Monday, 31 January 2011

Elgin America meets American Beauty

With JJ being in America, it means my American compact collecting is increasing in a huge way but I love having the variation of English and American vintage powder compacts together. American compacts seem to offer a variation in shapes and colouring that sometimes their English counterparts are missing. Perhaps this is because the key era of the late 1930s and 1940s in which compacts were designed in used occurred at a time when England was at war and supplies were limited, beautiful compacts weren't the key necessity of that time.

I have been more then lucky to have been given two Elgin powder compacts from Joe in the last couple of months. As a company Elgin began manufacturing compacts in the 1930s under the name of the Illinois Watch Company of Elgin. Moving into cosmetics, Elgin often designed cases for fashion houses; even commissioning Dali in 1950 to create a compact. Named the "bird in hand" Dali's compact designed in three finishes of satin, bronze and silver with a 14 carrot overlay on the birds wings;  features a powder, pill box and lipstick compartment. However company disputes in the 1960s, lead the company to move to Japan.

The first compact was produced around 1945 under the subdivision American Beauty;

The gold toned American Beauty vintage powder compact is bell shaped in design; edged with a Geek Key pattern.
I love the shape of this compact, it makes it very tactile and neatly fits into the palm of your hand through its sleek long design. Intact with it's original powder puff its still in amazingly good condition.

The second powder compact given to me as a gorgeous present for Christmas, is a chamelon effect covered compact.

This effect of gold and silver topping embedded with a pattern is really pretty and is "the result of light reflections created by lacquer, interacting glossy and brushed finished, or gold with silver tones. the design depends on highlights in surface texture to bring the design to life" (featured in L. M. Mueller Compacts).

The inside to the compact showing the flapping lid engraved with a curving line pattern locked in place
A similar compact is dated in a reference book of 1945. Nevertheless extra care has to be given towards compacts with this patterning as its noted it makes the compact surface tarnish easier then say your normal  conventional compacts. 

Pretty though, either way. 


  1. Wow! What a wonderful blog you have! I love your collection of compacts! I have never, ever found one during my vintage hunts. I need to come back and read through your older posts and get caught-up! Take care~

  2. I have my mothers, which I think my father bought before they were married (since I'm 57, it's around 60 years old). It's still in the card box, inside the satin bag, with the original powder puff and is as bright and shiny as the day it left the shop, not a ding or a scratch on it. I don't remember my mother ever using it, so it probably went into a drawer and didn't see the light of day again until she died and her things were parcelled out to her daughters.