Enough of the chemical side of hydogen peroxide- let's learn about the bleaching abilities of the hairdresser
's best friend
According to the London Science Museum the chemical is present at low strength in the air, rain and, mildly concentrated, in ice. The hydrogen peroxide in the air is apparently responsible for the "brilliant finish" given to cloth hung outside on a frosty day. The powers of hydrogen peroxide were originally "discovered" by Louis Auguste Thenard in 1818.
It remained "just another chemical" to the everyday schmoe until 1867 when E.H Thiellay, a pharmacist and perfumer of London, and Leon Hugo, a Parisian hairdresser, banded together. They created "Eau de Fontaine de Jouvence Golden" (which Babelfish translates as "Water of Fountain of Youth Golden Delicious"), a 3% solution of the chemical. And hair bleach was born and became popular...
... at the same time that hydrogen peroxide was experimented with for use in military matters: The chemical was used in submarines and as a fuel for torpedoes and rockets in World War II. It has also been used, and continues to be used, as a bleaching agent for textiles (such as wool and silk) and paper.
But hydrogen peroxide remains most famous for its hair-bleaching abilities. The industry is a multi-million dollar one, and over $1 billion dollars is spent on home hair colour in the US per year.
Swinburne sums up the international obsession with blondness best:
"Yea, is not even Apollo, with hair and harpstring of gold
A bitter God to follow, a beautiful God to behold?"
--Swinburne 1837- 1909
I guess Apollo must have found and used the original "Water of Fountain of Youth Golden Delicious".