Richard Hudnut definitely stands out as one of my favorite compact manufacturers. Glamourous, sophisticated, high-end compacts with gorgeous details? You got me.
Hudnut cosmetics and perfumes first appeared in New York City in 1880. Having toured Europe after graduating from Princeton, young Richard was inspired to launch his own line of cosmetics and perfumes–which he conveniently sold through his father’s drug store. He’s widely considered the first American to have a major impact in the cosmetics field, entering the market six years before the California Perfume Company, now Avon. Before these two major players appeared on the scene, American women exclusively used fragrances imported from Europe.
A number of sophisticated marketing techniques helped ensure the cache’ of the Hudnut brand. After transforming his father’s shop into an upscale boutique, Hudnut reputedly shifted his focus to wholesale, demanding that department stores that carried his wares sign contracts that prohibited them from reducing the cost of his goods or bundling them with other special offers–much like the coupons you recieve today with clearly outlined exclusions.
The DuBarry line launched in 1903. It still operates today–visit their website for more info.
The Three Flowers line was introduced in 1915, just a year before Hudnut retired and sold the company. It was acquired by William R. Warner & Company, which became Warner-Lambert in 1955.
The Deauville line launched in 1924: the same year Richard’s step-daughter Natasha married the delectable Rudolph Valentino, who had unfortunately failed to divorce his first wife prior to the new marriage. Richard Hudnut died in France in 1928 at age 73.
To live up to the expectations of Hudnut’s exclusive clientele, each of the cosmetics came in an elegant compact. Face powders, foundations, rouge, lipstick, and perfume boasted beautiful packaging. Hudnut designs embody the art nouveau and art deco aesthetics of their times.
Probably the most recognizable Hudnut compacts, the Le Debut series includes octagonal cases in gorgeous blues, greens, cream, and black. Dots representing stars sprinkled across the enamel somehow add energy and appeal. Some higher-end models offered a vanity case and lipstick tube suspended from a chain with a finger ring. These are some of the cases I love most. While I own the blue one pictured here, I long for one of the turquoise colored ones, preferably with the lipstick. Though the Hudnut company manufactured compacts well into the 1960s, I associate Richard Hudnut with the silent film era and that particular breed of glamour.
Can’t you just picture Theda Bara or Louise Brooks with this compact in her hand? There. You see what I mean.