Thursday, April 12, 2007
Jevne Catalogue Includes Toiletries ...Like Almond Paste, Chalk
By ROGER M. GRACE
While Hans Jevne was a grocer—indeed, the proprietor of the leading grocery store in the western United States—he also sold household items, including toiletries and cosmetics. Just as some of the foods mentioned in his 1912-13 catalogue, alluded to last week, are now passé, so are some of the bathroom and dressing room items...though others remain familiar products.
Listed under toilet preparations is almond meal. Almond meal? That’s used in the preparation of confections, including marzipan…but how was it used as a toiletry? The June 3, 1910 edition of the Charleroi (Penn.) Mail explains: “Almond meal is preferred by some women to soap and acts as a pleasing alternative to soap at any time. This softens, cleanses and whitens the skin.” The Sept. 7, 1913, edition of the Fresno Morning Republican advises: “For skins easily irritated. almond meal is often a safer cleanser than soap.”
As for soaps, the listing of them comprises more than a page of the 8˝ x 11 inch catalogue. The Colgate Co. had 14 varieties, one being almond cream, others with such ingredients as honey, oatmeal, and sulphur. Palmolive—made of palm and olive oils—was then manufactured by a different company. Jevne sold that product, as well as three other olive oil soaps, and a lettuce soap.
You could come to Jevne’s store at 210 S. Spring Street (where the MetNews offices are now) or his main 6-story building at the southwest corner of Sixth Street and Broadway to buy your powdered chalk. Also known as calcium carbonate, it was used as an astringent and an antacid. Turned into a paste, it was used in cleaning gold, silver and ivory. The Edwardsville (Ohio) Intelligencer’s issue of March 27, 1914 contains this handy hint: “Prepared chalk is very good for whitening the teeth, but if used too often will in time destroy the enamel.” The July 23, 1910 issue of the Mansfield (Ohio) News suggests to girls on vacation in sunny clime: “Prepared chalk is a good powder to use, while cucumber cream will serve both as a bleacher and as a protector.”
Jevne also sold cucumber cream, including “Almond Honey Cucumber Lotion” from New York. The Los Angeles Times’s “Daily Beauty Hint” for July 3, 1912, is this: “Of the summer vegetables, nothing is better for the complexion than the much maligned cucumber. The cool and neutralizing juices of the vegetable are beneficial as a warm weather food, and in the making of the best preparations for the skin, they are invaluable.”
Also stocked by Jevne was Java rice…used not as a food, but, finely ground, as a face powder.
And there was “Ingraham’s Milk Weed.” The Times’s Dec. 13, 1910 “Daily Beauty Hint” is to eat carrots for a good complexion (a carrot cream, recently put on the market, was an alternative) or apply a cream with a milk weed base. “You remember as a child,” the column says, “that the ‘milk’ from this weed was said to cure many ailments, among them ‘warts’; and I know people who know that it really did cure these strange excrescences [growths].”
It’s said that women in those days were prone to faint because of the tightness of their corsets. Whatever the reason, Jevne sold four brands of smelling salts, including “Crown Lavender Salts in leather purses.”
Makeup in that time was associated with women of low morals: actresses (their profession being viewed as base) and prostitutes. It was not until 1914 that Max Factor introduced pancake makeup which became semi-fashionable and accorded a modicum of acceptability to cosmetics. Yet, in that 1912-13 catalog, nine brands of rouge are listed…among them, “Dorin’s Theatre” brand. Dorin’s “lip rouge” is among the itemized goods…perhaps aimed at those not quite bold enough to buy Dorin’s “lip stick,” also available at Jevne’s. So was a rabbit’s foot rouge-brush (a 20-cent, 30-cent, or 50-cent size) and a washable white lamb’s wool rouge brush (for a half dollar).
A dozen products appear under the category of “nail polish,” some denominated an “enamel,” one a “stick,” another a “brick,” yet others a “bleach,” an “acid,” a “shine.”
I wouldn’t have imagined that tooth paste was being sold then. I somehow had the notion as a child that it had only fairly recently supplanted tooth powder. Not so. Jevne was not only selling 10 brands of tooth paste (including one with the uninviting moniker of “Arnica Tooth Soap”) but also six brands of liquid tooth preparations, such as “Roger & Gallet’s Eau Dentifrice.” Colgate’s powder is included in the catalogue but not its paste...made by the company since 1877.
If you want to see a copy of the Jevne catalogue, or download it, you have but to go to the Harvard University website. The URL is a long one; rather giving you that, I’d suggest you simply type “harvard jevne” in Google; a link to the catalogue will be the first item that comes up.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company