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History Behind the First Mascara
Produced in America

Posted by Andrea Welzien on Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

Thomas Lyle Williams was born in 1896 in Morganfield, Kentucky. After moving to Chicago when he was young, he got his first job working at Montgomery Ward, the mail order retailer and department store. Soon after, he opened his own mail order business. While living in Chicago, Williams met an advertising executive named Emery Shaver, who later would become his life partner.

In 1915, Williams found his sister, Mabel, applying a dark mixture to her eyelashes and eyebrows. A kitchen fire had singed her brows and lashes, so she created a homemade mixture to disguise the fact and enhance their appearance. Mabel made her own product using petroleum jelly mixed with coal dust and burnt cork to darken her lashes and enhance her eyes. Williams came up with the idea to sell the product and tried to create his own but failed. He then commissioned drug manufacturer, Parke-Davis, to produce a product he named Lash-Brow-Ine. The product added a sheen to eyebrows and lashes, but did not give them that dark look. Then in 1917, Williams created a new product for darkening and lengthening lashes. He called the product Maybelline—inspired by his sister Mabel—and it became the first mascara ever produced in America.

By 1929, Williams had grown his business to include eyeshadow and eyebrow pencils. Maybelline soon became an international company, and in the wake of its success, Williams and Shaver bought a house together in Hollywood Hills. They purchased the home from Italian actor Rudolph Valentino. Although the company’s headquarters remained in Chicago, Williams and Shaver were responsible for marketing. Shaver took advantage of living in Hollywood and contracted famous actresses to promote Maybelline’s products. They spent over one million dollars on advertising between 1915 and 1929, hiring famous movie stars including Phyllis Haver, Ethel Clayton, Viola Dana, and Natalie Moorhead.

The company continued to gain momentum and sales were booming. However, when Williams’ life partner, Shaver, passed away in 1964, Williams became so depressed he sold the company just four years later in 1968. Then in 2001, Maybelline became Maybelline New York when it was sold to L’Oréal. To this day, Maybelline New York takes pride in growing “from a small family-owned business to the number one cosmetics company in America”.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 at 11:01 am and is filed under Cosmetic Leaders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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