The United Drug Company — a cooperative of dozens of independently-owned drugstores — was founded by businessman Louis K. Liggett in Boston in 1902.
The affiliated drug stores soon began selling medicines and other products under the brand name Rexall. (Eventually, “Rexall” became the name of thousands of drug stores across the U.S. and Canada.)
Rexall products included perfumed toiletries — talcum power, complexion powder, cold cream, vanishing cream, toilet soap, toilet water, etc. — plus the perfumes themselves. And, interestingly, some of the fragrance names had a small influence on U.S. baby names.
I don’t know precisely when each fragrance was put on the market, so I’ll just list them alphabetically…
This is a fun one to start with because the fragrance name actually refers to a name.
United Drug’s Cara Nome fragrance was introduced around 1918 and saw its best sales in the 1920s. The Italian name, which translates to “dearest name,” was apparently inspired by an aria called “Caro nome che il mio cor” from the Verdi opera Rigoletto. (In case you’re wondering, the “caro nome” being referred to in the song is Gualtier.)
I found several people in the records named Cara Nome or Caranome:
Betty Cara Nome Patesel, b. 1923 in Indiana
Cara Nome Schemun, b. circa 1926 in North Dakota
Cara Nome Grable, b. 1929 in Michigan
Caranome Haag, b. circa 1931 in Wisconsin
Caranome Vollman, b. circa 1932 in Nebraska
Caranome Stiffey, b. circa 1933 in Pennsylvania
Caranome Fox, b. circa 1936 in Oklahoma
Caranome Cody, b. 1936 in Tennessee
In Italian, nome is pronounced noh-may (2 syllables). I don’t know how any of the people above pronounced their names, though.
Bouquet Jeanice, introduced around 1913, was one of United Drug’s earliest fragrances. It wasn’t on the market under the name “Bouquet Jeanice” very long, though, because the name was changed to “Bouquet Laurèce” (see below) in late 1915 due to a trademark dispute.
Still, the baby name Jeanice managed to debut in the U.S. baby name data during that short span of time, in 1915:
1917: 11 baby girls named Jeanice
1916: 11 baby girls named Jeanice
1915: 7 baby girls named Jeanice [debut]
A lot of Jean-names had appeared in the data up to this point, but none of them ended with an “-s” sound.
United Drug introduced Jonteel products in late 1917 and marketed them heavily with full-page color advertisements in major women’s magazines (like Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and Ladies’ Home Journal).
French names (or French sounding names) were all the rage for cosmetics at the time, and the name Jonteel — presumably based on the French word gentil, meaning “kind, courteous” — fit the trendy perfectly. (In fact, the name that was originally proposed “by a copywriter working for United Drug’s advertising manager” was Caresse-Jonteel, but the “Caresse” part was ultimately dropped.)
I found several people in the records with the name Jonteel:
The name Juneve also appeared a single time in the U.S. baby name data, the year after the scent was introduced:
1924: 5 baby girls named Juneve [debut]
Bouquet Laurèce was the new name for Bouquet Jeanice (see above). Advertisements for Bouquet Laurèce started appearing in the papers in late 1915, but I could find no mention of the scent after 1917, so apparently it was only on the market for a couple of years. But that was enough for the name Laurece to become a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data:
1917: 6 baby girls named Laurece [debut]
United Drug introduced a scent called Shari in early 1926 with ads featuring copy like this:
Shari is something new in toilet goods. Shari appeals to most every woman and tends to add to personal loveliness. The distinctive fragrance of Shari perfume incorporated in the following beauty aids (now on sale at all our stores) will be the cause of their use on thousands of dressing tables during 1926.
Shari products proved popular, and the scent was on the market all the way until the early 1940s.
The baby name Shari debuted in the SSA data in 1927 and — like the Shari products themselves — gained momentum over the years that followed.
1929: 10 baby girls named Shari
1928: 8 baby girls named Shari
1927: 9 baby girls named Shari [debut]
(Similar names like Sharon and Sherry were also slowly picking up steam in the 1920s. All three names would go on to see peak usage in the middle decades of the 20th century.)
United Drug’s Violet Dulce fragrance was introduced in the early 1910s — even earlier than Bouquet Jeanice. The name Violet was already relatively popular for newborns at that time, but I did find a single example of a newborn with the first-middle combo “Violet Dulce”:
Violet Dulce Starr, b. 1913 in Washington state
Finally, I’ll mention that the baby name Rexall has popped up in the data a handful of times (1910s-1950s), though the usage doesn’t seem to follow any patterns.
How was the word coined? Here’s the story:
[Liggett] asked Walter Jones Willson, his office boy and an amateur linguist, to invent the brand name. It had to be short, distinctive, original, and easy to pronounce; it also had to look good in type and meet the legal requirements for a trademark. Willson submitted a long list of coined words, including “Rexal,” to Liggett, who added another “l.” Since “rex” was the Latin word for king, the new name supposedly meant “king of all.” (According to another explanation, “Rexall” stood for “RX for all.”)
Before settling upon “Rexall,” Liggett had considered using “Saxona” as the name of the brand.
Do you like any of the perfume names above? Would you give any of them to a modern-day baby?
Funderburg, Anne Cooper. Sundae Best: A History of Soda Fountains. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 2002.