Elizabeth Arden

Posted by Mark Woodard

   She was born, Florence Nightingale Graham, on December 31, 1876. Elizabeth Arden She was born in Woodbridge, a suburb of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were immigrants in Canada.  Her father was Scottish and her mother was English.  Her father was a grocer to Ontario when Florence was born, the last of five children.  They named her, as many other parents did at that time, for the great nurse in England.

            Florence grew up in poverty and never finished high school.   She drifted from job to job.  She even tried going to nursing school, but dropped out.  In 1908 Florence moved to New York City to live near her brother.

                After moving to New York City, she found a job as a bookkeeper, for the E.R. Squibb Pharmaceuticals Company.  After working during the day as a book keeper, Florence would spend hours in their lab at night, learning about skincare.  Although Florence Graham was 30, she looked 20 because of her smooth skin complexion.  That's all she needed to get started in her life's work.

                In 1909, Florence Graham formed a partnership with Elizabeth Hubbard.       Together they opened a cosmetic shop on 5th Avenue in New York City.  Just a few months later, Elizabeth Hubbard wanted to get out of the business, so Florence Graham became the sole owner.   The name “Elizabeth Hubbard” was painted in gold on the window.  So Florence Graham decided to legally change her name.  Florence chose the name Elizabeth, because she really liked it, and she wouldn't have to scrape it off the front window.  She then chose the last name of Arden, from the Tennyson poem, “Enoch Arden”.  At that time, the new Elizabeth Arden added what would become her trademark, a huge red door with a brass nameplate.

                In 1909 cosmetics were still not accepted by women in America.   In the Victorian era, the only women who painted their faces were girls on the stage or prostitutes.  But things were changing.  Elizabeth Arden was telling women they should wear cosmetics.  It was a big thing in Paris France.  Ignoring World War I, which had just broken out, and braving the submarines, Arden crossed the Atlantic Ocean, going to France in 1914.

                She was surprised by what she saw.  Arden collaborated with A. Fabian Swanson, a chemist, to create a “fluffy” face cream.  The success of the cream, called Venetian Cream Amoretta, and corresponding lotion, named Arden Skin Tonic, led to a long-lasting business relationship. Arden introduced modern eye makeup to North America.  She also introduced the concept of the “makeover” in her salons.  This revolutionized cosmetics, bringing a scientific approach to the formulations.

                Elizabeth Arden married her American banker, Thomas Jenkins Lewis, in 1915. Through this marriage she became a U.S. citizen.   1915 was the same year she began international operations.  Thomas Lewis took over management of the cosmetic lines of Elizabeth Arden, but  Elizabeth would not let her husband buy stock in her company.  The partnership flourished, but the marriage did not.   They got a divorce 24 years after their marriage, in 1934.  Her husband went to work with Helena Rubinstein, a competing company, or as Elizabeth would say ”that woman”!  In the 1920s and 1930s, Arden was constantly opening salons in the US and around the world.

               In 1938 Elizabeth Arden bought a summer home in Summerville South Carolina.  The house is located at 200 Sumter Ave.  It was built in 1891 for Mr. Samuel Lord, a Charleston attorney.  The house was built by A. J. Baird, the man who also constructed the Pine Forest Inn.  The house is still standing, but the inn was torn down.   Elizabeth Arden sold the house in 1954.  It had 15 rooms with 12 foot ceiling.  It was a beautiful home.

                 In and during the last part of the 1940s, Arden recognized the changing needs of the American women entering the work world.  She showed women how to apply makeup and dress appropriately for careers outside the home.  She created the lipstick called Montezuma Red, for the women in the Armed Forces that would match the red on their uniforms.

                In 1943, Elizabeth Arden married Russian émigré, Prince Michael Evlanoff.  This marriage lasted only 13 months and ended in 1944.

                 Horse racing became Arden's passion, and she made money at it.  She established Maine Chance Stables {named for her former country home in Maine, which she had turned into a health resort}.In 1945 her horses’ winnings totaled $589,000.  In 1946 she appeared on the cover of Time magazine, looking 40 but she was actually closer to 70.  The next year 1947, her horse, Jet Pilot, won the Kentucky Derby

     .  Elizabeth Arden had a fascinating life.  If you saw her, you would probably see her wearing a pink dress. She loved the color pink..  Elizabeth Arden was all business, never losing the outward appearance of a woman who lived for beauty and refinement.  In recognition of her contribution to the cosmetic industry she was awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the French government in 1962.  She died in New York City on October 18, 1966 and was interred in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York under the name Elizabeth N. Graham.  At the time of her death her estate was worth some $40 million dollars.




Mark D. Woodard

Summerville Tours

{843} 817-8618