Edith Paton’s Perfume Bottle Collection (1926-1976)

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Edith Paton Perfume Bottle Collection(1a)

 

“These bottles have come to me from many places. Some I have purchased in stores or antiques shops, many have been the gifts of my family and friends.

To me they are both interesting and pretty to look at and I am sure that the fragrance of their contents has pleased many people.

There must be countless interesting stories connected with my little perfume bottles. I look at them and wonder who made this one and whose careful and artistic touch painted the dainty flowers and designs on others. How many of them were thoughtfully and carefully selected as gifts for someone much beloved? I suppose some of them were hurriedly purchased for the sole reason that their sweet contents could add attraction to the wearer, then the lovely bottle thrown away. Ones thoughts could ramble on at great length when looking at my collection of perfume bottles.” – Edith Paton

I remember my Nana’s perfume bottle collection well. Shelving on her bedroom wall neatly and carefully housed them. When I would visit  I couldn’t help but marvel at the variety and uniqueness of the collection. A few months ago my Cousin mentioned a Notebook – yet another Notebook – this one about Nana’s perfume bottles. On one page are her drawings, depicting each in great detail, while the opposing page provides a brief description in addition to the gifter.

The bottle that started Nana’s collection was actually a gift to her daughter, Doris. A gift from Mary Atkinson of Amherst, New Hampshire, it was a Kewpie Doll bottle © 1926. There are some 243 bottles listed in the Notebook,  dating from 1926-1976.

Edith Paton Kewpie Doll Page

Perfume Bottle No 1 was a Kewpie Doll – circa 1926

Kewpie dolls evolved from a cartoon character created by Rose O’Neil, a New York illustrator. First published in Ladies Home Journal in 1907, the cartoon character became internationally  known and loved and led to Ms. O’Neil developing paper cutouts of Kewpie dolls. In 1912 the first line of real dolls and figurines were manufactured by a toy company in Germany. Eventually the Kewpie doll would be used in manufacturing  many household items like dishware, salt and pepper shakers and even perfume bottles like the one in my Nana’s collection.

Kewpie facing left with crown

Antique Kewpie Doll Perfume bottle – porcelain – considered rare and highly collectible today.

The history of perfume goes back centuries beginning in Egypt and later  Persia and Rome. It is believed that a woman chemist named Tapputi made the 1st perfume in the second millennium BC. Perfume making spread throughout Europe with the Grasse region of France becoming the center of the European perfume industry. The vessels that housed the precious scents have been considered an art form since ancient times.  Under Roman rule glassblowing was developed thus leading to perfume being stored in glass. Before glass, materials used to store perfume were  porcelain, gold, silver, shells, and semi-precious stones. In the late 1800’s the Art Nouveau style became popular and perfume bottles were traditionally styled, some having floral labels. Later the use of  decorative gift boxes became popular.

Before the 20th century, perfume was used only by the wealthy. But throughout the 20th century perfume became increasingly affordable. Companies such as Avon appealed to an ever growing consumer base. David H. McConnell, the founder of Avon, developed a unique business plan giving women a chance to earn their own incomes by selling his products themselves door to door.

Around 1910 perfume bottles began to take on familiar shapes like flowers, lighthouses, lanterns, watches – Nana’s collection has many of those.

Perfume Bottles shaped like household items

Some of the many shapes of Nana’s Perfume Bottles

 In the 1920’s, the perfume industry expanded in the United States with many new companies hiring chemists to create their own fragrances. The bottle itself became as important as the fragrance inside with companies collaborating with artists to design the bottles as well as the packaging.    Depression era bottles were less fancy, but following World War II the bottles returned to elaborate works of art led by such companies as Christian Dior and Nina Ricci.

Few of the bottles in my Nana’s Notebook reveal the manufacturer, but one of my favorite bottles does. Gifted by my parents, Wally and Marion Paton in 1946, it is # 83 and labeled, Gemey.

Perfme Bottle Gemey - Wally & Marion Paton gift

White glass Gemey Perfume bottle #83 given by Wally & Marion Paton – 1946

Gemey, developed by perfumer Richard Hudnut in 1922 (1855-1928) was one of his most popular scents. Richard Hudnet created over 70 different scents not only available as perfume, but cologne, soaps, lotions and bath oils. This particular bottle that my parents gifted to Nana in 1946 would have most likely come in a decorative designed floral box. Today Hudnut’s bottles and presentation boxes are prized by collectors.

Gemey Perfume Set gift of Wally & Marion Paton

Richard Hudnet’s Gemey perfume box set

It is true, as  Nana states in her introduction, one’s thoughts could ramble on at great length when looking at her collection of perfume bottles. Though some may not have been as valuable as others, still they are all unique and interesting.

