Gilvo Perfume Company: Australian History

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Post by Greg Young

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Gilvo Perfume Company

A Piece of Perfume Australiana

Gilvo Perfume Company #3 Gilvo Perfume Company #1 Gilvo Perfume Company #2This is something that I saw on eBay and was intrigued. It’s a bottle of No. 7777 Eau de Cologne, from the Gilvo Perfumery Company, who were manufacturing in Melbourne during the 1940s.
Gilvo Perfume Company #4
According to Perfume Intelligence, Gilvo launched 7777 in 1947, and both company and cologne have long since disappeared. I did find some newspaper ads for No. 7777 from late 1946, so I suspect it was on the market slightly earlier than that, in time for Christmas 1946.

Gilvo Perfume Company #5Launceston Examiner, Thursday 10 October, 1946

No. 7777 was sold in a range of sizes, including a 30 fluid ounce flacon (almost 900 mls!). My bottle looks like it is 2 fl. oz – the size is not marked anywhere.

Gilvo also sold a Cologne called Three Crown Stardust Bouquet, which appears to have preceded 7777 to market, having being on sale in 1945.

Gilvo Perfume Company #6Adelaide Advertiser, Friday 22 June, 1945

Gilvo were not only selling to women. By 1947, they were also selling an aftershave called Straight 8.

Gilvo Perfume Company #3Launceston Examiner, Saturday 15 February 1947

As early as 1940, Gilvo were selling perfume in major stores. This ad does not refer to the brands that were in use later in the decade, but to eau-de-cologne generically. There is no earlier mention of the company in the archives, so this may have been their first product launch.

Gilvo Perfume Company #7! Adelaide Advertiser, Thursday 12 December 1940

Gilvo fragrances were stocked at both Myer’s and David Jones, and featured in their 1946 Christmas promotions.

Gilvo Perfume Company #8SMH, Wednesday 20 November 1946

Gilvo Perfume Company #9The Argus, Tuesday 10 December 1946

A close-up of the DJ’s ad shows that Gilvo were keeping some pretty good company with the likes of Roger and Gallet and Bourjois and were commanding comparable prices to the imported fragrances.

Gilvo Perfume Company #10Gilvo were headquartered in the Melbourne CBD and were hiring labour during the war years. Here’s an example of the sort of job they had on offer .

Gilvo Perfume Company #11The Argus, Saturday 13 November 1943

Gilvo Perfume Company #12The Argus, Tuesday 7 November 1944.

The age limit stated may seem a little odd to us these days. I believe it was because there was a desire for single women aged 18–45 to work in wartime industries exclusively. So I guess the company was seeking to recruit from the ladies who were not required for those roles. Menfolk, of course, were expected to be in war service.

The company’s premises at 360 Little Bourke St was a tiny Art Deco building that is now called Melbourne House, next door to a pizzeria and nestled in the midst of a forest of outdoors shops such as Paddy Pallin. Not exactly perfume central these days!

Gilvo Perfume Company #13The company also had premises in a tiny laneway in North Melbourne called Howard St, as evidenced by this ad.

Gilvo Perfume Company #14The Argus, Saturday 7 September 1946

This job ad appeared around the time that No. 7777 was launched. Notably, by then Gilvo was also describing itself as an export company, suggesting that they were possibly selling perfume into overseas markets.

The perfume business was still operating in Howard St in 1950.

Gilvo Perfume Company #15The Argus, Saturday 17 June 1950

By this time though, Gilvo had started to diversify into quite a different area.

Gilvo Perfume Company #16The Argus, Saturday 21 January 1950

Something does seem to have happened in the perfume trade, because all of the job ads in later years are for roles in Gilvo’s fabric printing business, the last of them in 1955.

Gilvo Perfume Company #17The Argus (Melbourne, Vic). Saturday 25 June, 1955

This is typical of a series of job ads for printing positions from 1953 onwards, so it looks like Gilvo may have changed direction in the early ’50s, so that may be when No. 7777 was finally discontinued.

That would seem to indicate that my bottle is between 60 and 67 years old. Given that age, you can see from the photos that the bottle and box are in great condition. The packaging still has a sweet powdery smell, but the little juice that is left has turned an ugly inky-brown colour and the scent is pretty dubious, shall we say.

Gilvo Perfume Company #18

So, Gilvo were a small perfume company that operated in Melbourne and established a national brand that was able to compete in major retail stores with the imported big names for more than a decade. I guess they were the Tommi Sooni of their day! A little piece of Australia’s fragrance history.

