Sharrie Williams, author of The Maybelline Story, is an original descendant of the Maybelline family. Her Great uncle, Tom Lyle Williams, founded the Maybelline Co in 1915 and sold it in 1967. Sharrie shares her family's photos, stories and vintage Maybelline ads.
Fashionista Celebrates Maybelline's 100 Year Anniversary
According to the company, Maybelline got its start with a lash and brow product. In 1915, a young woman named Mabel Williams mixed coal dust with Vaseline and used it to beef up her lashes after singing them off in an accident. Her brother Tom Lyle Williams took the idea and ran with it, producing a product — sans coal — commercially. He called it Lash-Brow-Ine and the product became popular via mail order. He called his new company Maybelline (Mabel + Vaseline) and a brand was born. Apparently women have always wanted Cara Delevingne brows! Also interesting: the company's claim that the products are "pure and harmless." Safe cosmetics, always desirable.
By the 1930s, "eye lash darkener," as it was called, was officially a thing, and Maybelline sold it in cake form with a separate brush. There was a scare surrounding a lash dye at the time called Lash Lure (not made by Maybelline), which blinded some women, so the company was very careful to say that no dyes were used and that the products were "safe."
In the '30s, brow pencils and eye shadow also came into vogue. This was also the birth of the makeup tutorial's earliest ancestor. The brand produced ads of Betty Grable demonstrating a three-step application process, which ran in popular magazines. The company also notes that in the '30s, the time of the Great Depression, women couldn't afford a new dress, but they could certainly afford a new eye shadow. Sound familiar? (Ahem, hi, 2008.)
In the 1940s and 1950s, Maybelline introduced iridescent eye shadow sticks and liquid liner. In 1959, the company launched its first "automatic" mascara (after Helena Rubenstein got one to market first), featuring a spiral brush in the tube, called Magic Mascara. During this era, Maybelline began distributing overseas.
By this point, and as you can see from the above image, Maybelline was king (queen?) when it came to eye makeup. Then in 1971, the company cemented its hold on women's lashes for good by launching the now-iconic pink and green Great Lash Mascara. In the late '60s, the company was sold to Schering-Plough.
In 1974, the company launched its first lip products, which included products like Kissing Sticks, Kissing Koolers, and Kissing Potion. Kissing: very big in the '70s.
The brand started offering a full complement of products, including lipstick and foundation. Lynda Carter featured prominently in many ads during this decade, ushering in the era of the actress as spokesmodel.
Cheers, Maybelline. Here's to 100 more years, and please don't discontinue Baby Lips.