Gamble, James Norris

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James Norris Gamble

Born: August 9, 1836
Cincinnati, Ohio
Died: July 2, 1932
Cincinnati, Ohio
Chemist and former vice president, Procter & Gamble Company

James Gamble (1803-1891), a founding partner in Procter & Gamble, and his wife Elizabeth Norris Gamble had nine children. Their first son, James Norris Gamble, was born in 1836 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and went on to play a pivotal role at the Procter & Gamble Company. It was James Norris Gamble who is credited with laying the foundations for P&G's most successful productIvory Soap.

Young James attended the Checkering Institute then went on to earn both bachelor's and master's degrees from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. He ventured to the University of Maryland for further study in chemistry, but did not complete a Ph.D. Instead, he returned to Cincinnati to work in the family business.

James Norris Gamble played a major role at Procter & Gamble: he developed Ivory Soap.

James Norris worked as a chemist at Procter & Gamble and developed the formula for a mild, white bar soap called "P&G White Soap." An accident, however, brought a remarkable change to his formula. Another employee left one of the soapmaking machines running for too long; this allowed too much air into the process. As a result, the finished batch of white soap floated. The floating batch was packaged and sent out to customers who were amazed by the "new" product. The floating soap sold so well that the "accidental" formula was kept and Procter & Gamble's first successful product was born: Ivory Soap.

James Norris had a long and distinguished career in the family business, but he also had a life outside of Procter & Gamble. He married Margaret Penrose in 1862, and they eventually had two daughters, Maud and Olivia. During the Civil War years (1861-65) James Norris left work to fight with the Ohio Infantry and reached the rank of captain. Upon his return, he not only went back to Procter & Gamble where he had been made a partner by his father, but remained very active in his community. The Norris Gamble family attended the Methodist Episcopal Church, and James was further involved with the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, the Masons, and the Republican Party.

As a Republican, James Norris served as the mayor of Westwood, Ohio, and was a member of Cincinnati's Board of Parks Commission. Yet it was his work at Procter & Gamble that made James Norris famous. His invention of Ivory Soap made the company's later growth and expansion possible, including the state-of-the-art manufacturing facility built in the late 1880s, called Ivorydale. James Norris took a personal interest in the new factory, helping ensure its equipment and design were the most technologically advanced for their time.

When Procter & Gamble became a public company in 1890 (meaning shares of the company were sold on the New York Stock Exchange), James Norris was named vice president and sat on the board of directors which controlled the firm. He retired from the company in 1912 to concentrate on his other interests, which included involvement in Cincinnati politics, religious groups, and charitable organizations. James Norris donated money to many organizations, including the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and the University of Cincinnati, and was instrumental in forming the Christ Hospital Institute of Medical Research. James Norris Gamble died on July 2, 1932, at the age of ninety-five, just a few weeks shy of his next birthday.

For More Information


Decker, Charles L. Winning With the P&G 99: 99 Principles and Practices of Procter & Gamble's Success. New York: Pocket Books, 1998.

Editors of Advertising Age. How P&G Became America's Leading Marketer. New York: Passport Books, 1990.

Editors of Advertising Age. Procter & Gamble: The House that Ivory Built. Chicago: National Textbook Company, 1988.

Into a Second Century With Procter & Gamble. Cincinnati, OH: Procter & Gamble, 1951.

P&G: Memorable Years in History. Cincinnati, OH: Procter & Gamble, 1980.

Procter & Gamble: Celebrating 150 Years of Excellence. Cincinnati, OH: Procter & Gamble, 1987.

Schisgall, Oscar. Eyes on Tomorrow: The Evolution of Procter & Gamble. New York: Doubleday, 1981.

Swasy, Alecia. Soap Opera: The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble. New York: Times Books, 1994.

Web Sites

Procter & Gamble Company. [On-line] (accessed on August 16, 2002).