1901 - 1950

March 7, 1902
Perfume Firms Combine
New York Times

Fifteen of the largest perfume manufacturers and handlers of the United States announce their plan to associate in a group named The American Perfume Company, with headquarters in New York and distribution centers in Detroit and Chicago. Their capital amounts to $5,000,000. "Sturgis Coffin of Ladd & Coffin, who are mentioned as among the members of the American Perfume Company, [...] said that so far as he knew the concern was an association formed by a number of perfume manufacturers in various parts of the country for the purpose of bringing those interested in the trade into closer relation with eachother with a view to the advancement and improvement generally of the business throughout the country. [...] He said the association is not capitalized, and will not do any business itself, being merely a trade membership association."


September 14, 1902
Newest Public Amusement
New York Times

Announcement of a "perfume concert" to be given in New York early in October, at Carnegie Lyceum. For this olfactory concert, entitled "A Trip to Japan in Sixteen Minutes", prof. Sadakachi Hartmann has devised a special machine capable of spreading odours. "The professor does not pretend to tabulate the smells which emanate in this city. In fact, he has experimented thus far only with the more delicate perfumes, and has not considered the common or garden smell, but even these, it is said, are really but unfortunate combinations of different perfumes constituting odoriferous discords, so to speak. The time will come, it is claimed, when a zephyr from Barren Island may be rent apart by the smell expert and separated into its component parts, several which may consist of rarest perfume, and, run through the Hartmann machine, come out as a rare song. [...] The smell soloist may strike the low C by diffusing a strong smell of patchouli, then the high F with a piercing note of burning horsehair." A female Japanese dancer and "soft Japanese airs" accompany the recital to aid the public in their appreciation of this olfactory concert.


March 6, 1904
Perfumes no Longer Barred by Good Taste
New York Times

The latest trends in the use of perfume are discussed in relation to their historical antecedents. The "fragrance ban" in the US, and differences in English, French, and American taste are further explained. "The first American fashions in perfumery were confined to the lavender scents and rosemary waters with which our grandmothers kept their linen closets sweet. The Puritan Priscillas had no thought of languorous scents for their hair or rouge for their lips; dried herbs and fragrant woods served as their perfumes, and growing flowers taught them all they knew of sweet odors. But with the coming of that hideous monster that is sometimes termed American enterprise, the markets soon were flooded with cheap scents in gaudy bottles." The author points out that men made regular use of hair oils and pomatums, and that they particularly favoured scents of musk and patchouli; it was only later that "perfumery began to be frowned down, and the sanctimonious sniff came into vogue. [...] Extremists of both sexes grew faint if the presence of any perfume was discovered in a social gathering." What follows is an interesting overview of contemporary perfume etiquette.


October 28, 1906
Chemical Perfumes
New York Times

The rise of synthetic odorants in perfumery is discussed in this brief article, following an account by Prof. R.K. Duncan in the November issue of Harpers' Magazine. The production of natural raw materials is not in danger: "Yet there has been an enormous extension of violet cultivation, Prof. Duncan says, since the advent of the chemical equivalent of that perfume, and in no single case has a "synthetic" perfume injured the market of the natural product. The reason is, first, that most of the "synthetic" oils are themselves derived from plant sources; moreover, they require blending in greater or less degree with the distilled natural perfumes, which contain minute substances that are of value. Then, with cheapened cost of production, there is a widened and more profitable market." The article concludes with statistics on the annual flower harvest in Grasse: "of distilled rose water, jasmine water, and orange-flower water are produced 4,000,000 quarts, which would comfortably float a frigate."


November 26, 1911
Earthquakes and Perfumes
New York Times

Perfumes are becoming more expensive, as the price of essential oils is on the rise. The Messina earthquake of 1908 produced a shortage in supply of bergamot oil, which is now becoming manifest: "The bergamot trees which grew round Messina take three years to become fruitful [...]. The earthquake first directly distroyed many of the young trees, and in the second place distroyed many indirectly by causing their cultivation to be neglected. This produced a serious shortage in supply, which will probably continue for a year or two yet." In reaction to this, manufacturers turn more and more towards synthetic odorants. However, a perfumer comments: "The public simply gets more of the synthetic perfume nowadays, but, of course, there is a difference, and for the superior perfumes the essential oil must still be used. People who want the real thing must simply be prepared to pay a high price for it."


May 14, 1922
Musical Scale for Perfumes
New York Times

Report on the "odophone", a classification system for odours intended to guide manufacturers in blending fragrances. "An attempt has been made to arrange perfumes in an order corresponding to the musical scale. The heavy odors, such as vanilla and patchouli, represent the lower notes. The higher notes are peppermint and citronella. [...] It is said by the sponsors of this method that perrfumes cannot be properly blended unless they harmonize in this scale. A harmonious blend, for instance, would be the chord of C." A quick overview of perfume history and miscellaneous facts on this subject are also featured in this article.


January 31, 1926
An Ounce of Civet, Good Apothecary
by Esther Singleton
New York Times

Extensive account on perfume trends and etiquette (including the new fad of scent layering). "There is an art in the use of perfumes which our American women are fast learning to appreciate. Of course, in American society there have always been a few who perfectly understood the etiquette of perfumes: who always bought the most exclusive and costly French crations. But it is only since the war that the general public has become conscious of the art." The author comments that American perfumers are still not as skilled as the French. Subsequently, she describes the fragrances of Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt, all through the scented gloves of Queen Elizabeth and fragrance under Queen Anne's reign. The author concludes with a comment on Hungary water.


