Herries. James Homer Maxwell, son of William, marri ed a daughter of the patriot, Jacobus Van Zandt,
whose family were driven from New York city by the British occupati on and saw much of the operations and
experienced many of the hardships of the heroic struggle for Americ an independence. Miss Van Zandt became
an actual eye witness of the battle of Monmouth, and, as a bride, s he had the honor of opening the first inauguration
ball as the partner of General Washington. Their son, William H. Maxw ell, was the titular earl of Nithsdale at the time
of his death in 1856. Mr. Chesebrough's mother was a daughter of Rich ard M. Woodhull, and granddaughter of James
Homer Maxwell, and also a grand niece of General Woodhull of the Amer ican army, who fell in the battle of Long
Island. The family Bibles of the Maxwells and Van Zandts are yet pres erved in this family, and rank among the most
interesting and valuable relics of that time. But there are two othe rs of note, which may be seen in the old Senate
House in Kingston, N.Y., being large oil portraits of the father a nd mother of the spouse of William Maxwell, which
display a number of holes, punched by the bayonets of the British sol diers, when the latter occupied the Maxwell
home on Wall street. They were presented to the collection by Mr. Che sebrough.
The subject of this biography attended the best schools in New York d uring boyhood, and, in 1858, began the
manufacture of the products of petroleum. This industry, yet in its i nfancy, had attracted attention for a few years
only, and Mr. Chesebrough became one of the pioneers in the utilizati on of petroleum for the purposes of man.
Success attended his efforts from the start.
As a result of continual experiments in distilling and filtering petr oleum, he discovered and patented, in 1870, the
substance now known as Vaseline. When the value and uses of this prod uct had been developed and introduced by
him, Mr. Chesebrough engaged in its manufacture, and has introduc ed it not only to the people of the United States at
large, but to the inhabitants of nearly every civilized country und er the sun. In 1880, the business was incorporated as
The Chesebrough Manufacturing Co., with a capital of $500,000, Mr. Ch esebrough acting as president from 1880 to
the present time. The production of Vaseline has increased steadil y, and a growing foreign trade has resulted from the
establishment of branch offices and distributing depots in London, Pa ris, Berlin and Montreal.
His discoveries and enterprise having been followed by a suitable rew ard, Mr. Chesebrough has now become a large
owner of realty in the metropolis. In 1881, he erected the huge offi ce building, which bears his name, facing the
Battery, and was led by scientific interest to devote his personal at tention to its arrangement. He introduced heating
and ventilating appliances of his own invention into this structur e; and these have since attracted wide attention among
architects and owners. The Real Estate Exchange originated with Mr. C hesebrough, and he was second vice-
president and one of the building committee of the Consolidated Sto ck Exchange. The removal of the immigrant station
from Castle Garden to Ellis Island in the harbor grew very largely o ut of his vigorous efforts in that direction. The
Battery Park is now no longer flooded with unattractive strangers a nd emigrants, as in former years.
The action of Mr. Chesebrough, in 1878, with reference to the Paris E xposition, illustrated his energy and public spirit.
The Federal Government had been unaccountably slow in providing f or a general display of American products and,
finding the inertia of the authorities too great to be overcome, M r. Chesebrough called together a number of Americans
who wished to exhibit at Paris, and, through Frederick R. Coudert, t he lawyer, secured from the Duke Descazes
permission for a display of products by Americans on their private ac count. This proceeding spurred the State
Department into action, and an American exhibit finally took place un der proper authority.
During the exciting Mayoralty contest in Long Island City, between M r. Gleason and Mr. Sanford, in 1892, the Street
Improvement Commission of that city, of which Mr. Sanford was preside nt, was accused of gross frauds and
irregularities. At a citizen's meeting, Mr. Chesebrough was elected c hairman of an Investigating Committee to ascertain
the facts. He employed an expert accountant to examine the books a nd contracts, and a few days before election
made his report, exonerating Mr. Sanford and the Commission, which, b eing published in the Long Island City
newspapers, resulted in the election of Mr. Sanford by a few hundr ed majority, showing a marked change of public
sentiment against Mr. Gleason.
