Saturday, June 30, 2012
Geisha Nail Kit - Gibson Girls' Exotic Beauty
Vantine's was a famous American importer of Oriental goods in the 19th and early 20th centuries. While they had a physical location, much of their sales were done by way of catalogue orders. A 1917 edition of the Vantine's catalogue is available online to give a sense of their offerings.
Much of their merchandise was custom-made for their company, and so wasn't really as exotic as it might have been presented. It was made to appeal to American tastes and familiarities. Take for example the Geisha Manicure Set pictured at left.
Nail polish as we know it didn't really appear until the 1920s, but women cared about their nails just a much as ever, endeavoring to keep them clean and well-groomed. Polish was a more literal term in the days of the Gibson girl: it referred to substances that were rubbed or buffed into the nails to enhance their appearance. The Geisha Manicure Set was first put on the market around 1912, and consisted of orangewood sticks, a bottle of nail bleach (which was also used as a cuticle softener) and a porcelain box containing a so-called "Geisha Nail Stone" that was apparently a cake of perfumed polisher which one applied onto the nails to shine them up. Instructions on the package read: "Rub ball of hand across stone and polish nails." (One assumes from this that it needed to be slightly warmed and melted before use.)