Union Publishing House, New York

Company | Historical Overview

Union Publishing House Envelope - 1886 
Union Publishing House Envelope
Note: This is the ONLY extant item thus far discovered with the Union Publishing House logo

If there was a single thing...a single company or organization...that proved to be THE instrumental catalyst for David Hall McConnell's entrepreneurial ventures, and more specifically the California Perfume Company, THAT catalyst would have to be the Union Publishing House located at 126 Chambers Street, New York.

It was in 1877 that Mr. C. L. Snyder of the Union Publishing House first offered a young David H. McConnell a position canvassing books door-to-door at age 19 during his summer vacation from the Oswego (New York) Normal School. The following summer, in June 1878, McConnell concluded his schooling and accepted a position with the Union Publishing House as a General Agent making $40.00 per month plus expenses. In his earlier years at the company, McConnell advanced in salesmanship as well as managerial and leadership skills. By 1880, McConnell had canvassed throughout the North Eastern United States and returned to Chicago to "take charge of the Chicago Branch of the Union Publishing Company." After two years in that position (1882), McConnell returned to his home office in New York where he stayed until 1884. In July of 1884, McConnell was transferred to the Atlanta, Georgia branch which he closed in December, 1886. McConnell's final move for the Union Publishing House occurred in early-1887 when he returned to New York and with the financial backing of C. L. Snyder, McConnell purchased the Union Publishing House, New York for $500.00.

Union Publishing House Letterhead - 1888
Photocopy of Union Publishing House, New York Letterhead
Note: D. H. McConnell is the Treasurer and General Manager

The only known example of a Union Publishing House letterhead (above) found to date is a photocopy of a McConnell letter dated 1888 sent to his mother and father. The letterhead shows D. H. McConnell in the role of Treasurer and General Manager of the New York branch. This example was discovered in the Avon Archives maintained by the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware.

Below is a Union Publishing House, New York post card dated 26 August 1884 announcing the delivery of "The Water World" to Mr. D. R. Nettleton of Venice, New York by a Mr. Maxwell, authorized agent of the Union Publishing House. Note that the timing correlates to McConnell's assignment in Atlanta. And the post card identifies one of the company's offices as 23 1/2 Whitehall Street, Atlanta, GA.

Union Publishing House - Post Card Back - 1884
Union Publishing House Book Delivery Post Card
~26 August 1884
Note: C. L. Snyder is President of the Union Publishing House and A. W. Richardson is Treasurer

Union Publishing House - Post Card Front - 1884
Front of Union Publishing House Book Delivery Post Card
~26 August 1884
Note: The postal cancelation is dated 26 August

Union Publishing House - The Water World, Cover - 1884
Cover for the Water World Book Referenced in the
above Union Publishing House Post Card


Union Publishing House - The Water World, Title Page - 1884
Title Page of the Water World Book Referenced in
the above Union Publishing House Post Card

Note: At the bottom of the page—Union Publishing House, New York AND Cincinnati, O. and Atlanta, Ga.

Taken from his short autobiography and history account entitled, "A Brief History of the California Perfume Company," written in 1903, McConnell recounts the following:

The book business was not congenial to me, although I was in every sense successful in it, but there were many things that were not pleasant.

In 1887, on my return from Chicago, I purchased the entire business from my employer and managed it myself for some time. During this time the one thing I learned successfully was how to sell goods to the consumer.

My 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.

The starting of the perfume business was the result of most careful and thorough investigation, guided by the experience of several years' successful operation in the book business; that is, in selling goods direct to the consumer or purchaser. I learned during this time that the proper and most advantageous way of selling goods was to be able to submit the goods themselves to the people. In investigating this matter nearly every line of business was gone over, and it seemed to me, then, as it has since been proven, that the perfume business in its different branches afforded the very best possible opportunity to build up a permanent and well-established trade.

