|The Literary Digest, July 1920.|
An exotic Jonteel bird logo
dominates the back cover of this magazine.
In the fall of 1931, United Drug Company's general sales manager, George C. Frolich alerted his advertising department, “The toilet goods laboratory is developing new products and improving formulas of some of the older items. I want to get the best artists in America to design packages that will help Rexallites secure a million-dollar volume in 12 months!” Frolich was talking about Jonteel, a cosmetics line launched by United in 1917, followed by three years of intensive advertising in national magazines. Even in 1931 Jonteel remained a viable brand.
The Jonteel ad campaign was spurred by United's success in its first nationwide magazine blitz: a 2-page spread in the September 1915 issue of Collier's that firmly established the famous One-Cent Sale (see my Nov. 3, 2013 post). That promotion initiated a long history of popular semi-annual sales events, but just as importantly, it confirmed that pictorial magazine advertising was the best vehicle for embedding the Rexall trademark in the minds of consumers. Louis K. Liggett, president of United Drug Co., instinctively knew that when a marketing strategy worked, it was foolish not to work up a variation on the same theme.
|Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1917. This opening Jonteel ad shows|
actress Helene Chadwick enjoying the new “Odor of Twenty-six Flowers.”
To enlarge pictures: click>right click>View Image>and click again.
|Oval talcum tins, manufactured in 2.5 oz. and 5.5 oz.|
sizes by the Tin Decorating Co., Baltimore, MD.
|Showcase and counter displays of Jonteel products, April 1921.|
Rexallites were urged to display Jonteel items “wherever the goods can make an irresistible appeal to that insatiable searcher for money-spending opportunities—Woman.” As with the One-Cent Sales, Jonteel advertising emphasized exclusive selling rights by The Rexall Stores; and during 1918-20 that meant 8000 agencies in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. Among them were some 200 company-owned Liggett’s Drug Stores scattered from New York City to Winnipeg (half of them former Riker & Hegeman stores acquired in a 1916 merger), and 30 franchised Owl Drug Co. stores on the Pacific Coast.
|The “Lesser Bird-of-Paradise” (Paradisaea minor), |
native of Papua New Guinea.
|Display of Jonteel products in an Owl Drug Co. store window, circa 1919.|
Besides the bird’s striking appearance, the word Jonteel was a masterstroke of faux French branding. The fanciful name was instantly associated with “genteel,” yet pronounced more like the French gentil—both words suggesting something tasteful and refined. In the early 20th century practically all high fashion originated in Paris. Art Nouveau styling combined with distinctively French floral perfumery set the bar for American manufacturers as they strived to emulate the language, fragrances and imagery crafted by Parisian perfumers such as Houbigant, Piver and Coty.
|United Drug Co. perfumer George Hall displaying imported perfumery materials, 1912.|
George Hall enjoyed a solid reputation with the perfume industry in France; and on March 23, 1914 was awarded the Ordre du Mérite Agricole, bestowed by the French Republic for his outstanding contribution to agriculture. In the fall of 1916, with deliveries from war-torn Europe dwindling to nil, Hall announced that stocks of raw materials on hand would be sufficient to secure the Jonteel launch. Then suddenly, at a most critical time, Hall was forced to retire from United Drug in July 1917 for health reasons. Fortunately, another qualified perfumer, Francis N. Langlois (1893–1985), was hired away from Frederick Stearns & Co. in Detroit to manage United’s perfume and toilet goods laboratories. By serendipity, or perhaps with some cunning, the new superindendent brought with him a valuable asset—his obviously French name. Langlois consented to using his surname on the firm’s toiletries in April 1918, and after much test marketing, his facsimile signature was filed as a U.S. trademark in December 1922. In practice, “Langlois/New York,” was applied to United’s new Cara Nome and Juneve cosmetic brands, while the established “Liggett’s/New York” label continued on Jonteel packaging until the line was entirely redesigned in the early 1930’s.
|Costumed women demonstrating Jonteel products in a store window boudoir scene, |
Axt Drug Co., Fort Madison, Iowa 1918.
|Jonteel Bath and Toilet Powder was produced in |
Canada for distribution through Rexall Stores in that country.
|F.N. Burt Company, a major fabricator of small boxes in Buffalo, NY|
made the pasteboard containers for Jonteel
Cold Cream Face Powder, Rouge Compact, etc.
|Woman’s Home Companion, March 1919. The new powder and rouge “compacts” included a natural shade called Outdoor to match the complexion of open air enthusiasts. Helene Chadwick demonstrates a finger ring vanity case.|
|Information sent to Rexall agents in March 1920 outlined merits of the new silver-plated vanity case and how it should function as a “selling scheme” to secure future sales of Jonteel powder and rouge compacts.|
|Fine metal stamping is evident in this close-up of the octagonal vanity, |
made by D. Evans & Company of North Attleboro, Mass.
The small, attractively embossed case was stamped “Sheffield Plate,” implying the ancient process of fusing sheet silver to copper, but the Jonteel vanities were actually machine stamped from brass and electroplated with a thin coating of silver. To learn more about these fascinating little boxes and their maker, D. Evans & Co. of North Attleboro, Mass., read Mike Hetherington’s blog post here.
|Ladies’ Home Journal, February 1921. Miss Chadwick, in her final pose for the magazine campaign, recommends Combination Cream—a preparation used as a base for face powder and to treat chapped hands. |
The oval jar was made of milk-white glass.
|Woman’s Home Companion, May 1921. An artist’s painting replaced the photographic |
poses of Helene Chadwick for the remainder of the 1921 magazine ad campaign.
|Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1921. Both the silver-plated single and the |
brass double vanity cases were offered in this Christmas “Gifts Jonteel” ad.
|Less intricate than the repoussé silver-plated vanity, the stamped logo|
on the brass double case was nevertheless well executed.
Manufactured by E. Loesser Mills of Montclair, NJ.
|August Goertz & Co. of Newark, NJ filed a utility patent in September 1922 for this double compact case. Within a year United Drug had adopted the novel device. Insets show guilloché cover and interior of the Jonteel “Twin Vanity.”|
|Rouge compacts embossed with the Jonteel bird were |
first supplied in metal single cases in the mid-1920’s.
|A completely modernized line of Jonteel products appeared in January 1933. |
The packaging featured angular lines and tall glass containers.
Toilet Powder tins are known with both Liggett's/New York and Langlois/New York labels.
|The square, pillow-shaped, nickel-plated Double Vanity.|
A metal mirror swings on the case hinge pintle and separates the rouge and powder compartments—
a feature commonly seen on cases made by Hingeco Mfg. Co. of Providence, RI.
|Slender metal cases with hinged covers were created to carry |
single rouge and powder compacts. Manufactured
by Chase Brass & Copper Co., Waterbury, Conn.
|Body powders were packaged in enameled metal cans. The tall 5 oz. Talcum was added several months after the new line was launched in January 1933. Inset shows the Langlois/New York label adopted for the redesigned Jonteel line.|
|The majestic Jonteel bird was such a colorful, eye-catching logo it was featured on other|
United Drug Co. merchandise ranging from boxed chocolates to hair nets.
>>Special thanks to my good friend Michael Hetherington for his collaboration and good fellowship in tracking down history of the toilet goods industry. Mike has created a wonderful blog on the subject with special emphasis on compact cases. Enjoy his many Collecting Vintage Compacts posts here. Also my sincere gratitude to C.J. “Jonteel” Vaughn for many years of support in the collection of information and artifacts related to United Drug Co.