vanity case

Consignment finds

Yesterday afternoon I was fidgety and decided to go for a drive. While I started off intending to hit up the usual antique stores, I changed my mind once I got close and decided to try the local consignment shops instead.

Good call.

At Second Avenue Consignment, I found the flour and sugar containers from a Beautyware canister set. I’d love to find the matching coffee and tea containers, but for now, the flour and sugar canisters work just fine.

I also saw a mid-century tea cart that I would have snatched up in a heartbeat if it weren’t for one teeny little detail…

Striking tea cart.

Striking tea cart.

It’s pink. I HATE pink. Sigh. I know some other vintage lady will love it. If you’re in the southern New Hampshire area and reading this blog, I think it was marked $49. You’re welcome.

I left Second Avenue with my canister set and headed next door to Twice As Nice Consignments, but didn’t find anything there. I got back in my car and headed toward Milford, thinking I’d check out the New Hampshire Antiques Co-op. Then I saw a sign for a barn sale. Whoo-hoo! I parked, got out of my car, and was greeted by these beauties:

vintage kitchen cabinets

vintage kitchen cabinets

Here’s a closer look at the pattern on top.

Red kitchen cabinet tops.

Red kitchen cabinet tops.

It may look familiar if you’ve been a regular reader. You may have seen it here. Or here. Or in any one of several other posts I’m too lazy to track down right now. That’s right. It matches my table. (Forgive the color difference of daylight vs. no light. They’re the same color. Really.)

My table.

My table.

As much as I loved the cabinets, I didn’t buy them. Mostly because we have no place to put them.

I did, however, add a new compact to my collection:

Washington, D.C. souvenir vanity case by Elgin American.

Washington, D.C. souvenir vanity case by Elgin American.

I love the deep burgundy of this vanity case. I didn’t have any souvenir cases in my collection, and this one is pretty and in great shape.

Basically, I drove around, saw cool stuff, and entertained myself for three hours. Good deal.


Red, white and blue

I adore red, white and blue, especially together. So when the opportunity to wear or otherwise showcase some of my favorite colors comes up, I’m ready. In honor of Independence Day, some of my more patriotic vintage pieces.


Yardley vanity case – this came in several versions, with the locations of the colors alternated. This version is my favorite.


A Volupte cigarette case with red, white and blue stripes. And amazing rhinestones in the corner.


red and sparkly…like fireworks

bead & button bracelet

My cousin Becky gave me this wonderful bracelet made of vintage beads and buttons.



Naturalizer tricolor spectator bag. I LOVE this purse.

Gato scarf

Last but not least, a modern star-spangled scarf modelled by Allen. Doesn’t it go well with the bag?

Happy Independence Day!

Cara Nome

Compact makers: Cara Nome

I have a collecting/reselling dilemma. While I collect compacts, I also resell them. When shopping for inventory, I usually have a pretty good idea of which pieces are for resale and which are for my own enjoyment. But sometimes, I change my mind. I’ll receive something in the mail and like it more than I expected. Other times, I’ll realize something complements a piece I already own, which increases the breadth and depth of my collection. Though I don’t place a huge emphasis on value, I realize that packaging and complementary information that place a piece in context can make items more collectible and valuable.

Cara Nome

Cara Nome compacts and vanity case

I purchased the Cara Nome case at the bottom of the photo intending to put it up for sale. Then I found a vanity case with the same motif. And then I stumbled across a matching powder compact. Even when I had just two pieces, I started waffling. Sell one and keep the other? Which should I keep? While I like compacts and vanity cases best, I also like other vintage cosmetic acessories and don’t have much in the way of eye makeup or lipstick holders. That would add breadth to my collection. But when I found the powder compact, I started questioning the wisdom of selling any of the three. They just look like they belong together.

Cara Nome began as a fragrance introduced by United Drug Company in 1918. There were several different United Drug Companies–one in New York and New Jersey and another in Boston, which aquired the New York/New Jersey company in 1916 (It’s amazing what you can find in old financial reports like Moody’s Analyses of Investments). United Drug manufactured drugs and cosmetics to sell in franchised stores operating under the Rexall banner. 

