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The Washington herald. (Washington, D.C.) 1906-1939, December 31, 1911, MAGAZINE SECTION


We of today are indebted to our Puritan forefathers for a prejudice against any sense appeal and yet every beautiful thing in art and every comfort which surrounds life owes its origin to mans groping toward the most refined gratification of his senses.

Scientists tell us that the sense of smell is the fourth to sink into lethargy when we go to sleep, and although the higher the civilization, as, a rule, the greater influence has sweet odors upon its people, yet the sense of smell has always been a recognized power of attracting love and hate among the most savage races and even animals. And that perfume is one of the gifts which nature intended for our delectation is quite evident from the way one has spread it all over the world

"We call a flower soulless when it lacks perfume, and no matter if its waxen petals are as exquisitely perfect as those of the camellia, yet we pass it by for the simplest little hedgerose which gratifies our nostrils with its perfumed kiss.

The word perfume indicates that the first way of gratifying the sense of smell with pleasant odors was to burn the barks and roots of aromatic trees. The word "per," signifying "through," and "frumin," meaning "smoke." And that this fumigation was earliest associated with the purest and highest emotions is illustrated by the part the burning of Incense was given in all ancient forms of worship.

Pagans Accepted he Senses

Our pagan ancestors accepted the senses and called them good, as they did everything else that nature gave to them, and they placed the sense of smell high as a refining influence because the olfactory nerve is intimately connected with that part of the brain in which Galen placed the soul. This intimate relation with mans mind is perhaps the reason that familiar odors will stimulate memory more than sensations of touch or taste. In this connection the sense of smell comes next to that of sight.

This scientific fact was used by Augustus Thomas poetically in " The Witching Hour " when he made the subtle, delicate scent from a withered Jasmine flower call up to the Judge the sweetheart of his youth and the love of his life. In no way could this have been done more effectively; but it is probable that not one in a hundred in the audience knew that familiar odors will, stimulate memory and reflect images long unseen much quicker than the sense of taste or touch.

Historians have told us that the use and disuse of perfumes have marked the rise and fall of nations, and during Egypts splendor and luxury and Romes greatest power sweet odors played a larger and more important part in life than they have done since. And the stories of Ninevah and Babylon would not be complete unless we put in them the details of the frankincense and other costly odors which were universally used.

Violet Favorite With The Greeks

There is a tradition that the Greeks discovered the way of extracting the odor of the violet. Perhaps it was the love of the Greeks for the subtle fragrance of this modest flower that gave us the tradition of the violet being made from Ianthe, a favorite nymph of Artimis. So fond became the Athenians of the use of perfume hat sumptuary laws forbidding their sale to Athenian men were enacted. And when Poppea died Nero burned more than Arabys entire production of sweet scented gums and herbs for a year at her funeral. This caused sumptuary laws to be enacted in Rome to restrict the use of perfumery, as it was said “there was good reason to fear there would not be enough for the ceremonies in the temple."

The use of essences, resins, aromatic gums, and herbs was among the first medicinal prescriptions made by Hippocrates, Galen, and others. But with the modern physician perfumes as remedial agents have almost been completely overlooked. Perhaps one reason for this is the fact that our forefathers believed that sickness was the result of sin and should be punished with the most nauseous doses possible. Later, however, we have been told that perfumes can be used as disinfectants, and we have learned that the clean odor of cedar and dried lavender are quite as efficacious to keep the dreaded moth from our furs and-frills as the vile smelling moth balls which make one smell on the first cold days of autumn as if she had walked out of an Egyptian mausoleum.

It has also been demonstrated that those who work in perfume factories are generally immune from contagious diseases, and we are beginning to find out that pleasant odors are quite as good as disinfectants as the horrible odors that we always associate with the antiseptic dressings of the hospital.

The modern woman should know the therapeutic as well as the esthetic value of a cleanly perfume. There is nothing more delicate than the odor of freshly laundered clothes that have been hung out in the fresh air; and if you add a little delicate sachet powder scented with your favorite odor you will not make yourself impertinently conspicuous to the olfactory nerves of your friends, but you will contrive always to impress them with cleanliness and fragrance.

Part Two