William Sheppard of New York was granted patent number 49,561 for his "Improved Liquid Soap" on August 22, 1865, for his discovery that a small amount of conventional soap could be mixed with large amounts of spirits of ammonia (or hartshorn, as it was known at the time) to create a soap with a consistency of molasses. His invention became common in public areas, but could generally not be found in homes.
In 1980, entrepreneur Robert R. Taylor (died August 29, 2013) began selling his product as Softsoap through his company, Minnetonka Corp. in Chaska, Minnesota. Taylor knew others would copy the soap-in-a-pump-bottle idea, so he shrewdly purchased 100 million small bottle hand-pumps from the only two U.S. manufacturers that made them, so that any competitors wouldn't be able to buy any for one year - enough time for him to establish the brand name. It worked; in six months, he sold $25 million worth of Softsoap. The package made it very easy to spot on store shelves when nearly all other soaps were in bar form. Taylor sold the Softsoap brand to Colgate-Palmolive in 1987.
- John Rogers for Associated Press, "Robert R. Taylor, Creator of SoftSoap, Dead at 77", bigstory.ap.org, September 12, 2013. Retrieved December 30, 2013.