August 25, 2021
A Note From The Founders
Ding Dong, Avon Calling!
Lapel button used by representatives of CPC - Avon.
Perfume Was And Always Has Been, The Heart Of Avon
Formerly called the California Perfume Company (CPC), Avon was founded in 1886 by David H. McConnell, a traveling book salesman for the Union Publishing Company.  He gave free samples of perfumes while doing door-to-door book sales and soon realized his female customers were more interested in his perfumes than his books. 

McConnell purchased half his employer’s book company and decided to sell perfumes instead of books, naming his new business the California Perfume Company.  From a small New York office, he mixed fragrances himself, and using his salesman's background, recruited a team of women to be sales representatives. Persis Foster Eames Albee (known as PFE Albee) was the company's first sales agent, helping McConnell recruit other women. She traveled by horse and buggy and train, going door-to-door in the northeast and soon began training women to do the same. Future Avon ladies were born!
McConnell realized that women were isolated at home while their husbands were working.  At a time when women had limited employment opportunities, Avon was a revolutionary concept that marked the beginning of the company’s long history of empowering women around the globe.  

"Little Dot Perfumes” was the first product sold by CPC in 1886 and the set included five fragrances--Lily of the Valley, Violet, Heliotrope, White Rose and Hyacinth. The product line soon grew to nearly 20 different fragrances, and by 1902, they started selling a full range of perfumes, toilet waters, creams, soaps and powders.
Example of the "Little Dot Perfumes" from CPC.
Lab where first CPC products were manufactured.
Floral notes captured in bottles of Lily of the Valley, Violet, Heliotrope, White Rose and Hyacinth, 1886.
The company’s first catalog was developed in 1896 and a full color illustrated catalog was issued in 1905.  By the 1920s the company began introducing an Avon product line, the first items were a toothbrush, cleanser and vanity set. They started using the name Avon for certain products, and the company sales totaled over $1 million dollars in 1920.
Early California Perfume Company color plate catalog.
McConnell believed that his products and his employees were the key to his company's success, and he dedicated himself to both. He inspired his sales reps and encouraged his employees long before it became a common business practice. He instituted incentive programs and hired consultants to ensure that his employees were happy and productive.

After McConnell's death in 1937, his son David H. McConnell Jr., became president and changed the company name to Avon in 1939.

While the company began on the east coast, they opened distribution centers across the US. These facilities were used to recruit sales agents to introduce their products throughout the country, as well as to fill orders, reducing shipping times and costs to get products to the customers.

Another successful aspect of the company was their product labeling and packaging. Over the years, ornate type fonts, detailed flowers and bright colors were used to attract customers to purchase their items.

The success of the Avon company continued in the 1930s, as they expanded their catalog business during the Depression. During WWII the company provided space to the military to develop gas masks and pharmaceuticals. Sales reps also started selling war bonds along with company cosmetics and perfumes.

After the war, Avon's sales soared and by 1949 Avon had over 65,000 representatives and 2,500 employees.

For decades, Avon relied solely on catalog sales through their network of representatives. Their first TV commercial aired in 1954 with their famous "Ding Dong, Avon Calling!" tagline. The campaign ran until 1967 and was one of the longest-running and most successful ad campaigns of all time.
Avon Ladies
So, what exactly was an “Avon Lady?” The company used this phrase, representing the unique aspects of the saleswoman's role. Avon's innovative business concept allowed sales agents to purchase the cosmetic products and then resell the items on their own time, using their own personal style. This first-of-its-kind business practice was exactly what McConnell established over a half a century earlier.

Visits from the Avon Lady was something to look forward to in the 1950s, allowing women to sample different scents and toiletries from the comfort of their homes. Also in the 1950s, the Avon Foundation was created to promote humanitarian efforts for women, and today focuses mostly on fighting breast cancer and domestic violence.
Avon's first novelty decanters were introduced in the 1960s and the collectible glass car decanters appeared in 1968. Over the years, the whimsical decanter themes included animals, flowers, planes and trains.
Today, Avon has grown from a small New York perfume company into a global cosmetics and fragrance industry. Avon has created jobs to help support women, and some men, around the world. There are Avon representatives on five continents and in over 100 countries. Products can be purchased through a sales representative, online or in some department stores.

In 2019, Avon's revenues were $4.7 billion. It is considered the fourteenth largest beauty company and, with 6.4 million representatives, is the second largest direct-selling enterprise in the world (after Amway).
Did You Know...
Mrs. PFE Albee, 1886.
What McConnell did in the nineteenth century by offering women a chance at financial independence was unheard of at the time. Only about 20% of all US women were working outside the home in manufacturing, agriculture and domestic service industries. Women's wages were a fraction of a man’s wages.

By employing female sales representatives like New Hampshire's Persis Foster Eames Albee, he provided earning opportunities for thousands of women, so they were able to achieve financial independence and assist in supporting their families.

Albee (1836-1914) was a businesswoman and entrepreneur, known as the first "Avon Lady" due to her successful marketing techniques, recruiting and training of other women. She became a pioneer in assisting women to become financially independent and she trained over 5,000 representatives to sell Avon products in her 25-year career with the company.

McConnell had met Albee while he was still a book salesman, and he eventually recruited her to become one of his sales agents when he formed his CPC company in 1886. He felt that woman-to-woman selling was a way to open doors and increase sales. It was also an opportunity for women to create and manage their own businesses.

