Before Avon was a beauty brand, it was a door-to-door bookseller

Avon began with a bookseller who made his own perfumes.

The once door-to-door makeup brand started with David H. McConnell, a door-to-door salesman in New York who hawked a less glamorous product: books.

A magnifying glass hovers over the Avon logo against a purple background.

As part of his schtick, McConnell offered samples of perfumes he’d made to the women who answered the door. Noticing that customers liked the scents more than the books, McConnell began manufacturing five floral fragrances full-time and selling them as the California Perfume Co. in 1886.

He employed Persis Foster Eames Albee, a fellow bookseller and the first so-called “Avon Lady” (though the company wouldn’t rebrand as Avon Products until 1939). Over time, McConnell added more scents and toiletries, including toothpaste, shampoo, and eventually makeup, for its door-knocking army of sales representatives.

Today, it’s a global beauty brand with billions in annual sales — though most of its ~6m reps’ sales are digital these days.

For more: Why Avon recruited women sellers — and why it appealed to them — in this episode of The Dream podcast.

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