In 1936, McConnell worked on several projects documenting the history his California Perfume Company. Following is one of the excerpts provided by McConnell:

[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]

Thus the proverbial stage was set to begin the transition of the Union Publishing House over to the California Perfume Company...and this took many years. At the writing of this article, a firm (or semi-firm) date/year for the full transition of the efforts, assets, and company direction from book publishing to perfume and toiletry manufacturing has not been determined. The closest estimate is approximately 1895-1896. The reasons: 1) below is are pictures of the book, "Picturesque Hawaii," published under the Union Publishing House, New York banner and copyrighted by the Hubbard Publishing Company in 1894; and 2) A very interesting New York Times article dated 29 March, 1895 (see below for the full article) reveals the near-death by burning of one David H. McConnell, president of the Union Publishing House at 126 Chambers Street, New York. The accident was caused, "while pouring alcohol from one bottle to another, [as McConnell] stood near a flaring gas jet." Clearly, McConnell was involved in the manufacture of his perfumes in 1895 while also serving in the capacity of president of the Union Publishing House.

 Union Publishing House - Picturesque Hawaii, Cover - 1894
Cover of Picturesque Hawaii

Union Publishing House - Picturesque Hawaii, Title Page - 1894
Title Page of Picturesque Hawaii
Note: This book was published well into the California Perfume Company era.

Below is the New York Times article detailing McConnell's horrific accident that almost claimed his life. Could this be the reason all of McConnell's photographs NEAR show him with a beard?



Wrapped Her Apron About Them and Rolled Him on the Floor—Very Modest About Her Brave Act.

   Miss Josephine Sawyer, a young woman employed as typewriter by the Union Publishing House, 126 Chambers Street, distinguished herself yesterday morning by saving David H. McConnell, the President of the company, from possible death by fire.

   Mr. McConnell, while pouring alcohol from one bottle to another, stood near a flaring gas jet. His hand was unsteady, one bottle slipped from his fingers, and the alcohol was spilled over his beard and clothing. At the same time some of the liquid flew over the gas jet, and in an instant it was ablaze. The flame leaped to Mr. McConnell, and before he was aware of his peril his beard and clothes were on fire.

   Miss Sawyer, who had watched her employer’s movements with interest, was horrified when she saw him suddenly break into flames, but instead of shrieking and running away, or fainting, she grabbed an apron and a piece of bagging and tried to extinguish the blaze. She wrapped the apron around Mr. McConnell’s whiskers, but without avail, for the apron took to fire. Miss Sawyer dropped the apron then enveloped Mr. McConnell in the bagging and hugged him, hoping to smother the flames.

   Mr. McConnell was writhing with agony, and seemed unable to do anything to save himself. He fell to the floor, still burning, and Miss Sawyer rolled him all around office until the flames were extinguished.

   Meanwhile some papers on the floor had set fire to the woodwork and the office was filling with smoke. C. E. McBride and L. J. Miles, employes [sic] of the concern, who were in another part of the building, and who had not heard the commotion, smelled the smoke, and ran in to see what was the trouble. They reached the office just as Miss Sawyer succumbed to the excitement and fainted. Mr. McConnell still lay on the floor moaning with pain. The men lifted him to a chair, and then carried Miss Sawyer to an adjoining room, where she was restored to consciousness. Some one summoned the fire engines, and in a short time the fire in the office was put out.

Text of the 29 March, 1895 New York Times Article
Saved Her Employer's Life
(see immediate right)

Blazing Whiskers Article - 1895
New York Times Article Saved Her Employer's Life
~29 March, 1895

The information on the Union Publishing House, New York is extremely scant, however, bits and pieces peppered throughout the documents of the California Perfume Company reveal the earlier publishing company's critical importance to the founding of the later perfume company...and, ultimately, as the veritable foundation of today's Avon Products, Inc., the multi-billion dollar concern that spans the entire globe

If you have ANY information, especially paperwork or historically significant items or memorabilia, please contact me at george (at) californiaperfumecompany.com.

Company | Historical Overview