PERFUME URCHINS

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I just came across this hilarious article from The Spatula an American pharmacist and perfumer publication; this issue dates from 1904. Relating the fashion for scent spraying machines, the reporter expresses some alarm as to their appropriation by youths up to no good. Their gleeful use of the machines seems to have been the equivalent of sitting in the park drinking out of  a litre bottle of cider.

“The Lancet calls attention to a habit which, were it not fraught with serious consequences, would be decidedly humorous. It points out that alcohol is an indispensable solvent for essential oils in the preparation of perfumes, and though the strength of these luxuries varies, generally speaking, they are stronger than brandy.

“Such is the depraved state of human nature even in its early stages that the automatic penny-in-the-slot machine has been found by small boys to be a source of free ‘ nips.’ There are automatic machines designed for supplying a sprink-ling of scent for the handkerchief for the sum of one penny. A handkerchief is placed upon a metal cup above which is a delivery tube or spout. On putting a penny in the slot a small quantity of perfume is discharged from the spout and scattered on the handkerchief.

“Certain ingenious little urchins, it appears, have not been long in discovering that what costs the customer the sum of one penny for the luxury of having a handkerchief scented may be obtained free by applying a partial vacuum at the end of the spout, otherwise by the eminently simple means of sucking. The fact that sucking anything, nice or nasty, wholesome or insanitary, is a perfectly natural habit in the young would discount any claim on the part of these wicked boys to a particularly original design. The spout was cleary meant to deliver something, and it was but an instinctive thought to see if something could be got out of it.

“The experiment was a success and we need hardly dwell upon the evil possibilities of the urchins’ discovery. We trust, and do not doubt, that the companies who own these machines will take preventive steps.”

Copyright Odette Toilette © 2016