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Who Was William Colgate?

When one hears the name William Colgate, the first thing that comes to mind is Colgate toothpaste, which is perhaps the best-known dental toothpaste in the world. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that it was William Colgate who founded this toothpaste brand in 1806. However, the company was initially built to manufacture soap, candles and starch. With William at the helm, the company grew manifold from its humble origins into the world-renowned, multinational company it is today. William was not only an able and skilled businessman, but one of the most generous men of his times.

William Colgate was a noted philanthropist. Despite being an über-successful entrepreneur, he never lost sight of how all the good things in life were but blessings from God. Thus, he wholeheartedly believed in giving to the needy out of whatever he made. He began by distributing one-tenth of his earnings, and ended up giving half of all he earned in the way of God. His reputation preceded him everywhere, and he was held in high respect and esteem by his peers at the church. He played an active role in church affairs throughout his life. He also served as deacon and was fondly known as Deacon Colgate in the neighborhood. He endeared himself to society because of his financial generosity as well as the sincerity with which he served and helped the people of the church.

William contributed funds for the uplift and improvement of the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution, which was suffering from heavy expenses. He also made contributions to the Baptist Missionary Union, and provided full financial support to a foreign missionary. He was actively involved in the translation and publication of the Bible and helped to organize the Bible Society in 1816. Throughout his long and prosperous career, William spent his money freely on the people around him. He began as a tither, offering a tenth of his earnings, gradually increasing the amount until he was giving five-tenths of his income to charity projects. He even spoke of his enthusiasm and passion for tithing his income.

His lifelong devotion to tithing arose from his recognition that it was God who gave him everything he possessed, all the opportunities he had as well as the elements used in his products’ manufacture. Thus, he gave freely out of a wish to show his acceptance and gratitude for the favors bestowed on him. William’s massive success seems to tie in with his generosity; it appears that the more he gave away, the more his business thrived.