18th century perfumer’s trade cards

Advertising was just as important in the 18th and 19th centuries as it is today. In order to really promote your business it was essential to invest in both newspaper advertising and also to have a trade/ business card and unlike many today, 18th century trade cards were much more elaborate.

Today I thought I would take a quick look at some of the trade cards for perfumers. I do have to confess this is a rather self indulgent piece, simply because I love trade cards, and along with these are a few invoices that I have come across, so, this is very much a pictorial post.

We begin with a for a Mr Stewart, perfumer of 12 & 13 Old Broad Street, who claimed to be perfumer to the royal family. At first I wondered whether there was just one company who had royal approval at any one time, but this was really not the case, there were many. Having that ‘royal seal of approval’ was the best way for a business to succeed. 

Next we have Lewis Hendrie, comb maker to their majesties and perfumer to royal princesses, as we can see on this invoice from 1784, held by the British Museum.

John Thomas Rigge was an importer of foreign perfumes to be sold to the likes of King George III and of course, his son, George, Prince of Wales who always liked to keep up with the latest trends. John Thomas ran his business from two premises, 65 Cheapside and 52, Park Street, Grosvenor Square, with his wife Rebecca, along with several sons and daughters, so very much a family affair. Below we have both a bill of sale and his trade card, both courtesy of the British Museum.


British Museum

You can almost imagine the wonderfully heady smells in Alexander Ross’s perfume shop picture below, which, it would appear, he ran with his wife Mary and two sons, until his death in 1819. Alexander clearly wanted to ensure that Mary wasn’t left short of anything when he died, but his priority in his will was to bequeath her all his wines and spirits (should we read anything into that?). He was in partnership with his sons, Thomas and William to whom he left three London properties along with the business.

Interior of the shop of Alex Ross, perfumer in London; a large table displays the many perfume bottles and scents on offer, wooden chests on bench next to table contain further goods; garlands of flowers hang from walls;

Next we have Thomas Golding, of 42, Cornhill, perfumer to Her Majesty, Queen Charlotte. We can see from this invoice that not only was he a perfumer, but also a manufacturer or razors, dressing cases, pocket books and pouches, clearly someone who knew how to diversify in order to meet the needs of his potential clients. Below the invoice we also have his trade card. This invoice was for a Captain William Sherry, who it would appear was the captain of the ship, ‘Jamaica’ of Bristol. It would appear that Sherry was purchasing a variety of products including Windsor Soap, a variety of pomatums and lavender water.

Both items courtesy of British Museum

Could the famous perfumer, Sangwine, have fitted anything more onto this?

Courtesy of Meisterdrucke Fine Art Prints

Also, courtesy of Dr Alun Withey, from his personal collection, I’d like to share with you this receipt (below) from Sangwine’s who sold a leather pouch to a Mr Batt. It would appear that the family had begun to diversify from selling just perfume by this time.

So far it hasn’t been possibly to ascertain who was running the family business by 1810, but it had previously been run by Richard Sangwine, who when he died left it to his son, Richard and wife Mary to continue running.

Mary died in October 1810 and left a will in which she divided her estate between her three children, not equally though, it was split into six, with Ann receiving 3/6th’s, Frances 2/6th’s and her son, Richard for reasons known to his siblings, just 1/6th. I do wish she had elaborated on why Richard junior received the smallest share – but she didn’t!

By 1810 Richard junior’s son, Thomas was clearly involved in the family firm as we note from this receipt.


Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece:1623

Header Image

Illustration from Ackermann’s ‘Repository of Arts’, part 1 or 85, series 2, vol 1. 1816

6 thoughts on “18th century perfumer’s trade cards

  1. mistyfan

    You can see differences in advertising in Georgian times and modern times.

    I wonder sort of perfume they had at the time and how they compare with today? Are there any recipes for Georgian perfume? Maybe some of them could be resurrected, as Marie Antoinette’s perfume has been. I imagine perfume was much more essential in those days when washing, sanitation and body hygiene were more questionable, and there was still the old belief that bad smells caused disease, which made good-smelling things essential.


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