126 Chambers Street - The Main Office
The California Perfume Company's First Home: 126 Chambers Street, New York
(Photograph from the 1979 President's Club Calendar)
Note: the man in the picture above appears to be David H. McConnell in his early years, possibly in his early-thirties.
the woman to his right (guessing here) may be Ms. Josephine Sawyer, typewriter (secretary) for McConnell.
The first main office of the California Perfume Company was a meager space, "scarcely larger than an ordinary kitchen pantry," about 20 x 25 feet in size. In 1903, Mr. David. H. McConnell wrote, "A Brief History of the California Perfume Company" (republished in 1945 as, "The Great Oak." In this work, McConnell chronicled the early years of his company, starting out in a single room within the building at 126 Chambers Street and the company's almost explosive expansion that required the entire Chambers Street building and the construction of a large laboratory, built in Suffern, New York in 1897. McConnell wrote,
"It was in 1888 that I started the perfume
business in a space scarcely larger than an ordinary kitchen pantry.
At first I manufactured but five odors: Violet, White Rose, Heliotrope, Lily-of-the-Valley and Hyacinth. I did much experimental work in making these odors, and the selling price of the first batch of perfumes I made did not cover one-half the actual cost of the goods, but experience is a great teacher, and I applied myself to the task of making perfumes with the same vim and energy that I had in selling books and, after a short time, I fancied that I could produce as fine an odor as some of the old and tried perfumers; at least, my perfumes pleased my customers; they were the natural perfumes of the flower, made in the most natural way and by the same process employed by the large French perfumers."
In his 1903 autobiography/history, McConnell chronicles his early work endeavors well before the inception of the California Perfume Company—beginning with his employment with the Union Publishing House of New York. It was Mr. C. L. Snyder, president of the Union Publishing House, New York that hired and groomed McConnell. After several years, McConnell found that, 'the book business was not congenial," to him and that his, "ambition was to manufacture a line of goods that would be consumed, used up, and to sell it through canvassing agents, direct from the factory to the consumer." In 1887, McConnell purchased the Union Publishing House from Mr. C. L. Snyder, President, and Mr. A. W. Richardson, Treasurer, for $500.00 and managed the company himself for some time.
It was in 1888 that McConnell initiated his perfume business. And in 1892, at the suggestion of his previous employer and friend, Mr. C. L. Snyder, the name California was attached to McConnell's perfume concern—thus the California Perfume Company was the name from that point onward. Of particular note, McConnell continued publishing and distributing books under the Union Publishing House banner well into the mid-1890's. See Picturesque Hawaii, published in 1894 by the Union Publishing House, New York. It has yet to be determined exactly when McConnell phased out the Union Publishing House at 126 Chambers Street, however, one clue was found in the Tribeca South Historic District Extension Designation Report authored by Donald G. Presa and published 19 November 2002. The report identifies the occupants located at 126 Chambers Street, New York with the following associated dates: 1890-1895 Union Publishing House and 1890-1905 David H. McConnell - publishing. Also, an article in the New York Times published on 29 March 1895 recounts one Josephine Sawyer saving the life of her employer—Mr. David H. McConnell, President of the Union Publishing House—when he accidentally caught fire while pouring alcohol from one bottle to another over a flaring gas jet. The only reason a book publisher would be working with bottles of alcohol over a gas jet would be to manufacture alcohol-based products: perfumes.
California Perfume Company Advertisement
~May 6, 1897
From the New York Newspaper entitled, "The World"
Advertisement placed in the "Help Wanted - Female" section.
Lastly, it would be proper to note that 126 Chambers Street was the main office for more than just the two previously mentioned McConnell concerns! This phenomenal entrepreneur also headquartered the D. H. McConnell and Co.; Mutual Manufacturing Co., New York; Goetting & Co., New York; and Mecca Oil at 126 Chambers Street.