The undisputed facts are that these tooth care products, which included mouth wash (or, to put it more eloquently, “elixir”), powders and paste, were produced and marketed from the late 19th-century onwards by Seguin, a company founded in 1807 and which specialised in products that were sold in chemists and parfumeries. Seguin was initially based at number 3 Rue Huguerie, near Place Tourny, and later relocated to number 47 Rue Ulysse Gayon, near Barrière Saint-Médard.
|Seguin's former HQ on Rue Ulysse Gayon.|
Much of the success of Seguin’s dental hygiene products can be attributed to the company’s impressive marketing – which is where the lines become a little blurred between reality and myth. In the countless advertisements that would feature in publications such as “L’Illustration”, the text and visuals would often refer to the supposed inventors of this miracle product, the Benedictine abbots (or “RR.PP”, Révérends Pères) of Soulac Abbey, further up the Atlantic coast, with many references to “Prior Dom Maguelonne” and “Prior Pierre Boursaud”. What, therefore, was the actual sequence of events and who were these holy men?
|Some of the adverts and marketing materials, including blotting paper (top right).|
The work proved both difficult and costly, particularly the restoration of the upper structure (entablature) and roof of the old basilica. With more and more people visiting the site (and Soulac at large as the town's seaside resort reputation grew), the sand soil and dunes also needed to be stabilised. Funds would have to be found and were to come from an unusual source.
|The 1860s abbey/monastery building, which is now a children's holiday home (pictured below).|
|On Rue Ulysse Gayon, the Seguin name remains, as do (see top photo) references to the blessed toothpaste!|
So, as you can see, it’s not easy to draw a line in the Soulac sands between what is true and what is fake in the strange saga of Seguin’s holy toothpaste. The case continues, as will my investigation, and if any hard evidence emerges as to how the story fits together, I promise to edit this article until the definitive account is complete!