In our image obsessed culture, you can hardly walk into a pharmacy without seeing hundreds of varieties of blush, nail polish, lip stick, and other make up related products invented to make people more beautiful. Makeup is not a new thing. For hundreds of years, women have pinched their cheeks and primped their hair in an attempt to be more glamorous. This week’s Exhibit Highlight, from the late 1800’s, is no exception.
On display now at the Andover Historical Society is a fancy little powder puff, donated by Miss Esther W. Smith in 1948. The puff itself is a fluffy little thing made of down, with a purple fabric knob. It fits perfectly into its round wooden box, which has a screw on lid. The top of the box has an inlaid mother-of-pearl disc on the center, and the underside of the box is labeled with “Osborne, Bauer, & Cheeseman, 10 Golded Square, London. 3 Feathers, trademark PERFUMES from the late R. Hendie.”
Now, according to the label, this powder puff was made in London by a company called Osborne, Bauer, and Cheeseman. Looking into the company, we discovered that it was actually a famous British perfume maker in the late 1800’s. Osborne, Bauer, and Cheeseman were founded in 1863, and is said to have been disbanded in 1886. There are other whispers of the company after 1886, so it is possible that another company took on their name or they did not formally disband at that time.
The three men of Osborne, Bauer, and Cheeseman were formerly under the employ of Robert Hendrie, who influenced them greatly. When the three started their own company, they continued to put his name on their products, such as the “R. Hendrie” on this powder puff. After doing this for several years, they were taken to court over the matter, and eventually were forced to take his name off their work. The business sold perfumes, healing jellies, powder puffs, pumice stones, and soap, and there is a rumor that they provided perfume for Queen Victoria herself.
This powder puff was probably a wonderful, foreign gift to whatever lucky young woman used it. Who wouldn’t want a powder puff from a company who delivered perfume to the queen of England?