Things That Matter: Avon perfume bottle
La Crosse County Historical Society

A large part of Christmas is exchanging gifts with family and friends. It can be a big deal for children when they first get to participate in the giving part of this ritual, buying or making presents for their parents.

I remember standing in a Ben Franklin store when I was 7 years old with a sock filled with $5 worth of dimes that I had saved. That sock felt heavy and full, and it must have been, because I succeeded in purchasing gifts for my mother, father, baby brother and teacher.

Daddy got a key chain: I gave him key chains for years — I’m not really sure why I thought he had an endless need for key chains. I don’t remember what my 3-year-old brother got, but my mom and teacher both got boxes of chocolate covered cherries.

But if I had known about perfume, and if I had had a connection with an Avon representative, I would certainly have lusted after a Christmas-themed perfume bottle like this one. It would have had the perfect alluring mix of gown-up exoticism and holiday magic.

A quick and unscientific poll of La Crosse County Historical Society interns has taught me that body-care sets are popular presents for mothers. Perhaps that’s the contemporary version of buying Mom perfume.

Avon was started in 1886 as the California Perfume Co., and it began marketing under the Avon label in 1928. Right from the beginning, Avon’s products were sold through sales representatives who sold directly to customers. The company’s founder, David McConnell, pioneered the business model that gives homemakers a way to run their own businesses from their homes.

Many other businesses, such as Tupperware and Mary Kay Cosmetics, went on to successfully use this business model. Being an Avon representative was a way for women to earn money through their networks of friends and acquaintances, and Avon products are still sold this way today.

Avon produced its first novelty containers in the 1960s, with bottles shaped like animals or objects. As best as we can tell, this Christmas tree bottle was made in the 1970s. They aren’t worth a lot of money, but they are fun collectibles.

I still need to go shopping for some important mothers in my life. If you still are in search of the perfect gift, consider tickets to the Historic Hixon House.

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