Good morning, afternoon, or evening, and a Happy(?) Juneteenth! This holiday is so new to me I am not sure how to address it. Today we commemorate the day when African American slaves were told of their freedom in Galveston, Texas in 1865. Let us do our part as historians to record the history of African Americans in our communities, and properly remember the people who did so much to build our country.
The summer newsletter is not missing from your mailbox or inbox. Computer issues with my home PC, which has the program I use for the newsletters, is the reason for the delay and I hope that will be rectified soon. Having your computer in the shop for repairs is as bad as having your car in for repairs!
It may be Father’s Day tomorrow, but for today I ask the question: What might you get the lady of the house as a gift for a special day? With so many choices available now, I would expect a long list of answers. But what if I asked that question in the 1880’s to someone in Easton? Thanks to Bob Vogel, we were able to find something that might help answer that question.
Austen’s Forest Flower Cologne would be a gift worth buying for that special someone. Made in Oswego, N.Y., it was billed as “The most fashionable perfume of the day.” Originating around 1878, and sold under that name until 1886 (when a new owner continued to sell it), the perfume became one of the best-selling scents in America. No one knows what was actually in this compound of fragrant smells, but it sure was popular! How do we know you could purchase this in Easton? The people of that time were pretty adept at advertising their wares. Victorian era advertising cards were all the rage in the years following the Civil War, and into the early 20th century, they were issued in many sizes, styles, and series to make people aware of a product. Austen’s issued a number of these advertising cards, which featured the product on the front, usually accompanied by a scene or other artwork, more information on the reverse, and also included a space to print the name and advertising of the business selling the featured item. We obtained one of the advertising cards for Austen’s Forest Flower Cologne because on the reverse there is an ad for the O. Ames & Sons Store in North Easton. They are noted as a “Dealer in Dry Goods, Notions, Boots, Shoes, Groceries, Provisions, &c.” with the notation “North Easton, Mass.” We know about the Ames Company Store, which was in operation for more than 100 years opposite the Ames Free Library. The card is dated 1881. Now we know one of those special gift items they stocked.
There are two more things about this card. On the back, it advertises that “for a limited time each purchaser of this Cologne will be given a beautiful Japanese handkerchief.” Each case of twelve bottles sold to a distributor contained a dozen of these items to be given to each purchaser. The price? Twenty-five and seventy-five cents a bottle, depending on the size bottle you bought. The second interesting item is that in the days before “scratch and sniff” marketing became possible, many of these cards were “perfumed” with the scent of the cologne, offering a way to have the lady of the house sample the fragrance without breaking the seal on the bottle. Our card is marked as such across the top of the front. The scent, however, has passed into history.
Wishing you all a great weekend,
Curator: Frank Meninno