Mr. Chesebrough has always shown an interest in public affairs, a nd in 1894, he received a nomination for Congress
from the Republicans of his district in this city. He made a galla nt fight, but the time was too short for a suitable
canvass against the heavy Democratic majority of the district; and, a lthough he cut down the Democratic [p.140]
majority from over 10,000 to 1,300, he suffered the same fate as Le vi P. Morton when he first ran for Congress, and
By his marriage with Margaret McCredy, sister of Mrs. Frederick R. Co udert, April 28, 1864, Mr. Chesebrough has
three sons and a daughter, Robert M., William H., Frederic W., and Ma rion M. Chesebrough. Mrs. Chesebrough died
April 3, 1887. The summer home of the family was formerly at Legget 's Point on the Sound, north of the city, but has
now been sold to an English syndicate for division into lots. The fam ily live at No. 17 East 45th street every winter,
and usually spend their summers either in travel or in the suburbs. M r. Chesebrough is a member of the Union League,
Riding and Manhattan Athletic clubs, and was president of the Down To wn Republican Club in 1890. He is a writer of
ability, and author of 'A Reverie and other Poems,' which were favora bly reviewed by the press. A calm, judicious,
energetic business man, he has won position by his own efforts, and t he general esteem by his upright character."
4. From Thomas William Herringshaw's, "Herringshaw's Encyclopedia of Amer ican Biography of the Nineteenth Century", Chicago IL, USA: American Publi shers' Association, 1902; page 211:
"CHESEBROUGH, ROBERT AUGUSTUS, manufacturer, inventor, was born Ja n. 9, 1837, in England. As a result of
continual experiments in distilling and filtering petroleum, he disco vered and patented, in 1870, the substance now
known as Vaseline. In 1881 he erected the huge office building, whi ch bears his name, in New York city. He
introduced heating and ventilating appliances of his own invention in to this structure; and these have since attracted
wide attention among architects and owners. The Real Estate exchan ge originated with him."
5. 1880 US Census:
Robert CHESEBROUGH Self M Male W 46 NY Manufactorer Of Vasa line NY NY
Margert CHESEBROUGH Wife M Female W 45 NY House Keep er NY NY
Robert CHESEBROUGH Son S Male W 15 NY At Scho
Wm. H. CHESEBROUGH Son S Male W 13 NY At Scho
Frederick CHESEBROUGH Son S Male W 10 NY At Scho ol NY NY
Marion CHESEBROUGH Dau S Female W 7 NY At Ho
Eliza ONIEL Other S Female W 55 IRE Servant IRE I
Viola GULACT Other S Female W 48 GER Servant GER G
Adelph HEBERT Other S Female W 18 FRA Servant FRA F
Birth Year <1834>
Occupation Manufacturer Of Vaseline
Marital Status M
Head of Household Robert CHESEBROUGH
Census Place New York, New York (Manhattan), New York City-Greater, N ew York
Family History Library Film1254894
6. Robert's obituaries courtesy Kathy Hill Dec 2006:
New York Times, Sept. 9, 1933:
"SPRING LAKE, N. J., Sept. 8 - Robert Augustus Chesebrough, former Pr esident of the Chesebrough Manufacturing
Company, makers of Vaseline and other petroleum products, died he re at 6 o'clock this evening at his home in
Prospect Avenue, at the age of 96. A general breakdown due to age w as the cause of death. He came down stairs
for dinner last night. Today he sat up for luncheon in his room, b ut felt ill afterward and went to bed. In recent months
he had been able to take short walks, and two years ago he dived fr om the springboard into the pool of the Beach
Club. The near relatives who survive are a son, Frederick Woodhull Ch esebrough of Millbrook, N. Y.; a daughter Mrs.
Charles Davison of Millbrook, and two grandchildren, Howard C. Davis on of Millbrook and Mrs. Margaret W. Davison
Johnson, wife of Dr. Vansel S. Johnson of New York City."
New York Times, Sept. 11, 1933:
“CHESEBROUGH – At his residence, Spring Lake, N. J., in his ninety-se venth year, Robert Augustus Chesebrough.
Funeral services Monday, Sept. 11, at 11 A.M. at St. Bartholomew’s Ch apel, 50th St. and Park Av., New York.
Interment Woodlawn Cemetery. Kindly omit flowers.”
7. More about Vaseline:
Petroleum jelly or petrolatum is a byproduct of the refining of petro leum, made from the residue of petroleum distillation
left in the still after all the oil has been vaporized.
Vaseline is a brand of petroleum jelly originally produced by Chesebr ough-Pond's Inc., and currently by Unilever.
Petroleum jelly was discovered by Robert Chesebrough in 1859 in Brook lyn, New York. Chesebrough was intrigued by
the paraffin-like substance that stuck to the drilling rigs. All t he riggers hated the stuff because it caused the rigs to
seize up, but they did use it on cuts and burns because it helped th em heal faster. Chesebrough bottled the petroleum
jelly and took it back to his office where he tested it on himself.
He gave out free samples across New York and within six months he h ad twelve wagons distributing the product,
under the trade name Vaseline, across the state.
