Florence Nightingale Graham, who went by the business name Elizabeth Arden, was a Canadian businesswoman who built a cosmetics empire in the United States.
Arden was born in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada in 1966, where she lived until the age of 24. In 1909, Florence Nightingale Graham dropped out of nursing school in Toronto.
She then joined her elder brother in New York City, working briefly as a bookkeeper for the E.R. Squibb Pharmaceuticals Company. While there, she spent hours in their lab, learning about skincare. She then worked - again briefly - for Eleanor Adair, an early beauty culturist, as a "treatment girl".
In 1909 Arden formed a partnership with Elizabeth Hubbard, another culturist. When the partnership dissolved, she coined the business name "Elizabeth Arden" from her former partner and from Tennyson's poem "Enoch Arden".
In 1912 Arden travelled to France to learn beauty and facial massage techniques used in the Paris beauty salons. She returned with a collection of rouges and tinted powders she had created. In an era when it was generally only acceptable for entertainers to wear makeup, Arden introduced modern eye makeup to North America. She also introduced the concept of the "makeover" in her salons.
In 1915 she married Thomas J. Lewis, a banker, thus becoming an American citizen. Arden's drive for success cost her marriage to Lewis. They divorced in 1934. A second marriage to a Russian prince only lasted 2 years.
Arden collaborated with A. Fabian Swanson, a chemist, to create a "fluffy" face cream. The success of the cream, Venetian Cream Amoretta, and corresponding lotion, Arden Skin Tonic, led to a long-lasting business relationship. This revolutionized cosmetics, bringing a scientific approach to formulations. Other innovations included creating foundations that matched a person's skin tone; creating the idea of the "Total Look" in which lip, cheek, and fingernail colors matched or coordinated; and the first to make a cosmetics commercial shown in movie houses.
During World War II, Arden recognized the changing needs of the American woman entering the work force. She showed women how to apply makeup and dress appropriately for careers outside the home. She created a lipstick called Montezuma Red, for the women in the armed forces that would match the red on their uniforms. Although most of her commercial success was in cosmetics, she also pioneered restorative musical exercises based on yoga. She started a fashion business in 1943 with notable designers like Charles James and Oscar de la Renta on staff.
She began expanding her international operations in 1915, and started opening salons across the world. By the end of 1930s, it was said that "There are only three American names that are known in every single corner of the globe: Singer sewing machines, Coca Cola, and Elizabeth Arden." A fact proved by Heinrich Harrer in his book Seven Years in Tibet, where he stated that it's possible to buy Arden's products—even in Tibet. At the peak of her career, she had a salon in New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Maine, Arizona, Phoenix, Southhampton, Surfside, Florida, Palm Beach, Philadelphia, Honolulu, Lima. Toronto, Montreal, Melbourne, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Johannesburg, London, Paris, Zurich, Vienna, Milan, Rome, Cannes, Madrid, Brussels, Copenhagen, The Hague, London, Ontario, Cape Town, Nassau, Tulsa, Quebec City, and Biarritz. She launched all of them personally and she owned all of them except the one in Paris, which she gave to her sister, Gladys, Vicomtesse de Maublanc.
From the 1930s through the 1960s, Elizabeth Arden was considered the most upscale cosmetic brand. The introduction of the perfume Blue Grass in 1934 was a great success. Considered the first all-American scent, it remains on the market today.
Arden named her exclusive Long Pond resort and health spa Maine Chance which catered to her wealthy clientele. At one time the Mt. Vernon, Maine resort and its operating farm produced much of the food for the spa and was a significant employer in the town.
In recognition of her contribution to the cosmetic industry, she was awarded the Légion d'Honneur by the French government in 1962.
Arden died in New York City in 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 $30 to $40 million (US) and she had over a hundred salons worldwide. A feature-length documentary film The Powder and the Glory (2009) by Ann Carol Grossman and Arnie Reisman, details the rivalry between Arden and Helena Rubenstein.
Arden used the name Maine Chance Farm for her Thoroughbred horse racing and breeding operation in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1931 she had bought her first horse at the Fasig-Tipton sales at the Saratoga Race Course. From 1944 on, she worked closely with Leslie Combs II who selected and purchased horses for her. However, according to a 1947 interview with the Thoroughbred Record, Combs said she had a good eye for horses herself and chose a number of successful runners on her own.
In the nineteen forties and fifties Elizabeth Arden built her Maine Chance Farm stable into a major force in American Thoroughbred horse racing. In 1945, Star Pilot and Beaugay were the Eclipse Award colt and filly champions, and her stable was the leading money-winner in the United States. In 1947 her colt Jet Pilot, trained and ridden by future Hall of Famers Tom Smith and Eric Guerin won the Kentucky Derby. Putting her on the cover of the May 6, 1946 issue of Time magazine. In 1948, she also acquired the great filly Busher as a broodmare from a spectacular auction conducted by Louis B. Mayer. Busher was not only inducted into the Hall of Fame, she ranked #40 in Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century. In 1954, her filly "Fascinator," won the Kentucky Oaks. For her contribution to the racing industry, Elizabeth Arden Graham was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2003.
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