The bottles are  gone now –  sold upon Nana’s passing, but I feel certain that they still exist on someone’s shelf – still treasured and admired. The real treasure for me, however,  is the Notebook which offers an insight into a woman who growing up I only knew as Nana, but have since come to know as a highly skilled and talented woman of great depth of knowledge and interest.

“A perfume bottle is a work of art and the object that contains it must be a masterpiece.” – Robert Ricci, The House of Nina Ricci

Remembrance of Christmas Past – 1949-66

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03-25 Red and Bonnie Christmas(2)

Red & Bonnie – Christmas – 1949

 

This is one of my earliest photos of Christmas in the Paton house. My brother, Red, is 4 and I am 2.  Sonny would be newborn and  it would be another fourteen years before my sister Jackie comes along.

What I like most about this picture is the vintage toys. My brother’s train set, the “Happy Time” garage, and the Poky the Clown tin dart board are indicative of toys of this era.  The dart board came with magnetic darts. Points were earned depending on where the dart landed, 1000 points for hitting Poky’s nose was the top prize.  Although I have a memory of playing darts, I don’t really remember Poky the Clown. The 1st clown I remember is Bozo, a television show which first aired in 1949. I didn’t watch Bozo that much. The Howdy Doody Show was more to my liking perhaps because Howdy Doody – the red-headed, freckle-faced marionette resembled my two red-headed brothers. I recently learned that Howdy Doody had 48 freckles, one for each of the 48 states at that time.

Santa brought me a lot of doll stuff that year. I am not sure if this is a store bought doll I am playing with or one made by my Nana Paton. She was a skilled seamstress and made many handmade dolls over the years.  As I got older I didn’t play with dolls much. I turned into a tom boy pretty quickly being the middle child between two active boys. Cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, neighborhood baseball, sledding, ice skating and kick the can were our primary pleasures in those days.

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Bonnie & Red – Christmas – Southborough, MA – 1952

Our Christmas tree of 1949 was not one of the more spectacular ones. Over the years my Dad took great pride in cutting the biggest and fullest tree and dragging it home for us to behold. We would then spend hours decorating it.  My Dad favored tinsel which meant we each had to take turns putting on the endless strands, at Dad’s insistence ─ one piece at a time. Years later, when it came time to decorate my own tree, tinsel never graced it.  I guess I had spent too many hours on tinsel placement over the years to continue his tradition.

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Sonny, Bonnie & Red – Christmas – Southborough – 1954

 

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Wally & Marion Paton – Christmas – 1954

 

I was sixteen when my sister Jackie was born. Her arrival added a renewed excitement at Christmas for our family. I couldn’t wait to celebrate Christmas with her when I came home from my first semester at college. I was so proud to bring home a shirt from my school and saddle shoes just like mine.

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Jackie and Bonnie – Christmas – 1965

We celebrated 17 Christmases at the Paton Farm in Southborough. The Christmas of 1966 would be our last one there. By this time both Red and I were away at college. Sonny would be graduating from Algonquin High the following year and off to college soon after. My parents were joyfully planning their move to a new house they were building in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

I remember Christmas as a happy time in our house. Even when my parents were struggling dairy farmers we didn’t lack for anything at Christmas ─ my parents made sure of that. In 1953, when I was just 6 years old,  my Grandma Jessie died suddenly on Christmas morning. But even with that memory of losing her Mom, my mother never expressed sadness over the holidays. As my brother Sonny once said, “She didn’t have that negative side; she always kept a positive attitude and kept going.”

Over the years I have preserved a few of our family traditions, mostly cooking ones. In memory of my Mom I continue to make her Lemon Snow Pudding each Christmas,  and her heavenly Chocolate-walnut Fudge. If turkey is on the menu I have to make her bread stuffing. This recipe was the first one I knew by heart because I was always put in charge of toasting the bread. Her secret ingredient that made the stuffing super moist was adding a can of Campbell’s condensed Cream of Mushroom soup.

The first 100 pages of my mom’s old recipe book are missing. Having come loose from years of turning, the binding eventually gave way. But many of the recipes she used most remain though stained from loving use, like the Saturday night special Boston Baked Beans or Lemon Snow Pudding. Mom later went on to a career in the food industry, first working at Fay School in the cafeteria, then the local regional high school cafeteria; then as manager of the school lunch program in Patagonia, Arizona, until her retirement in 1990. Someone once remarked ‘Marion is always feeding someone – family, friends, strangers, animals – domestic and wild.’” – Journey Home – How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy

This year, I thought about starting a new tradition for me ─ I would add tinsel to my tree. It hasn’t happened, at least not yet, and time is running short for this year. But next year I am determined to buy a package or two of tinsel. I will take each strand, one by one, and place them on my tree in remembrance of my Dad, who made each tree extra special throughout the years.