In 1872, Chesebrough patented (U.S. No. 127,568) the process of maki ng petroleum jelly. The patent said that
distillation by heat under vacuum involves less heat than without t he vacuum, and yields a better quality of jelly. The
product is then filtered through bone-black. The patent says its us es include currying, stuffing, and oiling all kinds of
leather. The finest grade of petroleum is also adapted for use as a p omade for the hair. It is also an excellent treatment
for chapped hands and toenail fungus.
In bullfighting, petroleum jelly is placed on a bull's eyes in ord er to hinder its sight.
Petroleum jelly used to be used as a sexual lubricant, particularly f or anal sex, but it has the inconvenience of
damaging latex condoms. The availability of water-based personal lubr icants reduced this usage. It also used to be
recommended for lubricating rectal thermometers or enema nozzles, bu t, again, water-based personal lubricants are
better for that usage.
8. More about Unilever:
Unilever is a European Union (Anglo/Dutch) corporation which owns ma ny of the world's consumer product brands
in foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. Unil ever employs more than 247,000 people and
had a worldwide turnover of €48 760 million in 2002.
Unusually, Unilever has two parent companies: Unilever NV in Rotterda m, Netherlands, and Unilever PLC in London,
United Kingdom. Both companies have the same directors and effective ly operate as a single business. The current
chairman, 2004, for Unilever NV is Antony Burgmans while Niall FitzGe rald is the head of Unilever PLC.
Unilever's major competitors include Nestlé and Proctor and Gamble.
Unilever was created in 1930 by the merger of British soap maker Lev er Brothers and Dutch margarine producer
Margarine Unie, a logical merger as palm oil was a major raw materi al for both margarines and soaps and could be
imported more advantageously in larger quantities.
In the 1930s, the business of Unilever grew and new ventures were lau nched in Latin America. By 1980, soap and
edible fats contributed just 40% of profits, compared with an origin al 90%. In 1984 the company bought the brands
Brooke Bond tea, Faberge and Elizabeth Arden, but the latter was lat er sold (in 2000) to FFI Fragrances.
Unilever acquired Chesebrough-Ponds, the maker of Vaseline, in 198 7, which strengthened its position in the world
skin care market. The company later absorbed the American business Be stfoods, strengthening its presence in North
America and extending its portfolio of foods brands.
Today the company is fully multinational with operating companies a nd factories on every continent and research
laboratories in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the United Stat es India, and China.
Unilever has a portfolio of about 1000 brands, many of them local th at can only be found in certain countries. The
brands fall almost entirely in two categories as set out below.
Food and beverage brands:
Ades, Becel, Ben and Jerry's, Best Foods, Bertolli, Birds Eye, B lue Band, Boursin, Brooke Bond, Calvé, Findus,
Flora, HB, Hellmann’s, Knorr, Lipton, PG Tips, Pot noodle, Rag u, Magnum, Solero, Slim Fast, Walls.
Home and personal care brands:
Axe, Calvin Klein, Cerrutti, Cif, Comfort, Domestos, Dove, Eliza beth Arden, Hindustan Lever Limited Impulse,
Rexona, Lux, Persil, Ponds, Rinso, Signal, Suave, Surf Valenti no perfumes Vaseline.
Father: Henry Augustus Chesebrough b: 7 MAR 1801 in New York City, New York County, NY, USA
Mother: Marion Maxwell Woodhull b: 11 APR 1811 in New York City, New York County, NY, USA
Margaret McCredy b: 30 SEP 1841 in New Rochelle, Westchester County, NY, USA
28 APR 1864
in New Rochelle, Westchester County, NY, USA
- Robert Maxwell Chesebrough b: 6 FEB 1865 in New York City, New York County, NY, USA
- William Henry Chesebrough , Sr b: 17 AUG 1866 in New York City, New York County, NY, USA
- Augustine Chesebrough b: 1 APR 1868 in New York City, New York County, NY, USA
- Frederick Woodhull Chesebrough b: 9 JUN 1870 in New York City, New York County, NY, USA
- Marian Maxwell Chesebrough b: 3 JAN 1873 in New York City, New York County, NY, USA
- Title: Genealogy of the Descendants of William Chesebrough, Founder of Stonington, Ct.
Author: Anna Chesebrough Wildey
Publication: New York: Press of T. A. Wright 1903
Note: Chesebro' Reference Material
Page: pages 378 and 379
- Title: IGI British Isles, v3.06 - 5.0
Author: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Publication: FamilySearch(tm), (c) 1999-2005 by Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Media: Church Record
Text: Batch C047933, Parish registers, 1660-1875 Church of England. St. Pancras Old Church (St. Pancras), City of London, Middlesex, England
- Title: Pallot's Baptism Index For England: 1780 - 1837
Author: The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies
Publication: Ancestry.com online version 2001
Note: Canterbury, Kent, England