Thursday, 7 July 2011

Art Deco Beauties

When I first moved into my flat, there were three framed prints in the hallway waiting to be thrown out. I saved them, of course, and they have languished in a corner ever since. During a cleaning frenzy the other day, I decided to take a closer look at them. One of the frames is coming apart a little, so I managed to take a peek beneath the backing paper.

The pictures are artwork prints given away by the Pompeian Beauty Company, and date from 1924! The glass needs a good clean, I think they'll look considerably brighter once they've had a good polish as I suspect the yellowish cast is nicotine staining on the surface - hopefully the paper itself has been protected by the sealed frames.

One of the prints sold on eBay this week for £34.49 (here), as you can see it has the Pompeian Beauty logo at the bottom with the artist's name, Gene Pressler. This part is cut off on my prints, obviously whoever framed them didn't like the branding on there so cut it off rather than folding it under, which is unfortunate.

Information on the company is fairly scarce online, but I came across this small article on Massage Magazine's website, about the history of Pompeian massage cream which has a little of the company's history. Though much of the available information relates to the brand's Canadian roots, it was in fact an international company, with its British headquarters in Leeds.

"The Pompeian Manufacturing Company began in a small drugstore on the outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio, in the late 19th century. Among its product line, the Pompeian Massage Cream was a favorite with barbers around the world - even though it was promoted to men and women alike.

Pharmacist Fred W. Stecher, the son of a German immigrant, created the soothing after-shave massage cream in the back room of his small drugstore on the west side of Cleveland. But it was Otto F. Leopold, who after Stecher's death would become president of the company, who led the creation of its famous "Pompeian Beauty of the Year" contest. Film star Mary Pickford was one of the first Pompeian beauties to grace the advertisements of the company, and helped Leopold to become one of America's early cosmetic tycoons.

In 1927 the Pompeian Manufacturing Company was sold to Colgate Palmolive Peet for $1 million. Six months later the entire Pompeian line of products was discontinued and the legacy of Pompeian Massage Cream and its "Pompeian Beauty" ended. But the legacy was the first great advertising campaign using the word massage in its product name. From the examples shown here you can get an idea of the broad approach the company took in marketing its Pompeian Massage Cream product.

Today the Pompeian Massage Cream jars, sample tins, ads and posters are considered collectable antiques."

-Robert Noah Calvert

There is also a more thorough history of the company and its products on the Collecting Vintage Compacts blog, which is full of interesting bits about vintage cosmetics and has some lovely Pompeian advertising pictures.

I had a chuckle at this inscription which is at the top on the back of the panel, hopefully he married her for more reasons than just her 'lasting youth and girlish loveliness'.


  1. These are really nice! especially the first one!

  2. Thanks! I'm glad I could save them, they were left in a communal hallway for ages so I thought they belonged to someone, but then they were put out with the rubbish so I rescued them!

    ps. I don't know what was offensive about this post, but as soon as it went up I lost a follower, weird.

  3. I cannot thank you enough for this post, I grew up with the images in the middle & on the right in my grandmothers house, I have been searching to find out what they were ever since, she got rid of them when she moved house i think when I was a small child.

    mwahhhhhh I LOVE you xxx

  4. All we found in our house when we moved in was a christmas tree made of silver tinsel in the loft. They're lovely- I like the one on the right the best. Hopefully they'll clean up nicely!

  5. omg SCORE!! You lucky woman!!!! They're beautiful, and the history and story of how you acquired them makes them all the more wonderful!
    Are you going to use mat-board and re-frame them with other frames, or do you think the frames you found them in are from 1927 as well...?

  6. Ginny, does it look old? There were silver xmas trees in the 50s, you used a colour projector wheel instead of strung lights on them - I might have to steal it :P

    Aww Annie! I'm glad I could help! I'll let you know if I decide to give them away or put them up for swaps <3

    Hope, I think they just need a clean, two of the frames are still very solid and the other one just needs a small nail or two to hold it back together. I'm pretty sure the frames are original, they're very plain but the backing paper looks very old.

  7. No, it's new(ish). And now probably buried behind piles of baby stuff hehe. I don't even know what state it's in, although I'm pretty sure it'll be full of loft insulation bits from being chucked up there.

  8. Arghh, itchy glass fibre bits!