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Fascinating facts about David McConnell
inventor of Avon Cosmetics in 1886.

David McConnell
Inventor: David Hall McConnell
Portrait of David McConnell courtesy Avon Products
Criteria: First to invent. First practical. Entrepreneur.
Birth: July 18,1858 in Oswego,New York
Death: January 20, 1937 in Suffern, New York
Nationality: American
Avon was strictly an American phenomenon, and a unique and pioneering one at that. The first Avon Lady was actually a man, young door-to-door salesman David McConnell from upstate New York. He launched Avon Calling in 1886, offering women cosmetics in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. But perfumes and hand-cream were not McConnell’s initial merchandise.At the age of sixteen, McConnell had begun selling books door-to-door. When his fare was not well received, he resorted to the then-popular advertising Gimmick of offering a free introductory gift in exchange for being allowed to make a sales pitch.

A complimentary vial of perfume, he thought, would be an ideal entree, and he blended the original scent himself, with the aid of a local pharmacist. Fate stepped in. McConnell learned that women adored his perfume and remained indifferent to his books. Thus, he abandoned books and organized the New York-based California Perfume Company, named in honor of a friend and investor from California. The door-to-door approach seemed tailor-made for cosmetics, particularly in rural areas, where homemakers, in horse-and-buggy days, had poor access to better stores.

The first female Avon Lady was Mrs. P. F. E. Albee, a widow from Winchester, New Hampshire. She began her chime-ringing career selling the company s popular Little Dot Perfume Set, and she recruited other women, training them as door-to-door salespeople. The company was re-christened Avon for the simple reason that the New York State town in which David McConnell lived, Suffern on the Ramapo, reminded him of Shakespeare’s Stratford-on-Avon.

By 1887, McConnell had twelve women employees selling a line of eighteen fragrances. And the numbers kept growing and growing. On October 6, 1939, the California Perfume Company name changed to Avon Products, Inc.  Today, despite the scores of expensive, prestigious American and foreign brand-name cosmetics, Avon ranks first in sales nationwide, with Avon Ladies ringing doorbells from coast to coast.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
The Entrepreneur    from The Great Idea Finder
Invention of Avon Cosmetics
   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:

Accidents May Happen : 50 Inventions Discovered by Mistake
by Charlotte Foltz Jones, John O'Brien (Illustrator) / Hardcover - 86 pages (1996) / Delacorte
Fifty inventions discovered by mistake receive entertaining cartoon embellishment but are actually serious subjects which will delight and entertain kids.
Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs.
Bud Hastin's Avon Collector's Encyclopedia: The Official Guide for Avon Bottle and Cpc Collectors
by Bud Hastin
/ Paperback: 640 pages / Collector Books; 17th edition (September 2003)
Bud Hastin's new completely revised edition features over 200 categories of Avon collectibles. Informative text tells what's hot and what's not in Avon collecting and where to buy and sell these popular items.

ON THE WEB:
Avon's History
From the company's official Web site.
(URL: www.avoncompany.com/about/history.html)
Avon a Renaissance Story
Chosen as the 2003 Company of the Year: Excellence in Packaging by the readers of Cosmetic Packaging & Design, Avon’s history of providing American women with quality beauty products has evolved into the global “company for women.”
(URL: http://www.beautypackaging.com/articles/2004/01/avon-a-renaissance-story.php)

20th Century Business Leaders
David H. McConnell Born 1858 in New York, died 1937
(URL: www.hbs.edu/leadership/database/leaders/590/)

DID YOY KNOW?:

  • Today, Avon sales representatives number close to 3 million
  • Avon products are sold in 139 countries around the world.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised October 12, 2006.
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