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April 23, 2015

Amazing Vintage Pictures of the Helena Rubinstein's Glamor Factory in New York City in the 1930s

“All the American women had purple noses and gray lips and their faces were chalk white from terrible powder. I recognized that the United States could be my life’s work.” – Helena Rubinstein
Helena Rubinstein (1872–1965) was a Polish-American businesswoman, art collector, and philanthropist. A cosmetics entrepreneur, and was the founder and eponym of Helena Rubinstein Incorporated cosmetics company, which made her one of the world’s richest women.

In 1908, she married the Polish-born American journalist Edward William Titus in London, and had two sons. They eventually moved to Paris where she opened a salon in 1912. Her husband helped with writing the publicity and set up a small publishing house, published Lady Chatterley’s Lover and hired Samuel Putnam to translate famous model Kiki’s memoirs.

At the outbreak of World War I, she and Titus moved to New York City, where she opened a cosmetics salon in 1915, the forerunner of a chain throughout the country. Helena opened up the boundless American market, and she skillfully used it, despite the serious competitors and the face of Elizabeth Arden and Charles Revson.

From 1917, Rubinstein took on the manufacturing and wholesale distribution of her products. The “Day of Beauty” in the various salons became a great success. The purported portrait of Rubinstein in her advertising was of a middle-age mannequin with a Gentile appearance.

In 1928, she sold the American business to Lehman Brothers for $7.3 million, ($106 million in 2020). After the arrival of the Great Depression, she bought back the nearly worthless stock for less than $1 million and eventually turned the shares into values of multimillion dollars, establishing salons and outlets in almost a dozen U.S. cities. This saga, and Rubinstein’s early business career, has been the subject of a recent Harvard Business School case.

Her subsequent spa at 715 Fifth Avenue which is shown here in these pictures, included a restaurant, a gymnasium and rugs by painter Joan Miró. She commissioned artist Salvador Dalí to design a powder compact as well a portrait of herself.

(Photos Corbis, via Mashable/ Retronaut)


  1. Thanks for the contrast Geoff. I can get absolutely lost on this site. I love it.

  2. Whose photos are these? I see no credits? What's the source?

  3. Good stuff!!!! Thanks for posting these classic and historical photos!




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