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The Scent Of History

May 2024
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.

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