Maurice Levy may be credited as the man that put lipstick in a tube, but there’s more evidence against this claim than there is to support it.
Beiersdorf for instance had been selling its lipbalm Labello in push-up metal tubes since 1911 and even before that Guerlain had lipsticks placed in cardboard tubes. Admittedly it would crush easily, but just how much did the average woman carry around in her bag then? Not a lot I’m guessing judging by the way compacts or necessaires took off in the 20s. In fact Maurice Levy was better known for his Hygienol face powder puffs made from sterilised lamb’s wool in sanitary envelopes that he had been selling from his base in New York since around 1912.
Described in the American Perfumer and Essential Oil Review as a “progressive manufacturer”, the Maurice Levy Company also acted as an importer for many of the European perfume and cosmetic companies, in particular those from France. Originally from Reims himself, it was more than likely that Levy saw metal tubes in Europe before WWI and adapted the design to involve similar retractable slide mechanisms seen already seen on early Bourjois eye pencils.
What perhaps did make his lipstick stand out was that it was relatively cheaply mass manufactured in plain dip-nickel by the Scovill Manufacturing Company at a time when European companies such as Beiersdorf had stopped using tin because of shortages, though it was possible to purchase refills if you still had the original case.
By the 1920s Levy moved the Hygienol factory to New Rochelle. Like many other toiletries manufacturers at that time he also produced eyebrow pencils, lipsticks, nail polish and other toiletries under a number of brand names. The Maurice Levy Company held several patents for the manufacturing process of powder puffs, compacts and vanity cases and even one for a tongue cleaner.
Scovill eventually had its own lipstick department and also made containers for many other cosmetic and toiletry items. They were not alone, cosmetic case manufacturing became big business in the 20s and the 30s as the use of makeup exploded. Compacts containing just enough space for powder, a tiny lipstick, a few cigarettes and sometimes even a notepad became essential for the modern woman.
For those with more expensive tastes jewellery houses also produced a number of beautifully decorated compacts, lipstick holders etc, such as the LaClouche necessaire pictured above from an event at the Goldsmith Company.