Perfume Intelligence references

http://www.perfumeintelligence.co.uk/library/perfume/n/n3/n3p9.htm http://perfumeintelligence.co.uk/library/perfume/g/g5/g5p3.htm

Advertising references

http://trove.nla.gov.au

© Greg Young 2013

22 comments on “Gilvo Perfume Company: Australian History

  1. Sita W. says:

    Wow, I Really enjoyed reading this perfume’s history, Wonder where this bottle has been hidden all these years, did you say 60 – 67 years old ! Incredible ! Thanks for Sharing xoxo

  2. Jackie b says:

    What a fascinating detective story! Who would have thought that little ole Melbourne
    had a share in the perfume market?
    Do you think the name 7777 was a nod to 4711?

  3. australianperfumejunkies says:

    Welcome to the APJ family Greg, I hope you have a long and happy time here.
    I found your post so interesting, who knew we had this lurking perfume company in our history. I love the way you have found your corroborating evidence and photographs too. Wonderful.
    Portia x

    • Gregory Young says:

      Thanks Portia. It’s great to be here at last. And thanks everybody here for your kind words. I hope to have something more for you to read soon.

  4. cookie queen says:

    Hey Greg!
    How absolutely, totally and utterly interesting. Brilliant. xxx

  5. Cyn says:

    I love hearing about older perfumes and seeing the advertising.

  6. Azar says:

    Hello Greg,
    What a great piece! It’s wonderful how you took this old perfume box and bottle and turned them into a fascinating slice of life in mid 20th century Melbourne. I always learn something new from APJ.
    Azar xx

  7. fleurdelys says:

    I’m smiling at the thought of Evening in Paris sold in a Toby jug, as described in one of the ads – trying to draw a visual on that one.

  8. Donelle Talintyre says:

    Fantastic story Greg, wonderful to hear about Australian perfume history. Thank You.

  9. Fascinating research and testimony to the fact that perfume history is also social history. thanks Greg
    Catherine du Peloux Menage recently posted…Fragrance appreciation workshopMy Profile

  10. Tonia says:

    What a great piece of Australian history. Loved it! x

  11. Jaybee says:

    Really enjoyed reading this! What a shame about the juice, it would be lovely to know how it measured up.

  12. Kandice says:

    What an interesting piece. Love the history and back-story of the perfume company. Would love to know what this smelled like back in the day. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  13. Fruitful says:

    I’m fascinated by the history that can be pieced together from the newspaper clues. I’ve no doubt 7777 is a reference to 4711. Great perfume story Greg and especially great to get a story of a little part of Melbourne life. Seeing the buildings and thinking how people lived then reminded me of an article I read about a laneway off Bourke or Collins St that has an old tailor, that used to be very successful, along with many other thriving shops back then. It must have been such a lively place,

    • Gregory Young says:

      That sort of thing really interests me too. There are a few books around about the Melbourne laneways as they are now, but it’s the history of them that attracts me. I can’t remember the name, but I recall reading a book about all that. It covered the famous murder in Gun Alley, Gurner’s Lane, the original lanes in Chinatown (with photos of Chinese children that looked straight out of 19th century Beijing) and lots of other little nooks and crannies. Some such as Gun Alley, which is now subsumed by Nauru House, are long gone, but a lot of them can still be seen on a stroll around town.

  14. Maya says:

    I really enjoyed your post. Thanks!

  15. Gregory Young says:

    Hey, a brain cell clicked. The book I’m thinking of is called “Essential but Unplanned: the Story of Melbourne’s Lanes” by Weston Bate

  16. Christine W says:

    Well done Greg – an incredible piece of research beautifully written and illustrated. I look forward to seeing more. ***** Five stars 😉

  17. Tania says:

    Hi, I have a bottle of this lovely cologne.
    Do you have any idea of its worth.
    I am a collector of old perfume bottles and your
    wonderful article is the only info I can find for this.
    Thanks

    • Greg says:

      Hi Tania.

      I’m also a fan of vintage, although I’m not a major collector. I like this one for its connection as much for its connection to Art Deco Melbourne as anything.

      It’s a bit of a rare one and I haven’t seen it often. I did find a little bottle of it on eBay a couple of years ago for $10. Unlike my original bottle, the juice has not turned in the little bottle and, you’re right, it is lovely..

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