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Wally & Marion Paton – Christmas – Southborough – 1966

The Paton Farm, Southborough, MA

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1- Paton Farm circa 1950(2)

The Paton Family Farm circa 1950 at 5 Ward Rd., Southborough, MA

The Southborough Historical Society recently posted on their website a list of the historical houses in my hometown of Southborough, Massachusetts. Surprising to me, included on this list was my childhood home at 5 Ward Road (the Samuel Brigham House), known to us as the Paton Farm. My best friend’s house, across the street (known to us as the Wilson’s House) but historically listed as the JW Buck House at 10 Ward Road was also on the list; and our close farming neighbor, Jack Finn−his  house (the Dana Brigham House) at 2 Brigham Street was also listed.

“This residential area, which evolved from two large early nineteenth-century farms, first developed into a small clustered neighborhood in the middle of the 19th century with the building of three vernacular Greek Revival houses at 2 Brigham Street, and 5 and 10 Ward Road near the outlet of Brigham Pond.”− Massachusetts Historical Commission

I am not sure why this impressed me so much. In general, our old farm house is certainly nothing to brag about. But in the Town’s listing it says the architectural style is “Greek Revival.” That sounds impressive. “Year constructed – circa 1855.” Wow! Our house was nearly 100 years old when we moved there in 1949. “Historic Name: Brigham, Samuel House.” Intriguing. Now, I wanted to know more about this Greek Revival, white-clapboard farm house that I spent eighteen years growing up in.

Greek Revival Houses were built all over New England from 1825-1860 and were of 2 types. One incorporates the Greek themes including pilasters, columns, pediments, wide friezes and porticoes, resembling the temples of Greece. The second type is more modest incorporating simple characteristics of a Greek building with few embellishments. Typically both types incorporate the front door to one side of the gable end and to one side of the windows. My house clearly falls into category number 2−simple. Greek revival homes were typically painted white to resemble the look of marble. That might explain why there are so many white houses in New England.

2- Former Paton farmhouse - 2014

5 Ward Road (2014) with Jack Finn’s barn at 2 Brigham Street in the background. Brigham Street separated our properties.

This architectural style information was all very interesting, but those names listed in the “Historic name” column were calling for explanation. I wanted to know who had lived here, perhaps get to know their history. I am familiar with the name Brigham just from growing up there−adjacent to Ward Road was Brigham Street−the short narrow road separating Jack Finn’s house from mine−the road where I learned to ride my bike−the road cutting through to Route 30 to town−the road which ends at a small pond where we used to ice skate. As a kid, or even as an adult, I didn’t think about the street I lived on−why was it named Ward or Brigham? Turns out, both the Brigham family and the Ward family have a long history in Southborough. Samuel Brigham founded the tanning business and the shoe trade in the neighboring towns of Marlborough & Hudson. Samuel’s sons, Samuel and Dana, lived on farm land that had been divided from their father’s original farm and  lived in the houses at 5 Ward Road and 2 Brigham Street.

Three vernacular Greek Revival gable-front 1 1/2 story, side-hall-entry cottages on granite-block foundations, all apparently built about 1855, remain from the era when the Brigham Mill was still operating.”

On this land was a 25 acre pond called Brigham Pond. It was the largest natural pond in Southborough and by the 1940’s was only a swamp called the Brigham Swamp−I am sure this is where we ice skated. This former pond area could also include what we referred to as the “Fire Hole” −a small pond fed by a brook that would be used by the town in the event a fire broke out in our neighborhood.

In 1870, the Brighams had a small herd of cows and produced several thousand gallons of milk, much of which probably sold to Deerfoot Farms dairy, … they sold butter and produce from a substantial orchard. Samuel was one of a few farmers in Southborough to market wine from his own fruit.” − Massachusetts Historical Commission

Some 80 years later the Paton Farm, the former Samuel Brigham farm, would sell its milk to the same dairy. By this time Deerfoot Farms (which became known as “The Aristocrat of Farms”) had evolved into one of the largest and most successful dairy farms in New England and as a result would be responsible for keeping many of the small dairy farms in Southborough in business for decades. But even while we lived there, throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, the dairy business continued to decline and the landscape continued to change as the suburbs of Boston spread further from the city center and land that was once farmed gave way to development.

