M21244 | Perfume bottle

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Perfume bottle
1880-1910, 19th century or 20th century
Gift of the Estate Sims
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Bottle (16)
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Keys to History

The use of cosmetics such as rouge was not considered "ladylike" in the 19th century, and only light floral scents were acceptable as perfumes.

An 1896 advertisement for John Murphy's, a Montreal department store, featured "the celebrated perfumes of Louis R. Harrison of New York." Among the scents listed were Bridal Rose, Jasmine and Lily of the Valley, each priced at 39 cents an ounce.

This small, decorated glass bottle was designed to be carried in a lady's evening bag and would have contained a favourite perfume. Victorian ladies often also carried a small container of a similar design containing smelling salts, an ammonia compound. The salts would be used to revive the woman from a faint, and she would then apply some perfume to her forehead, thus regaining her composure and dignity.

  • What

    This perfume bottle of heavy turquoise-blue glass set in gold-coloured metal filigree could have been worn around the neck as an attractive pendant if a velvet ribbon was threaded through the chain.

  • Where

    Tucked in an evening bag, this perfume bottle might have been taken to dances and maybe even a grand ball at Montreal's centre of social events, the Windsor Hotel.

  • When

    Montreal had many fine jewellery stores, such as Henry Birk's, where attractive accessories were sold.

  • Who

    The motif of the two lovebirds in the elaborate gold filigree suggests that this perfume container may have been a special gift for a young lady from her fiancé.