Monday, April 7, 2014

Ganna Walska Perfumes

Ganna Walska Perfumes, Inc. of Paris & New York. The company was established in 1927 by Ganna Walska d'Eighnhorn Fraenkel Cochran McCormick (born Hanna Puacz in 1887), an untalented soprano opera singer originally from Poland (Brest-Litovsk, Russian Empire). Ganna is a Russian form of Hannah, and Walska "reminiscent of her favorite music, the waltz."




c1927 ad


Ganna Walska partnered with noted Russian rejuvenation specialist and charlatan, Dr. Serge Voronoff, of 'monkey gland' fame. He specialized in transplanting animal glands into aging men with impotency, meant to improve and renew (unsuccessfully) their sexual virility. Vonoroff also experimented upon himself, by injecting parts of dog and guinea pig testicles into himself, in order to try to retard aging.

The short-lived company introduced its first perfume, Divorcons (Let's Divorce) in 1927 along with two others, Cordon Bleu and Pour Le Sport at the Palais de Glace exposition in Paris. Her beauty shop opened at 2 rue de la Paix, Paris in August of 1927. She then opened another branch in Manhattan in 1928 (9 East 54th Street), to be a sister store to the one in Paris, where she obtained small orders from department stores. The shop was then moved to 655 Fifth Avenue.

The Paris store was closed in 1931 and all of the fixtures and stock were sold at auction. The shop only lasted three years as it was hit hard by the slump in the luxury trade at the beginning of the Depression.

Her perfumes were contained in simple bottles resembling those used by Chanel, and were said to retail as high as $500 an ounce. A perfume, Niparys was launched in 1930 with a price tag of $400 an ounce. It was described by Walska as it "breathes the light clover aroma that hints of the morning dew in a hayfield." Some of the Ganna Walska Toilet Waters were sold in 4 ounce bottles up to huge 16 ounce glass bottles.

She told the press "I must keep busy and have things to occupy my mind." On the topic of beauty, she replied that "This subject interests me as it interests nearly every woman, as it has interested practically all of the great women in history." She had made a study of perfumes, and with the advice of her chemists, put on the market some redolences which she claimed were new. "I certainly do not intend to give up singing. My art is my life; this business adventure is a sideline. It is a lighter role in life's program which it pleases me to do."



In October of 1927, river thieves broke into her perfume factory in the village of Pantin, the perfume center near Paris and stole $25,000 worth of rare perfumes and gold and silver vanity cases. The robbers, according to police, loaded this loot onto a barge in the canal which runs close to the factory. A newspaper blurb speculated that the thieves were interested in imbibing the alcohol used for the perfumes.


In a full page ad from 1927, the organization of the company was described  as a "memorable event in the progress of feminine elegance."

Ganna was outspoken in her views on beauty and perfumes. In a 1927 newspaper article she admonishes the use of cosmetics and perfumes by American women. She goes on to say that "the American woman knows little about perfumes, and sometimes it is terrible to sit beside them in a warm theater, even as terrible as to sit beside some of these European men who cover themselves with rose water. Aboth are simply displaying their absurd lack of taste. A blonde woman should use delicate perfumes, such as violet and lily of the valley, and leave for the brunette the stronger scents of chypre and lemon."

"Remember, a delicate individual perfume adds greatly to the alluring charm of a woman," she said.




Though she married six times, the singer was notorious for a highly publicized acrimonious divorce in 1920 from Alexander Smith Cochran, a multimillionaire, sportsman and carpet tycoon.

She later married another multimillionaire, Harold Fowler McCormick in 1922, but they had also divorced in 1931. It is to be noted that in 1921, McCormick had sought to fortify himself by undergoing an operation by Serge Voronoff because Walska had somehow convinced him that their sex life was lackluster and that he was inadequate to her needs. After paying Voronoff a large fee, the operation did not work and Walska left him, the divorce cost him $6 million dollars.

If she didn't care for his sex drive, she must have enjoyed his wealth immensely as she reportedly bought $500,000 worth of Youssoupoff carved emeralds in 1927, by 1928, these were valued at $1 million dollars. She also acquired the Duchess of Marlborough Faberge Easter Egg in Paris in 1926.

In 1928, she acquired the Romanov sapphire and had Cartier fashion it into a necklace. From Sotheby's "The sides are composed of sapphire beads with an antique Indian cut rectangular sapphire of 197.75 carats at the center.  In 1923 Cartier created a magnificent sapphire and emerald sautoir for Ganna Walska which in the next few years underwent several changes until they created the final and most spectacular version 1929; the “Russian” sapphire was now the centre of a the magnificent jewel which supported a 256.60 carat Mogul carved emerald drop. This was just one of the jewels that she wore at the famous society wedding of Barbara Hutton to Prince Mdivani in Paris in 1933." You can see both versions of the necklaces below.


