Badger's History & Legend

Inspirations, Struggles and How Badger Got its Name

"When I was a kid I checked out the fragrance of every stray blossom, fruit, leaf and herb I came across. When I was 12 we visited Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, and a young woman guided me about the colonial herb gardens and explained both the medicinal and aesthetic properties of each herb. I fell in love with both the guide and the herbs that day. Now, so many years later I get to experience some of the finest essential oils and herbal extracts the world has to offer.

-Badger Bill Whyte
Badger Bill as a carpenter

Back in 1994, Badger Balm was barely a twinkle in Bill Whyte's eye. At the time, Bill owned a small contracting business that designed and built healthy, non-toxic houses around New England. During the harsh New England winters, many of the carpenters, including Bill, developed severe cracks in their hands that would bleed after a hard day of work out in the cold. Really painful stuff! Bill and his carpenter buddies could not find a lotion anywhere that was powerful enough to heal their cracked hands. Bill says, "My fingers were so bad, I started wrapping my hands at night in olive oil-soaked socks covered in plastic bags!" Bill's wife Katie, whose sleep was being interrupted by perpetually crinkling bags said "That's pathetic, Bill - you can do better than that." She was right! That night Bill dreamed of a cure for his winter chapped hands, and in the morning he mixed up some beeswax and olive oil in a pot on his kitchen stove. He then tried and experimented with the formula. His fingers were soon healed, and a new business was born.

Bill made small batches of the beeswax and olive oil mixture and gave it to his carpenter friends to test. Bill called this original balm Bear Paw, because he believed that this balm was "powerful enough to smooth even the roughest bear's paw". Much to his delight, the Bear Paw balm was a huge success among friends and fellow carpenters, and he figured that there must be other folks out there who could use a product like this, so he decided to start a business. At that time, Bill had no money, no business plan, no product packaging, and no idea how to start a manufacturing company. He bought a $500 vat for manufacturing his new product that sat in the dining room in his home for an entire year.

Original Bear Paw artwork; the name was later changed to Badger
The original specs for the Bear Paw tin.

In January of 1995, Bill began to take the first steps toward starting his business. Bill hired an artist to draw a beautiful bear paw and decided to have his product labels printed on the tins because he knew that they would look professional. The day before 10,000 Bear Paw tins were to be printed, one of Bill's friends found a tube of Bear Paw hand lotion. While Bill had already checked the trade mark registry for Bear Paw prior to printing the tins, this product had been around for a bit and thus had common law rights to the name. Bill's budding business stopped in its tracks. Luckily, he caught the printer in time, cancelled his first run of tins, and went back to the drawing board.

Golden Bear was another name possibility

Bill began thinking of a new name for his company, struggling to move past his beloved 'Bear Paw'. He paced through his house muttering to himself, "bear claw, bear ear, bear fur, bear snout, black bear, red bear, golden bear, papa bear, bear cub?" He sat at dinner artfully writing "golden paw, strong paw, beaver paw, mouse paw, fish paw, badger paw..." Then the name "Badger" came to him, as if in a dream, and he knew it was the right choice. The Badger is a healing totem: The Root Gatherer, with a deep knowledge of the secrets of the root and herb kingdoms; fierce and effective in defense of the self and family and persistent in overcoming obstacles, successfully seeing projects through to the end. Bill looked up a picture of a badger paw and showed it to all of his friends. His good friend Rick took one look at it and exclaimed, "You can use that picture, but nobody would ever buy it! The badger paw looks skeletal and medieval; it's actually frightening!"

So Bill had his graphic artist create a picture of a full badger, and the 10,000 tins were finally printed. Bill refined his formula and added aloe, sweet birch, and castor oil to the simple beeswax and olive oil base. He figured that if he could break even after the first six months of making and selling product then he would have a real business. The first Badger tins arrived in October of 1995. Bill and Katie set up a small production line in their back room and they made their very first batch of Badger Balm. The next day, Bill drove all around town stopping at hardware stores, lumber yards, and health food stores. Over the course of the afternoon Bill stopped in six stores and every store bought at least one $100 box of Badger Balm. Now, so many years later the business, like all businesses, has had its ups and downs, struggles and triumphs. But Badger perseveres with the same goals and same passion with which it was started. We make products for ourselves and for the people we love, and then we share them with the world.

Tin design 1
Tin design 2
Tin design 3

Far left: the "Early artwork for our Healing Balm for Hardworking Hands including the infamous "Medieval Badger Paw".