(girl outside drugstore, circa 1930s from farm3.static.flickr)
Who: Deltah Perfumes
What: Early American Drug Store perfume line
Where: New York City
The Deltah Perfume Company is like so many other early 20th century American companies. It existed in a time past and beyond the reach of the internet. For the most part, it was born and died without leaving much of a mark on our modern lives. That is, unless you were around back in the hey day of America's small town drug-stores (or you're a vintage perfume nut and you've put in the time to comb through the flea markets and antique shops of America's byways); then, chances are, somewhere along the line, you've come across a little bottle of Deltah perfume.
(Deltah No. 7 with box; image is mine)
Deltah is one of the very typical American "drug-store" perfume brands that florished from the 1920s through the 1960s. Popular in variety store settings, nesteled among furry wind-up dogs, depression glasswares, seamed nylons, umbrellas and gloves, they were America's optimistic, do-it-yourself answer to the much finer but more expensive imported French concoctions. But for a regular date night, what gal wouldn't have appreciated receiving a box of Deltah perfume? The bottles were generally packed into brightly colored, decorated boxes. The box my bottle came in is such a cute squatty cube shape, covered with festive blue-and-silver-bubbles-on-white patterned paper, and stamped with the Deltah logo- a bejeweled Arabian turban, with the velvet scarf below drawn back to reveal lettering: DELTAH/ Distributed by Deltah Perfumes, Inc. N.Y.C. The bottle itself sits in a cut-out of the gold colored cardboard base. The bottle is square based, ~2" tall and has the traditional Deltah label, triangular shaped, gold with blue print. In 1932 the price of small flacons (mine is 1/2 ounce) packaged in a decorative box ranged from 85 cents to $1.00. The larger bottles typically had triangular panel design with the same triangular label and crystal cut stoppers (more often, you see the fancy or plain bakelite caps). These fancier bottles came in beautiful cases and sold for $8.00. In the 1940s Deltah offered perfume, compact and lipstick sets that were advertised for $7.50 - $16.50. By 1959 the company was advertising it's perfumes for sale by the gross; at under $15 dollars for 144 packaged bottles, the price afforded shop owners a nice profit margin.
(Deltah Midnight Hour at AMadHatters.com)
The origins of Deltah Perfumes remains a mystery. Was it the creation of one of New Jersey's large chemical manufacturing houses, such as United Drug Company, the likes of which supplied most of America's flavor and scenting products at that time? A story published in 1932 in a local Prescott Arizona newspaper reported that the O.A. Hesla Company were the exclusive agents for Deltah perfumes. It seems a little unlikely that Deltah was quite this exclusive; after all, vintage bottles of Deltah perfumes continue to come to market from many locations across the USA. But possibly at that time, it was understood to be true... Certainly the perfumography of Deltah Perfumes is very little known. However in 1932 the advertised line already included :
Mon Bijou- (this is the only one I've ever seen pictured in ads!)
Ecstasy de Deltah
L'Heure de Minuit (Midnight Hour)
Chez Elle de Deltah
(image: kbizandstuff, ebay)
and of unknown dates:
Chypre (I have a 1929 version)
Gardenia (another earlier release)
Deltah No. 7
Rendevous (some sources date this release 1941)
(image of Ecstasy by Deltah, Ebay user Chevy21965)
In the early 1940s, Deltah came out with what may be it's last release- Rendevous. And the one I have- Deltah's No.7 (which is not to be confused with their similarly named #7 Gardenia). My No. 7 is a sweet powdery old fashioned rendering of Heliotrope. I believe my bottle of No.7 dates post 1932 but not later than 1940s. I also can't help but wonder if there were more in the numbered series?
The one thing I noticed in my research is that Deltah did not advertise directly to the public but rather the perfumes were marketed directly to retailers, who then indepedently advertised them to the consumer, mostly it seems in little local newspapers. But the funny thing about Deltah and the real reason I wanted to feature them here, is the quality of their juice! I noticed this first when I smelt their Chypre (and we all know, I love my old school chypres)- that it was a really fine version of Chypre, very well preserved and full of the all important top notes. I take it as a special mark of the quality of the juice, since the little bottle was practially a throw away, it had been almost all used up and was under no special preservation but even still, it was so good. Then when I opened this little bottle of Deltah No. 7, I was once again surprised by the quality of the scent. This time it is a simple composition featuring sweet, yet slightly bitter almond-cherry notes in what amounts to a lovely, straightforward rendering of Heliotrope. Some say heliotrope has a vanilla scent but to me, at least as presented in vintage perfumes, it has more of a baby powder type scent. Still it is a pleasing if old fashioned floral, very appropriate for early spring and something I would wear if in the mood for a soft, innocent scent. Enjoy the photos of all the little Deltah bottles I managed to find online since there are no glossy magazine ads for us to oogle. Have you ever found anything by Deltah; if so, do tell us about it!
(image of Deltah's Chypre: Quirky Finds)
The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.