Collections: Vintage Avon

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[gallery type="rectangular" ids="1939,1936,1937,1938"] These Avon pretties have been in our family since the 1960s. I'm not sure if they were originally purchased by my great-grandmother or grandmother, but I remember seeing them at Joan's house throughout my childhood. When Jonathan and I moved into our first apartment, the bath oil bottle was the very first thing of Joan's that my mother gave us. We inherited the powder box a few years later. It is particularly special to me because I can remember it being filled with Joan's curler pins. She curled her hair every single day, and I can still remember the way her curlers smelled as they were heating up. As I child, I loved to watch her at her makeup table -- curling her hair, applying foundation, mascara and lipstick and spritzing herself with her favorite perfume -- O de Lancome. It has been more than 10 years since I watched her with awe, but the image in my mind is still very vivid and will always be one of my favorite memories of her.

I would imagine that many women across the country have similar memories of their mothers and grandmothers, thanks to Avon. If you frequent estate sales or antique malls, then you’ve likely seen quite a few of their pretty bottles and boxes. Avon is one of those nostalgic brands that still feels very current, but it has actually been around since 1886.

Their story is pretty inspiring. Avon's founder, David M. McConnell, started his career as a traveling bookseller with an entrepreneur’s intuition. As he was peddling his books, he noticed that his female customers enjoyed his free perfume samples (that he made himself) more than his books. He also recognized that many of these customers were struggling to make ends meet but that they would make excellent salespeople. With these thoughts in mind, he launched his California Perfume Company.

Mr. McConnell’s ideas caught on like wildfire because he fulfilled a need and genuinely cared about his products and his employees. The California Perfume Company followed simple but very important principles that remain in place today – it brought jobs to people who needed them, recognized that each employee could bring something special to the table, gave back to the community and offered great products with a satisfaction guarantee. By the turn of the century, Mr. McConnell had recruited 5,000 salespeople. In 1920, his company’s sales topped $20 million. Today, sales have exceeded $11 billion. In recent years, the company has been through numerous financial struggles and scandals, but the Avon name still holds special meaning for generations of American women.

Also, if you’re curious about the company’s original name, Mr. McConnell chose the California Perfume Company to honor his business partner friend from California. Although the company began using the Avon name (a reference to William Shakespeare's home Stratford-upon-Avon) on packaging as early as 1930, it officially changed its name to Avon in 1939.

To see more vintage Avon beauty products and ads, visit our Vintage Beauty Pinterest board.

Do you have a favorite Avon memory?