Slideshow of postcards issued by the Parfumerie Bruno Court, Grasse France, circa early 1900s
Grasse on the Cote D'Azur, France, is known as the world perfume capital. With its beginnings in the late 18th century it grew as a leading maker of scented perfumes based on the abundant natural flowers that were grown in the surrounding region.
Parfumerie Bruno Court was one of the perfume-making businesses in Grasse, established in 1812 to make essential oils and scented fragrances. During the course of the nineteenth century Bruno Court competed with some 80 other perfume businesses in Grasse, mostly family-owned.
As these postcards depict, production was labor intensive, drawing upon female labor in particular for flower picking in the fields and sorting and packing at the perfume factories where most often they appear to be supervised by men.
The Parfumerie Bruno Court postcards evoke an earlier age of craft production where there was still a high degree of handmade or craft work with few machines and a high degree of women's labor involved.
Around the time Bruno Court published these postcards for the tourist trade and advertising purposes in the early twentieth century, synthetic aromatic materials began to compete with the natural fragrances produced by companies like Bruno Court. After World War II, the production costs of natural fragrances were too high for the industry to meet the price expectations of consumers in the rapidly expanding mass market for perfumes.
The loss of competitiveness meant the end for many natural fragrance perfume companies as synthetics expanded market share. In 1964, The Mane Perfume company acquired Bruno Court and the latter's name disappeared from the business although Mane continued to expand, becoming the 7th largest perfume company in global sales by the early years of the twenty first century.
Grasse continues to be known as the world's perfume capital. A network of some 60 companies employing 3,500 employees produce natural raw materials and concentrate for use in perfume manufacture. This amounts to nearly half of French perfume manufacture and 6-7 percent of world production. Foreign investment has led to the loss of production as new owners relocated production abroad but Grasse has expanded its economic base by developing the closely-related food flavoring industry over the past few decades.
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