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Avon’s history

Written by Gail Reynolds on November 24, 2010

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Albee House, former home of Mrs. Persis Foster Eames Albee.

Avon calls her the Mother of Avon as she was the first 'Depot Manager' for The California Perfume Company, later renamed Avon.   The Albee House located at 9 Elm Street in Historic Winchester, NH was once the home of Mrs. P.F.E. Albee.   Mrs. Albee was the first “Depot Manager” for the California Perfume Company, Hired by Mr. David H. McConnell in 1886.   After McConnell’s death in 1937, David McConnell Jr. became president of the California Perfume Company.

David Jr. renamed the CPC to AVON Products Inc. in 1939, making Mrs. Albee the first "Avon Lady." She and her husband, Ellery Albee, a practicing attorney and New Hampshire state senator (1869 to 1871), ran a variety store together across the street from their home.  The residence and store, in addition to having the town's first public phone, provided not only a retail center, but also a meeting place for many of the town residents.  Once Mrs. Albee was hired by Mr. Daniel H. McConnell Sr. the founder of the California Perfume Company as the organizations first General Agent, she quickly became his most successful sales person.

Mr. McConnell was progressive in that he viewed women as an integral part of the business at a time when options were very limited.  It was in this historic location that the first sample cases of perfume were displayed. Mrs. Albee initiated a variety of techniques including direct selling, the recruitment and training of sales agents, and other methods which helped to transform the small company into AVON, creating opportunities for countless women.

Her influence continues to be apparent to this day.  Excerpted from: Avon: Building the World's Premier Company for Women Laura Klepacki, Andrea Jung It was therefore no surprise that McConnell tapped one of his best booksellers, Mrs. Persis Foster Eames Albee of Winchester, New Hampshire (P. F. E. Albee) as the first official salesperson for his newly minted California Perfume Company.  Her title was "general agent." Born in 1836, the mother of two-Ellery and Ellen-she was 50 years old when she started her new job.

Through the California Perfume Company, McConnell provided earning opportunities to women at a time when other employment options were few. Even while peddling his books and only contemplating the creation of a new business, he had always imagined women would be part of the plan.   Albee and her husband, Ellery Albee, an attorney who served as New Hampshire state senator from the Ninth District from 1869 to 1871, operated a variety store together from their home in Winchester.  Because the store also possessed the town's public phone, many people had an additional reason to stop by: Not wanting to miss an opportunity to gain attention for the California Perfume Company's wares, Mrs. Albee prepared an attractive display of the samples in her store.   The Albees' home, a two-story colonial structure located near the center of town on the banks of a narrow river, was close to the railroad station. "It was white ... all landscaped ... it was a beautiful house," remembered a childhood neighbor. For many families, making ends meet can be challenging.  The Albees were no different.  Town records show times when property bills weren't met and warnings were issued to the family that ownership of their home on Depot Street (now 9 Elm Street, Winchester New Hampshire) was in jeopardy. Harry J. Bickford of Winchester New Hampshire has now owned the Albee House since the mid nineteen seventies.  The Bickfords have been in the process of restoring this beautiful Alexander Colonial ever since in the hope of honoring Mrs. Albee with a Bed and Breakfast, Inne or Coffee shop.

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