By Langlois

Hallmark "By Langlois" on the vanity case rouge compartment

While owned by Rexall, Cara Nome was also associated with Langlois of Boston, a name that appears on many Cara Nome compacts. Shari and Duska also belonged to Langlois, according to research by Nicole Soren for the show “The Art of Allure: Powder Compacts and Vanities of the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries” at the University of Arizona Art Museum. Check out the compacts in the show here: On auction sites, many sellers erroneously list the name as “Langlors.”

Cara Nome vanity case with spiderweb decoration

After starting research for this post, I remembered two other Cara Nome compacts in my collection. An ad reminded me of the spiderweb vanity case pictured here. this is a larger case, and again, bears both the Cara Nome logo and label on the signed puff and the Langlois name engraved into the lid to the powder well. The other piece is a vivid red plastic vanity case including rouge and lipstick: one of the few non-metal items in my collection.

Cara Nome vanity case

Kwin-N-Devilish lipstick and rouge

Cara Nome made a number of perfumes and powders as well, available at Rexall. This was clearly a drugstore brand, most likely more accessible to the everyday woman than some of the compacts made by contemporaries such as Elgin, Evans and Volupte. Despite this difference in price point, many of the Cara Nome cases still show attention to detail and careful styling. In fact, after evaluating these compacts for this blog post, my mind is made up–they belong in my collection. But have no fear–as I encounter more of these pieces, I’ll share the wealth. You’ll definitely see Cara Nome compacts and vanity cases for sale on in the coming months.

Jade-topped compact

The mystery compact

Shortly after my mother remarried, I visited her in her new home–a 1940’s cape that had always belonged to her husband’s family. “I found some things upstairs that look like they go with you,” she said. Darn right: the stuff she found went home with me. A collection of Avon compacts from the 1940s, some lipstick samples, and this:

Jade-topped compact

The mystery compact: a jade-decorated vanity case. Photos (c) Jenn Waltner 2009

A gorgeous compact that fits perfectly into my palm. The carved jade center ornament sits against a creamy background with silver and black trim. My husband and I both love Asian-inspired art; the jade decoration felt like it belonged with other things in our home. “Mom, it’s gorgeous,” I said. “You’re sure I can have it?”

“It’s been sitting up here in the attic. No one’s used it. Take it: it’s yours,” she said.

I listened. Who am I to argue with my mother? (That’s for some other post.)

As soon as I got the compact home, I started trying to learn about it. Despite the lack of maker’s mark, I was optimistic. I hadn’t actively started collecting compacts yet, so I didn’t have any of the reference books in my library today. I brought the compact to work and showed it to a coworker who also loves all kinds of old things. “It looks like Japanism,” she told me. “I’d guess it’s pre-war. After Pearl Harbor, you can imagine anything Japanese wasn’t very popular.” Good point.

I hit the library, consulting books on early 20th Century fashion. Nothing. I hit bookstores and found books about compacts. Gorgeous pictures and all kinds of great information, but still nothing on my compact. I started cruising ebay. Still nothing, but hey, that Volupte compact–that’s kind of pretty, don’t you think? 

Mystery compact open

Rouge on the left, powder on the right.

Checking a ton of websites about compacts revealed that my piece is technically a vanity case, not a compact, since the inside holds multiple cosmetics: in this case, powder and rouge. I found a few other pieces that kind of looked like mine, but nothing definitive. I found a ton of information about the Avon compacts my mom had given me. great. But nothing on this one. 

I started buying more compacts on ebay. Then books about compacts. And vintage magazines with compact ads. Today, almost five years later, I have more than 50 compacts in my personal collection. I’ve got dozens more on my website and still more sitting in my office, ready to get photographed and added to inventory. Still, I have yet to learn anything new about my mystery compact. Maybe I never will. And that’s okay. It will always be one of my favorites.

Mystery compact rouge

Look at that gorgeous rouge!