“When my parents (Wally & Marion Paton) sold our property (the Paton Farm) in 1967, it was sold as we had purchased it, with 15 acres of field. The new owner would subdivide our field into building lots. The field where the cows grazed, the potatoes and Jack Finn’s corn grew, where the antique pickup truck resided for driving long before any of us had licenses, where my dad cut cords of wood with his large electric saw, where we sledded in the winter strategically turning at just the right moment to avoid going into the brook, has now given way to residential development. Memories remain. Memories of flying our kites made of old sheet material and nylon stocking tails in the treeless open field. Memories of our dog, Brigadoon, standing at the gate each night at 5:00 waiting for entry to round up the cows and bring them down to the barn for milking. You could tell time by this dog, a collie who instinctively knew when it was time to clock in and do her job. Memories of floating our toy boats down the brook; careful to stop them in time before reaching the Fire Hole. This Fire Hole was off limits to us kids, but we would inevitably sail too close and lose our boat to the hole. I suspect that if the hole were ever drained there would be hundreds of tiny wooden boats marooned in the mud below. These boats, which we carefully crafted out of extra wood and a splash of paint, if available, provided hours of fun in this field with the brook running through it.  My town of Southborough, formally known as Stoney Brook, was aptly named for all the stone walls and brooks that marked boundary lines throughout this small New England town. At the far end of this field, where the brook had its origin, was a swamp. It was filled with clumps of soil with spikes of grass protruding out, spaced a leg length apart; where we would spend hours jumping from clump to clump in search of frogs or tadpoles for capture, torment and release. This field, where Brigadoon wandered into her last day of life, perhaps dreaming of retrieving sticks or rounding up her herd; this field, filled with so much of my early years, has been taken over by houses and yards filled with toys, barbeque grills, and swing sets not familiar to a farmer’s daughter who grew up there.” −Journey Home – How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy, by Bonnie Paton Moon

Journeying Home Again

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I hadn’t journeyed home to Patagonia in awhile, but this trip was a celebration I would not miss – the three-year reunion of Paton supporters who had been instrumental in “saving” Paton’s Birder Haven. The weekend also marked Tucson Audubon’s Capital Campaign Kick-off to fund improvements to the house. While there, I had the great honor of sharing from my book, Journey Home: How a Simple Act of Kindness Led to the Creation of a Living Legacy” — the story about my parents, Wally & Marion Paton and the creation of their world-renowned birdwatching backyard.

Entering the yard, so familiar, yet different now, I was immediately struck by all the improvements completed by Tucson Audubon Society since my last visit two years ago. My first stop – the Paton Legacy Sign erected in the front yard. What a thrill to see my parents honored for creating this birding mecca that still attracts thousands of visitors each year from all parts of the globe. While reading the sign, a couple from British Columbia approached — their first visit to Paton’s. “Where do we pay?” was their first question to me. “There is no entrance fee,” I replied — a tradition my parents established decades ago and continues today. The “sugar fund,” originally an old coffee can hung on the fence,  now a spiffy donation box, remains strictly voluntary.

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Paton Legacy Sign, Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds, April 2017

After three glorious days during which Paton supporters were treated to some fabulous spring migration birding, tours of the property by various Tucson Audubon staff involved in improvement projects, talks by hummingbird expert, Sheri Williamson, of Southern Arizona Birding Observatory (SABO) and Jesus Garcia, Director of the Kino Heritage Fruit Tree Project at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, it was time to say goodbye once again.

As I wandered the property on that last day, I spent a few moments in the yard reflecting at some special spots. My Dad’s pecan tree still thrives in the back yard, bigger and more robust than ever, still producing a good amount of pecans each year. I sat a good while on my parents’ memorial bench and reflected on the beauty and peacefulness of this place — the land they had nurtured for decades, still loved and nurtured. The bench had been positioned near to the site of my Dad’s former orchard in the front yard. Plans to re-establish an orchard here are underway. Jonathan Horst, Restoration Ecologist, is heading up that project.

10- Dad's Pecan Tree Thriving

Wally Paton’s pecan tree, still thriving

I stopped to remember my Mom’s rose garden in the front yard, ready to pop with bloom — her passion. I sat on a bench in the Richard Grand Memorial Meadow with Carol and Paul Lamberger, long-time Paton supporters. We sat for a good while at this peaceful spot overlooking the newly created pond — all possible because of the kindness and generosity of Marcia Grand and the hard work of Tucson Audubon staff and volunteers.

11-Mom's Rose Garden Ready to Bloom

Marion Paton’s Rose Garden in the background ready to bloom

Then a very special moment happened. As I was getting in the car to leave,  Carol Lamberger inquired if the rose bushes in the front yard were my mothers. “Yes,” I answered, “she loved roses. We would always gift one or several at Mother’s Day.” Carol smiled and then promised to take special care of them for me. And in that moment I was reminded of the special magic that surrounds Patons — it seems to bring out the very best in people — it always did and continues to do so. It is the underlying essence of the place and that spirit of kindness and generosity that my parents exemplified that will continue in perpetuity. In addition, of course, to remaining one of the top birding sites in the world.

12- Bonnie with the Lambergers

Sitting in the Richard Grand Memorial Meadow (former Paton horse paddock) with the Lambergers

Watch a short video of how Paton’s began: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5L_dheYoQBQ