December 8, 1929
Scents Exotic or Naive
New York Times

Perfume is an accessory to mark one's individuality. "Perfume has become an important feature among the accessories of dress, and the custom of Paris houses in offering perfume along with their new models is now general among the exclusive modistes as well as the shops in New York. Individuality in "scent", as the English say, is a fine point in the wardrobe of women of fashion, and this year is emphasized in the great variety of perfumes offered in attractive forms." Lucien Lelong is mentioned as one of the most prominent Parisian perfumers. The author emphasizes that perfume makes a wonderful gift for Christmas.


May 3, 1930
Perfume and Politics
by Janet Flanner
The New Yorker

Article on François Coty's political career and his achievements in the perfume industry. "Two natural endowments are necessary to a fine perfumer - good taste and an olfactory nerve suited to segregating not only kinds of odors but their qualities. Coty's gift for his career was an olfactory nerve, marvellously talented and acute." Similarly important to Coty's success was his marketing genius: "it was by way of his bottles that he really broke into the big perfume business of Europe. For his was the merchandising genius that perceived perfume as something in a lovely bottle, rather than as merely something lovely in a bottle. [...] Coty was the first to have bottles designed by the great ceramist, Lalique; first to utilize the new decorative trend toward color, metal, lines; the first, in a word, to make perfume appeal to the eye as well as the nose. Presenting it as a symbol of luxury, he shrewdly sent it to America, where it was clamored for as a sign of class by women of every class. His also was the first effort to aestheticize the humble talc in his famous orange-and-white L'Origan box which, along with the Standard Oil can, may still be found in remote outposts the world over - pathetic signs of advancing civilization."


September 21, 1930
As to Perfumes
New York Times

With the increasing variety of perfumes (and the advent of designer fragrances), making the right selection has become "a task of no mean proportions". "Confronted by odeurs in profusion, ranging from light and delicate suggestions to heady, heavy Oriental aromas, greeted upon all sides by delectable containers that merit buying for themselves, regardless of the perfume within, constantly intrigued by new creations from perfumers of established fame, one needs considerable determination to steer a straight course to one suitable scent." Suggestions are made for general use, for the "sportswoman who dislikes the flower bouquet and the exotic scents equally", and for the woman of "mature sophistication". Lucien Lelong is mentioned in the paragraph on how to apply perfume.


July 13, 1941
Materials for Making Perfume Are Now Sought in the Americas
by Gertrude Sterling
New York Times

Account of the impact of World War II on the import of essential oils. "American women spend some $500,000,000 a year for cosmetics. Of that tidy sum, in the neighborhood of $16,000,000 goes for perfumes. What is worrying these free spenders as well as perfumers is not the cost, but the question of whether the spell-binding essences can be bought at all. The essential oils are imported and have become exceedingly scarce and expensive since the war." The technique of compounding a fragrance is discussed, and the importance of synthetics is emphasized. The article reports that experiments are carried out to grow aromatic plants in the United States and Latin America.


May 31, 1944
Powder Perfumes Gain in Popularity
New York Times

Powder perfumes make an unexpected comeback during World War II. "Developments of new forms for perfume, made necessary by the 50 per cent cut in cosmetic alcohol supply from 1941 levels, has brought a boom in production of powder perfumes, one of the newer forms recently introduced on the market." Among the cosmetic and perfume houses involved in this type of production are Gourielli (Moonlight Mist perfumed powder), the Regale Company (Jardinière Skin Sachet), Roger & Gallet, and Charles of the Ritz.


July 23, 1945
French Perfumes Held War Victim
New York Times

The small flower crop, the exchange rate, and inflation have a negative effect on perfume imports from France: "A greatly reduced flower crop and an "unrealistic exchange rate which has boosted French perfume from a pre-war price of $25 a bottle to as high as $80" where cited yesterday by S.L. Mayham, executive vice president of the Toilet Goods Association, as primary reasons for the failure of the expected flow of perfumes from France to materialize after V-E Day". It is argued that potatoes took precedence over perfume during the French occupation, meaning that flower fields were plowed up for the cultivation of food. It is reported that on average, an estimated 50% of the French flower crop survived. Elaborate hand-carved perfume bottles are also no longer manufactured in France. Prediction: "If New York ever displaces the French city as a style center, [...] it will also become the perfume center of the world."


December 28, 1947
The Twenty 'Noses' of France
by Donald William Dresden
New York Times

Special report from Grasse, where Donald Dresden finds out more about the noses behind famous perfumes. He reports on the prestige of the profession in France, the required skills, and the typical features of a perfumer: "As befits his station, the typical Nose is an imposing looking man. Generally he is middle-aged with fine graying temples or just the right amount of baldness to indicate that he had made his way in life. The nasal formation is not unusual. He has the lofty brow and features of the intellectual and an air of dedication verging on absent-mindedness." Note that none of the perfumers the author refers to are mentioned by name.


August 23, 1949
Army Flew Perfume Oil in, '5 Percenter' Inquiry Hears
by H. Walton Cloke
New York Times

The Senate investigates the case of a former member of the armed forces, suspected of arranging illegal transports of perfume oils from France, in 1945, for a total of 2,500,000 French francs (worth around $8,000). "The subcommittee already has received testimony that the Albert Verley Company, Chicago perfume manufacturer, paid the bills for seven home freezers given to Maj. Gen. Harry H. Vaughan, President Truman's military aide, and some of his friends."