Sotheby's also lists other jewels owned by Walska "created by Cartier and as well as an exquisite butterfly brooch by Boucheron, circa 1894, the diamond wings carved with realistic veins and an important cushion-shaped Burma ruby mounted at the centre. There was also jewels by Seaman Schepps, Chaument of Paris and from Van Cleef & Arpels there was a superb enamel, carved coral, sapphire, jade and diamond Chimera Bangle dating from the late 1920s."



She certainly had an eye for treasures as she also had jewelry comprised of "diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds together with some divine natural pearls. But the most outstanding and exceptional gemstone in the collection was undoubtedly the “fancy yellow diamond briolette of 95 carats”. As one of their major patrons it was fitting this magnificent stone was bought in the sale by Van Cleef & Arpels and immediately named the “Walska Briolette”. In 1971 fancy coloured diamonds were still not graded as to the intensity and depth of their colour but when the stone was re-graded by the GIA in 2010, by which time the new fancy coulour gradings were well established, it obtained the highest colour grade for a coloured diamond – Fancy Vivid. This is truly a stone not only with an important provenance- once owned by one of the most famous collectors of jewellery in the 20th century – but also an extremely important stone in it own right being one of the only two of the largest old antique-cut briolettes known and recorded."

Rumors had circulated years earlier that Walska was going to divorce McCormick as those who observed the fact that her first perfume was named "Divorcons", - Let's Divorce. In 1927, Walska stated "I emphatically deny that my going into business means divorcing Harold McCormick. Though this is the same year that McCormick filed divorce papers against her, claiming desertion as she was living in Paris while he was living at their home in Chicago. She had no intention of divorcing, probably because she enjoyed the wealth that came with her marriage. So she came back to the states in 1928 and claimed "I am going to live in America all the time now. I am going into the perfume business and I may appear in some good movies."



Orson Welles claimed that McCormick's lavish promotion of Walska's opera career—despite her renown as a terrible singer—was a direct influence on the screenplay for Citizen Kane, wherein the titular character does much the same for his second wife.



Walska was a garden enthusiast who created the Lotusland botanical gardens at her mansion in Montecito, California. Ganna Walska died on March 2, 1984, at Lotusland, leaving her garden and her fortune to the Ganna Walska Lotusland Foundation





The perfumes of Ganna Walska:
  • 1925 Près de Toi
  • 1926 Chypre
  • 1927 Divorcons (a bittersweet oriental perfume)
  • 1927 Cordon Bleu (Blue Ribbon, a floral bouquet perfume)
  • 1927 Pour le Sport (a sporty perfume)
  • 1930 Niparys (a light clover type perfume)
  • 1933 Pois de Senteur (Sweet Pea)
  • 1933 Jasmin 
  • 1933 Chypre
  • 1933 Lilac
  • 1933 Gardenia
  • 1933 Carnation



By 1932, her perfumes and toiletries were sold at rock bottom prices as she resigned as President of her perfumery company. I saw the Ganna Walska perfumes and toiletries still being sold in 1946.








Drug Markets, Volume 21, 1927:
"Mme. Ganna Walska, opera singer, and wife of Harold F. McCormick, Chicago millionaire, is planning to distribute perfumes and cosmetics in the American market. She entered the beauty products business in Paris last March."

Advertising & Selling, Volume 13, 1929:
"Several of the French houses are putting out attractive new styles in perfume bottles. Ganna Walska has caught the spirit of the mode in her perfume bottles with flat stoppers rectangular in shape."


A 1930 New York Times article displayed early feminism on Ganna Walska's part:
"Ganna Walska d'Eighnhorn Fraenkel Cochran McCormick, assertive Polish second wife of Chicago's harvester tycoon, Harold Fowler McCormick, has three passions: Music, Perfume, Feminism. For Music she has labored many a weary year without spectacular success. For Perfume, she has founded and guided to success Ganna Walska Perfumes, Inc., of Paris and New York. For Feminism she gained a victory last week when the Third Division of the U. S. Customs Court unanimously conceded her a legal residence other than that of her husband. 
More than a year ago Mme. Walska landed in New York with 15 trunks and (she said) $2,500,000 of personal effects. Claiming that, as a separate human entity with a home and business in Paris, she was a nonresident, she refused to pay $1,000,000 in duties. Though her customs liability dwindled to $40.20 when she proved that she had bought most of her possessions in the U. S. before going to France, she fought with characteristic tenacity and much publicity for the principle involved (TIME, Oct. 8, 1928). 
That principle she established, at least so far as tariff duties go, when the Customs Court ruled: "The wife is now a distinct legal entity . . . upon terms of equality with her husband in respect to property, torts, contracts and civil rights. . . .[She] may acquire a domicile separate and apart from her husband by reason of his misconduct or abandonment or by his agreement either express or implied." (The McCormicks had agreed to live separately.) 
Concurring but not satisfied was Justice Genevieve R. Cline, only woman member of the court, first woman appointee in the Federal judiciary. In a separate opinion she objected to the court's implication that a separate domicile was to be taken as an exception, not as an accepted rule: ''. . . I can discern no reason why they [wives] should not have equal rights as to the selection of a domicile. . . . The common law has been practically expunged."







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