We're wishing a happy Valentine's Day to all who celebrate this week ...

Valentine's Day themed cover of an Avon catalog featuring Billy Dee Williams.

We're wishing a happy Valentine's Day to all who celebrate this week with this 1991 Avon catalog cover featuring actor Billy Dee Williams. The catalog also featured advertisements for a Williams-branded cologne and a contest offering participants the opportunity to hear Williams' reflections of romance via telephone, a trip to Beverly Hills, and, for a 2,500 lucky instant winners, a photograph of Billy Dee Williams.

Avon Products, Inc., is one of the oldest direct selling companies in America.  It traces its origins to 1886, when David H. McConnell (1856-1937) bought the Union Publishing Company of  New York City and started manufacturing perfumes to give away with his books.  He soon discovered that his customers were more interested in the fragrances than the books, and he decided to concentrate on selling perfumes. 

The business was renamed the California Perfume Company (CPC) in an effort to associate its products with the perceived beauty and novelty of the Golden State. From the beginning, CPC sold directly to the consumer through a national network of sales representatives​, primarily women, who were looking for economic opportunity and flexible part-time employment.  The representatives were independent contractors and not company employees.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, CPC expanded its line of products to include cosmetics, household cleaners, food flavorings, and toiletries. Representatives sold CPC products throughout the United States, and the company’s rapid growth led to the establishment of regional branch offices and warehouses.

In 1929, CPC introduced the Avon brand for its toiletries and cosmetics in an effort to modernize its image and rationalize its diverse product lines. According to promotional literature, the name Avon had been selected because the Suffern manufacturing site was thought by McConnell to resemble the English countryside around Stratford-​on-​Avon. CPC was officially renamed Avon Products, Inc., in 1939 to reflect the company’s identification with its popular cosmetics and toiletry lines.

You can view more materials selected from our collections of Avon Products Inc. photographs and audiovisual materials (Accession 1997.209) and our Avon Products, Inc. records, 1880-2012 (Accession 2155) online now in our Digital Archive. Just click here!