History of fragrance and perfumes by Elizabeth Arden

Excerpt from an editorial by David DeNicolo, The Face Makers.

Elizabeth Arden in 1939

The idea of beauty as a recreation, restoration, and purposeful pampering did not exist before Florence Nightingale Graham left her job selling household supplies to farmers in rural Canada and Elizabeth Arden (taking the first part of her name from an early business partner and the second from her favorite poem, Tennyson's "Enoch Arden"), and in 1920 opened the country's first day spa. This wasn't just a different way to provide services; Arden nurtured an entirely new spa culture. In 1930 she debuted what would become her most celebrated spa behind the storied red door at 691 Fifth Avenue. The New York Times declared that Arden "convinced women that they could attain that mysterious thing called beauty if they permitted themselves to be steamed, rolled, massaged, and bathed in wax in her sumptuously decorated salon." Writer Clare Boothe Luce, an Arden devotee, used the salon as the inspiration for several scenes in her hit comedy play The Women, where husband theft was a competitive sport and "jungle red" the nail polish du jour. And in 1934, Arden converted her own estate into the country's first destination spa, called Maine Chance.

Elizabeth Arden spa, Maine Chance, 1934
Elizabeth Arden's Maine Chance Spa, opened in 1934

Though spas were Arden's bread and butted (she had dozens of them around the world at the midcentury peak of her success), she also produced lipstick, rouge, and eye makeup under her eponymous brand. More significantly, she was a pioneer of skin care, and with her background in nursing she introduced cosmetic chemistry into the development of her creams and lotions - a novel practice at the time. Today, of course, the whole industry is chasing scientific breakthroughs, and the first thing consumers want to know is: Does it work? Arden has the vision to recognize that need for efficacy long ago, as well as the yearning for pleasure in self-improvement, and had astounding success trying to satisfy them.


  1. DeNicolo, David. "The Face Makers." Allure Mar. 2011: 226-231.

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