Thursday, September 12, 2013

Early Atomizer History

Perfume bottles, those delicate flasks which hold precious scented liquids, have been popular since the ancient age of perfume making in Egypt, Rome, Greece and the Middle East. They are more popular now than they ever were and with a vast array of perfumes and bottle styles available to the masses it is important to touch on some of the history of these collectibles. Beginning in the modern perfume making years, perfumes were only to be found on the shelves of apothecaries. These large utilitarian bottles were not fit to sit upon a lady’s feminine vanity table, so she would bring her own flask to be filled with the stores own perfumes.

During the mid 1850s, the first atomizer appeared, born from a necessity to aid in the administration of throat medicines. After this time, atomizers were used primarily by men, from barbers using them to spray conditioning perfumed oil onto their client’s beards, to gardeners spraying pesticides onto their plants. In the late 1870s, at the Paris Exposition Universalle, the major perfumeries like Guerlain, Caron, Lubin, Violet, LT Piver, Molinard and others used a new way to show off their perfumes, which they dubbed the “pulverizateur“ or “vaporizateur“. These special bottles became a popular method for ladies to apply perfume, with a majority of the bottles exported from France and Bohemia.

The atomizer, the dropper bottles and perfume lamps, each one of these enabled the new woman of the 1920s and 1930s to share her perfumes with everyone who came in contact with her. The perfume lamps diffused her perfume throughout her boudoir, whilst her atomizer sprayed millions and millions of little droplets of perfume onto her delicate skin, and lastly her dauber touches her skin with the lightest of applications.

This site is devoted to the most widely known manufacturer in the field of perfume bottles, DeVilbiss, as well as the lesser known competitors who vied for a place in the marketing world alongside DeVilbiss: Volupte, Apollo, E & J Bass, Gironde, Mignon, Aristo, Silvercraft , Pyramid, Marcel Franck and the Czechoslovakian pieces, as well as other companies.

I found an article in a 1910 edition of Notions and Fancy Goods, a trade publication for store owners.

"Atomizers are today one of the most staple of fancy toilet accessories, and while they have been in favor for a number of years, the demand for them is constantly increasing. The assortments being shown this season are larger and more varied than ever before, and the designs and shapes more beautiful and artistic. While very attractive lines of bulb atomizers are being shown, to retail as low as 25 cents each, still it is not believed that the business done in that grade will be as large as that in years past, owing to the fact that these cheap atomizers too often fail to do their work properly, and are not the only source of considerable trouble in that direction, but tend to injure the reputation of the store selling them. 
A short history of the trade in atomizers might be interesting to the younger generation of buyers. The atomizer of today is an entirely different article from what it was when first introduced. The natural inclination of manufacturers to improve existing models and create new ideas has tended to the betterment of this particular industry not only in this country. But also abroad. 
As far as we can learn, the first atomizers offered for the approval of American buyers in the early 1860s were of foreign make, composed of earthenware and having an handle attachment somewhat resembling that of an ordinary pump. The suction created by the raising and lowering of the pump induced the spray. Although these atomizers were of rather crude construction, still they were such a novelty that many of them were sold from $20 to $50 each., and were considered quite a luxury. Owing to its cost, the popularity of this style of atomizer was of short duration.

Somewhere between 1880 and 1890 the first bulb atomizers were placed on the market. They took quite a hold on the public, and practically became a staple article for the trade. Not long after the invention of the bulb atomizers, what is now known as the “pump” variety was introduced, but never became very popular, probably owing to the difficulty in handling them. Considerable objection was made to them by women, who complained that their hands and gloves became soiled in using them, the liquid oozing out during the operation of raising and lowering the piston, which was necessary to create the spray. Another objection to this style was their tendency to get out of order on account of the intricate valves with which they were provided. 
At about this time a Bohemia manufacturer put on the market an atomizer that combined the features of both the bulb and pump atomizer, already referred to. This new atomizer, instead of having a rubber bulb, had a pump running in a glass tube acting as a piston rod. The head of this rod also acted as a spray inducer. The same disagreeable features appeared in this atomizer as existed in the earlier pump varieties, and in consequence, it was a very short lived innovation. 
The last improvement in atomizers was the adoption of the long rubber tube leading from the container itself to the bulb. It first appeared in Paris and shortly afterward in London,. Where it achieved a remarkable and permanent success. The great advantage of this style was the fact that it was always ready for use and easily handled, the slightest pressure on the bulb causing it to emit the spray. 

It must be acknowledged that this sensible and practical style of atomizer has not achieved the success in this country that its merits would seem to warrant. This is largely owing to the fact that up to the present season, no importer brought out a sufficiently large number of samples of this style to make the line attractive. Where perhaps half a dozen styles of this kind were shown in the line, a hundred other makes would be displayed, to the manifest disadvantages of the former.
Another reason for the non-popularity of these long tube atomizers was the fact that in case a bulb was damaged the whole atomizer was rendered useless, as there was no way of repairing them in this country, and it would cost too much to secure duplicate parts from Europe. This difficulty, however , has now been overcome. Importers are not only able to furnish duplicate parts of any portion of the atomizer, but are in a position to supply retailers with these same parts, so that they can repair their own atomizers whenever necessary. 
The new samples shown in this particular line of perfume atomizers comprise very many new styles, in all kinds of materials, including cut, Baccarat and Bohemian glass in pure white and combinations of colors at a full range of prices, which allow them to be retailed from 50 cents upward. This style atomizer is also used for medicinal purposes, and can be secured with nasal attachment, if desired. Now that all the objections to this kind of atomizer see, to have been resolved, they should prove a good selling proposition. 
A good idea would be to have an atomizer always at hand to test the various perfumes, but the indiscriminate spraying of perfumes on customers should not be permitted as many perfumes are very objectionable to a number of persons." 

Another article was found in the National Drug Clerk, Volume 7, from 1919. It discusses the importance of displaying perfume atomizers all year round.
“Refer to the line of perfume atomizers. The way to sell them is to display them and keep them polished up and clean. Some merchants have the impression that when they have only a half dozen, or a dozen, on hand they cannot make a display of the. This is wrong. 
A half dozen perfume atomizers placed in one group, either in the display case or outside of it, will attract attention. If, on the other hand, this same half dozen were scattered through a display case, mixed up with various other articles, it’s dollars to doughnuts people will not see them. One-half-dozen attractive perfume atomizers grouped together in one spot, on top of the toilet goods case, or inside it, will produce more sales than would a dozen or two placed singly or scattered throughout the toilet goods department. 
Many dealers get the impression that perfume atomizers are a holiday line. They might just as well say that perfume, toilet water, razors , stationary, and cameras are holiday lines. It is true that more perfume atomizers are sold during the holidays than during any other season, but this is also true of the other lines mentioned, and no one will say that perfumes, razors, etc should be displayed only during the holidays. Perfumes and toilet waters are sold every month. Some dealers wait until perfume atomizers are called for, and in many cases they are called for. 
However, I venture the statement that a large percentage of sales of perfume atomizers are made to people who had no thought of buying a perfume sprayer, but were attracted by a display and appreciated its beauty and utility for the dressing table. Perfume atomizers and toilet waters go hand in hand, and a most appropriate present for any occasion would be a combination of a nice bottle of toilet water or perfume and a handsome cut glass perfume atomizer for distributing the fragrance. A well arranged display of perfume atomizers, even of only a half dozen will increase the sale of them and of perfumes and toilet waters.”

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