Disposable diapers

The importance of a station wagon's rear door folded down

Victor Mills (Milford, Nebraska, March 28, 1897 - Tucson, Arizona, October 1, 1997)

A whole range of disposable diapers were already on the American market in the 1950s when Vic Mills came on the scene. According to a fable created by the firm of Procter & Gamble, Victor Mills had to babysit one of his granddaughters as a grandfather in 1956.

He hated changing diapers anyway, and he noticed that the baby's bottom was inflamed. So he immediately went to his laboratory the next day to look for an alternative.

The story of the noble chemical engineer who puts his great intellect at the service of his grandchild.

In reality it was different. Born in 1897 in the prairie town of Milford, Nebraska, Victor Mills was just 20 when the United States entered World War I.

He knocked out a few years of service in the navy and conceived the plan to study civil engineering. "I had a very romantic dream of building huge bridges over big rivers," he later recalled.

But he had a friend who believed you could make more money as a chemical engineer, and he had a girlfriend who taught near Seattle. So he studied chemical engineering at the University of Washington State in Seattle.

Afterwards, he was immediately able to work for the soap manufacturer Procter & Gamble.

It was Mills who turned artisanal soap tub production into industrial, continuous production where the bars of soap rolled off the line day and night, seven days a week. "I was the right man at the right time," Mills said.

Mills' reputation was made, and over the next few decades he became the inventor's guru in the company that, meanwhile, was building a world empire. It was Mills who improved a certain kind of flour mix for cake so that all of America wanted to eat that cake.

He came up with a way to prevent puddles of oil from forming at the top of the peanut butter jars.

And he came up with the Pringles, the uniform potato chips that can be put into round boxes very efficiently.
In 1956, Procter & Gamble bought a factory to make paper pulp, but the management did not immediately know what to do with it. Mills' lab was tasked with finding a destination for the paper pulp.

And so it was that Vic Mills came up with the idea of conducting a few experiments on his granddaughter. He researched the absorbency, the absorbency of a traditional linen diaper, and what was wrong with the existing disposable diapers that no one wanted.

Mills tested the first Procter & Gamble diaper in 1959 on a trip to the state of Maine. The change happened on the folded-down rear door of Mill's station wagon. In 1959, the new complex diaper was marketed in Illinois for 10 cents each.

It was a catastrophe, the price was too high. Then they tried it in upstate New York, for 8 cents and finally for 6 cents. And then the train had left. The thing was cleverly given the name 'pampers', from the English to pamper, which means to pamper, to pamper.

And who doesn't want to spoil and pamper their baby? By the late 1960s, pampers took up 25 percent of the market; ten years later it was 75 percent. The introduction in Belgium and the Netherlands dates from 1975.

Mills retired in 1961 at age 64. He lived happily ever after and witnessed how his pampers turned into a multi-billion dollar business. When he turned 73, he astonished the world for a while by climbing Point Lenana, a 5000-meter peak of Mount Kenya.

On March 28, 1997, he celebrated his 100th birthday and was honored by his university in Seattle. He died a few months later at his home in Tucson, Arizona.

Mills could never have suspected that his brand name in Dutch would become a synonym for diaper, or that you could say metaphorically of someone: "He is being too pampered." The Americans themselves speak of 'diapers' and the British of 'nappies'.
(See also: potato chips)