The Little Dot Box
Borrowing a bit from the adventures of the fabled King Arthur's court, it can easily be said that The Little Dot Box is the HOLY GRAIL of the California Perfume Company. And by extension, The Little Dot Box can certainly be considered the actual beginning point of, and the inspirational underpinning for, the multi-billion dollar, world-renowned Avon Products, Inc.
December, 2011 marked a "Red Letter Month" in CPC and early-Avon collecting when a 2 2/3 in. x 4 in. early-1890's trade card from Walker Ferry (dealer in boots and shoes located in Bethel, Connecticut) surfaced on an online auction site! This extraordinary treasure represents the ONLY corroborating evidence of The Little Dot Box (also called The Little Dot Set) being carried or manufactured by the California Perfume Company to date!
Extremely little information (in the form of invoices, letters, accounting sheets, etc.) or products still exist that could provide significant insight into the beginnings of David and Lucy McConnell's entrepreneurial adventure known as the California Perfume Company. Much of the company's earliest history is found in five primary sources: David H. McConnell's 1903 "A Brief History of the California Perfume Company;" William Scheele's 1916 "The Story of Perfumery and the C P C;" two short biographical accounts of David H. McConnell, Sr. penned in 1935 and 1936; and one bulleted listing of dates and events covering 1858 (McConnell's birth) through approximately 1910. For the sake of clarity, there are just a few other original (period) documents that do help to "fill in historical gaps" here and there. But all that is to say, there is only two actual references to a set of perfumery called The Little Dot Box.
Within the bulleted list of events (mentioned immediately above), McConnell states the following:
[In] "1892...we were selling sets of books to stores for advertising purposes, and we had a number of lady Travellers that were not as successful appointing agents as they might be; yet they were good business women, so I wanted to get hold of something that they could handle to the trade, and I lighted on a box of Perfumery, three bottles and an atomizer, calling it the Little Dot Box, put up by Mr. H. H. Sawyer. [sic]
A second reference to The Little Dot "Set" was then found in the "Avon's 50th Year Celebration Outlook" published in 1936:
"Mr. McConnell trained his sales force, and tried out various products, taking them direct to the consumer—the customer. But one day, a set of perfume was brought to him, consisting of three bottles of perfume and an atomizer. It was called " The Little Dot Set." The sets were ordered, and the sales force found they made an instant hit. And the product was found! Perfumes - and later on household goods and cosmetics - this was the proper product.
From the historical recounting of McConnell, the Little Dot Box (or Set) was an integral item of the California Perfume Company's initial sales inventory. And, according to information presented in the "Avon's 50th Year Celebration Outlook," McConnell had to ORDER these sets—presumably from an outside concern (i.e., H. H. Sawyer.) This would lead to the question, "Did The Little Dot Box that "started it all" possess the name/trademark of Sawyer or the name of the California Perfume Company?"
The Walker Ferry trade card helps to answer that question!
The Little Dot Box, containing three bottles of perfume (apparently perfumes that were, at that time, manufactured by D. H. McConnell) along with a Little Dot Atomizer, was, in fact, sold under the California Perfume Company banner.
Concluding: The Little Dot Box was originally a product of H. H. Sawyer and sold by the California Perfume Company's earliest representatives in order to test its marketability. Experiencing excellent customer response, McConnell quickly adopted this product into his fledgling California Perfume Company! Sales surged and the company grew. Interestingly, by 1895-1896 all pricing, order, and catalog information included annotations for an Atomizer Set (a.k.a. The "Perfect" or The "Flowers" Set) consisting of three one ounce bottles of perfume and an atomizer (see right)...there is no mention of a Little Dot Box (Set) or even a Little Dot Atomizer (as is noted on the Walker Ferry Trade Card above.)
All-in-all, the MOST important point: The Little Dot Box WAS the start of it all.
Consequently, the Flowers Set was definitely a huge success! So much so that, in one form or another, the multiple-perfume set remained on the order sheets throughout the California Perfume Company era and well into the Avon Products, Inc. era. From the discovery of the Little Dot Box, McConnell had truly found the "proper product."
If you have any information about the Little Dot Box (or Set) or the perfumer/company H. H. Sawyer, please write to me at george (at) californiaperfumecompany.com.