Compact makers: The Elegance of Evans

As I mentioned before, the Evans Case Company made some of the compacts I love the most… as well as this wonderful handbag my mother-in-law scored for me:

Handbag, lipstick tube, change purse, and comb.

Handbag, lipstick tube, change purse, and comb.

I’m surprised that I haven’t blogged much about Evans before now. Based in North Attleborough, Massachusetts, Evans operated from 1922-1960, producing lighters, cigarette cases, compacts, vanity cases, handbags, and men’s accessories such as tie clips and cufflinks. With the tagline “Evans is elegance,” the company lured in women looking for something a bit more glamorous than the commonplace drug store powder compact.

From "The Evans Book" by Larry Clayton. Copyright 1998 Larry Clayton.

From “The Evans Book” by Larry Clayton. Copyright 1998 Larry Clayton.

Evans manufactured beautifully matched sets: each carryall came with a matching lipstick holder; handbags included a variety of accessories, such as a lipstick holder, mirror, comb, powder box, cigarette case and lighter.

I wish I owned more Evans pieces–for whatever reason, I’ve found more Elgin American and Volupte in my travels. The few Evans pieces I do have, however, offer a good representation of what the company produced…including some packaging.

The carryall I own is pictured in this ad from The Evans Book – I love the multi-colored metal waves. A small detail that really gives the piece more depth and complexity.

The waves have subtle color variations, alternating between a bright gold and a rosy tone.

The waves have subtle color variations, alternating between a bright gold and a rosy tone.

My carryall is missing the lipstick holder. Someday, I'll find one.

My carryall is missing the lipstick holder. Someday, I’ll find one.

I also have a lovely smoking set with compact…although, like the carryall, mine is flawed. When I purchased the set online, the mirror in the compact was intact. Unfortunately, the shipper didn’t pack it well and by the time it arrived, the mirror had broken. I was crushed. And since the mirror is framed into the case, I can’t replace it on my own. I keep looking for a matching compact so I can have the full set. I love the herringbone pattern.

Compact, cigarette case, and lighter.

Compact, cigarette case, and lighter.

I have a beautiful Evans compact – with the mirror intact. And the original packaging…it’s fun to see the advertising for other Evans products. The back of the little brochure says, “Makers of automatic lighters for more than 20 years.” Since Evans started making lighters in 1928, that probably puts the compact’s manufacture date at  1949 or 1950.

The compact and literature.

The compact and literature.

The inside has never been used.

The unused puff, with the Evans label.

The unused puff, with the Evans label.

My last Evans piece is another handbag. This one didn’t have any of the original accoutrements with it, but I can always just use my other Evans pieces to fill it, if I want to be a stickler. I found this bag at Treasures Antiques in Amherst. Their website is terrible–the shop is much better in person!

I think I paid just $12 for this.

I think I paid just $12 for this.

An ad for bags like mine...with a similar clasp, but different shapes. The set that came with the top bag looks like the one I shared pictures of.

An ad for bags like mine…with a similar clasp, but different shapes. The set that came with the top bag looks like the one I shared pictures of above.

According to The Evans Book, the company stopped making handbags in 1955, when the wife of owner Alfred Reilly attempted to take over the handbag division and the women who had been managing it quit. I always think it’s interesting to learn how personality conflicts and political activity have a far-reaching impact on manufacturing, finance, and the like. Anyway, the company went on making lighters and compacts for another five years, until 1960.

You can learn more about Evans on the blog Collecting Vintage Compacts in a series of remarkably well-researched posts full of great photos.

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