Skip to main content

The Scent Of History

March 2023
1min read

Some time ago, I was given a bottle of after-shave lotion that was in production during the American Revolution and was sold to the officers of both sides. I failed to note the manufacturer’s name, and now I have no idea where to go. Can you help?

Mr. Wiley is doubtless referring to Number Six cologne, which has been sold for more than two hundred years by Caswell-Massey, the oldest chemists and perfumers in America. Made from bergamot, musk, orange blossom, lemon, and a score of other ingredients, Number Six was a favorite of George Washington himself, who is said to have sent some to his friend the Marquis de Lafayette. As in the eighteenth century, the cologne is aged for two years in oaken casks before bottling; however, it is now somewhat stronger than it was in Washington’s day, when, says Caswell-Massey’s owner, Ralph Taylor, “people bathed rather infrequently, and it was used as a mild-scented bottled water for sponge bathing.”

Other notable Caswell-Massey customers include Dolley Madison, who liked “White Rose” scent, and George Armstrong Custer: one of the firm’s bone-handled toothbrushes was found among his effects on the Little Big Horn battlefield. The company’s catalogue is available for $1.00 from Caswell-Massey Co. Ltd., Ill Eighth Ave., Room 723, New York, NY 10011.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "February/March 1982"

Authored by: Carmine A. Prioli

In the shadow of Bunker Hill, bigots perpetrated an atrocity that showed a shocked nation that the fires of the Reformation still burned in the New World

Authored by: Charles B. Strozier

To stave off despair, the President relied on a sense of humor that was rich, self-deprecating—and surprisingly bawdy

Authored by: The Editors

about foreign policy, his opponent, the voters, and the polls

Authored by: The Editors

and plans a counterattack

Authored by: The Editors

The Combat Art of Albert K. Murray

Authored by: Oscar V. Armstrong

Once again, Americans are learning the delicate art of trading with the biggest market on earth. Here’s how they did it the first time.

Authored by: James Wunsch

—More than a century ago, the city of St. Louis enacted a well-thought-out plan to legalize vice. What went wrong? Everything .

Authored by: The Editors

The sad story of a magazine born eighty years too soon

Authored by: The Editors

Far from home and in the face of every kind of privation, the Civil War soldier did his best to re-create the world he left behind him

Featured Articles

Famous writers including Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts turned Sleepy Hollow Cemetery into our country’s first conservation project.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

A hundred years ago, America was rocked by riots, repression, and racial violence.

During Pres. Washington’s first term, an epidemic killed one tenth of all the inhabitants of Philadelphia, then the capital of the young United States.

Now a popular state park, the unassuming geological feature along the Illinois River has served as the site of centuries of human habitation and discovery.  

The recent discovery of the hull of the battleship Nevada recalls her dramatic action at Pearl Harbor and ultimate revenge on D-Day as the first ship to fire on the Nazis.

Our research reveals that 19 artworks in the U.S. Capitol honor men who were Confederate officers or officials. What many of them said, and did, is truly despicable.

Here is probably the most wide-ranging look at Presidential misbehavior ever published in a magazine.

When Germany unleashed its blitzkreig in 1939, the U.S. Army was only the 17th largest in the world. FDR and Marshall had to build a fighting force able to take on the Nazis, against the wishes of many in Congress.

Roast pig, boiled rockfish, and apple pie were among the dishes George and Martha enjoyed during the holiday in 1797. Here are some actual recipes.

Born during Jim Crow, Belle da Costa Greene perfected the art of "passing" while working for one of the most powerful men in America.