We're back in the office after our long holiday weekend ...

Black and white oimage of a man and two women working in an office, ca. 1910.

We're back in the office after our long holiday weekend, and we're recognizing that Monday feeling across time and space with this 1905 photograph from the offices of the California Perfume Company. This image is part of Hagley Library's collection of Avon Products Inc. photographs and audiovisual materials (Accession 1997.209).

Avon 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 order 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 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.

Our Digital Archive features a collection of Avon and California Perfume Company materials selected from our Avon Products, Inc. records (Accession 2155) collection, Avon Outlook and other selected materials from our Published Collections Department, our collection of Avon Products Inc. photographs and audiovisual materials(Accession 1997.209), and our Museum's Avon Artifact Collection (Accession D2001.19).

This digital collection encompasses a range of materials such as advertisements, catalogs, representative's sales tools, and corporate documents intended to provide insight into the history of the company, its sales representatives, employees, and consumers. To view it online now, just click here.