Treatments to improve one’s body for beauty or health flooded the 19th-century market, advertised with astonishing success to those concerned with their appearance and physical appeal – especially so at a time when bathing was a rare luxury. Cologne, toilet water and sweet-smelling scent bottles were a necessity for masking unwanted odors.
Hundreds of perfume bottles were recovered from the SS Republic, some with their glass stoppers still intact and a few unique samples boosting their original contents. A selection of American perfumes was among the ship’s cargo of beauty aids, including Edward Phalon and Son’s popular fragrances. The product captured the public’s attention when the elder Phalon featured his elegant Bower of Perfume in the Crystal Palace Exhibition at the New York World’s Fair in 1853.
Later joined by son Henry, the Phalons launched a line of perfumes whose delightful scents provided mid-Victorian Americans much pleasure and relief from the smells that often pervaded one’s social life. Sixteen perfume bottles were recovered from the wreck of the Republic, each embossed with the name Phalon & Son Perfumery. Some half a dozen still retain their original glass stoppers. Another eight examples also bear the Phalon family name, yet are slightly different in shape.