Over the years, Albee became a beauty adviser to her customers, and historians credit her with inspiring the traditions and creating the sales techniques that are still used by the Avon company today.
Example of an Albee Award.
Award honoring Bud Hastin, author of Hastin's Avon Collector's Encyclopedia, for his contributions since 1969.
Example of an Albee Award.
Avon honors top sales performers with various "Albee Awards," and a doll in the image of Albee was produced by the creator of Hummel figurines and presented as sales awards in 1973.
In 1997 an Albee Barbie doll was issued, originally sold only to top Avon sales agents, and is now a collector's item. She isdressed professionally in typical nineteenth century styles when doing door-to-door sales. She carried a sales manual that stated her samples were the actual items that customers would receive.
Company Timeline...
California Perfume Company
1886 - The California Perfume Company was founded by David H. McConnell.
1902 -  Led by PFE Albee, the company's first sales representative, the company employed over 10,000 sales agents.
1905 - Outlook magazine was launched by the company, a publication for sharing advice to employees and keeping representatives up-to-date on company news.

1906 -  Their first print ads appeared in Good Housekeeping and the first color catalog was issued.

1911 - First automobiles were being invented and Effie Miller of Oregon won a new Brush Runabout car for being the CPC number one sales agent.

1914 - The first international office opened in Montreal, Canada.
1915 - An exhibit in the Panama-Pacific International Expo (San Francisco) was awarded the Gold Medal for packaging and quality.
1920 - The first products in the company's line of Avon products were a toothbrush, cleanser and vanity set.  
1928 - The company started using the name “Avon” for certain products.  

1937 - McConnell died and his son, David H. McConnell Jr., became president

1939 - CPC changed its name to Avon Products Inc.
Avon Company
1946 - Avon goes public by issuing over-the-counter stock and in 1964 was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

1948 - Avon entered more than 10 new countries, introduced 450 products, and its annual sales grew to over one billion dollars.
1955 - Avon established the Avon Foundation for Women in the US. The first grant is a single $400 scholarship.   
1960s - Mini company brochures were introduced and left with the customers and collected back by the reps with orders.  
1970s - Launch of Skin-So-Soft brand and the first car decanter appeared. The number of representatives reached one million.

1980s - The first stabilize Retinol is released with the patented BIOADVANCE skincare product.
1990 -  Avon became the first major US cosmetic manufacturer to stop testing its products on animals.

1996 - With sales of 40 million dolls, Avon's Barbie dolls were the biggest product launch in the company's history.

1998 - First company to bring Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) anti-aging technology to the mass market, with the launch of ANEW skincare range.
1999 - Andrea Jung became CEO, the first woman to lead the company. Photo courtesy of Forbes.
2000s - Avon expanded its products to the youth market.  They also held the first ever walk to raise funds for breast cancer.  The Avon Foundation launched the first domestic violence program, “Speak Out Against Domestic Violence.”  A new, 225,000 square foot state of the art facility opened in Suffern, NY.  Sales hit the ten billion dollar milestone.

2010s - Brazil is the company's largest market, passing the US.  The Avon Foundation funded a new global initiative to support women – The Justice Institute on Gender-Based Violence.   

2020 - The Brazilian beauty company Natura & Company purchased Avon Products, creating the world's fourth-largest beauty company.  Photo below courtesy of
Angela Cretu was appointed Avon CEO in 2020 to drive the next phase o transformation. Photo courtesy of Avon Worldwide.
In the 21st century, Avon continues to expand their target market by introducing new products for youthful and age regression as well as products for teens and young adult women by staying relevant with the ever changing cosmetic world.  
Treasures of the Collection...
Man’s World, 1969 -1970.  Brown plastic stand held a 6oz globe.  Gold paint over clear glass, gold cap.  It came in Bravo, Windjammer or Tribute after shave.  Bottle is 4” high. 
From Rusty...

What is a treasure in the collection?

It is something so special and priceless that it is difficult to put a price on it, and the experience it elicits may be completely unique. Such is the case for me with this treasure!

I've often been asked what makes Avon so special to me. My response is simple, "Its part of the tapestry of my life as a kid and young man."

I have memories that immediately take me back to my childhood when I see Avon perfume bottles and products. I was an avid shopper for my mother and whenever I see Avon perfumes and vanity items, they remind me of my mom and the presence of these items in our home.

I recall my mother using many of my father's Avon colognes as aromatic water. He couldn't keep up with the increasing number of bottles we would give him for his birthday, Father's Day and Christmas! So my mother would pour some of the fragrance in the mopping water and go over the floors once they were clean.

To this day, she still has loyalty to the Avon brand and continues to use their products.

Over the years, I've collected Avon bottles and always feel nostalgic about what they represent to me. As I learned more about the company and became aware of their history, I knew Avon deserved it's own exhibit at Perfume Passage!

I have been working on a display that will be available for the 2022 IPBA convention.
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Perfume Passage Foundation is dedicated to preserving the history, beauty, and artistry of perfume bottles, compacts, ephemera and related vanity items. The Foundation seeks to educate and inspire visitors by illuminating the connection between perfume and the human experience
We Hope To See You Soon - Autumn 2021

Located in the Chicagoland area, the Perfume Passage Foundation is 38 miles northwest of downtown Chicago and 25 miles from O'Hare International Airport.

Types of tours include:

  • Private docent-guided tours
  • Group tours
  • Symphony of Scents and Sounds