Monday, August 5, 2013


Turn to page 64 to see my column.

Look for my column on page 64

***FOURTEEN*** The Crash of 1929

While he didn't let on, Tom Lyle was having problems of his own. Despite the crash of 1929, it took two years for the Maybelline Company to feel its true effects. Although sales slowed, and the family fortune dwindled, it wasn't until 1931 that Tom Lyle received the worst possible news. The president of Chicago Guaranty Trust called him personally and told him that his ship had sunk. On paper at least, Tom Lyle was no better off than the guys selling apples on the street corner. He was broke.

The prosperity and opulence of the roaring ’20s were gone, as were the vamps who purchased Maybelline’s seventy-five-cent mascara. Tom Lyle realized that to save his company, he would have to rethink his marketing plan and come up with an idea that would put his product in the public eye at a price women could afford. The flashy, flapper look was being replaced with a more demure look fit for the times. Movie stars and socialites alike favored understated eye makeup. Only one out of five women now used Maybelline mascara, while four out of five women continued to use powders and skin creams.

Tom Lyle tried to market cheaper sizes of his products, but fashion magazines began to characterize makeup products “fit only for tarts from the wrong side of the tracks.” Major film studios, such as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Warner Brothers, and Paramount, jettisoned mascara and eyeliner altogether. It didn't help that the reigning empress of MGM, Norma Shearer, called eye makeup “the province of whores.” While Ponds Cold Cream and Helena Rubenstein’s makeup appealed to the rich and the upper middle class, Maybelline’s darkly colored lashes now only appealed to “the lower class.” While Tom Lyle made a quality product affordable and accessible to women, Emery created a logo to fit the times. “Quality yet sensibly priced” was printed on every advertisement page, and became the spirit of Maybelline’s campaign.

Tom Lyle saw his dream going up in smoke, and the Maybelline Company nearly went bankrupt. It occurred to him that to continue selling through mail-order was futile. He needed to put his products where women could purchase them cheaply and on demand—Maybelline was offered in dime stores, but at a very small as needed supply, and Preston and his drinking problem, failing health and poor relationship with Evelyn made him almost useless as a sales representative. He had to do something fast or sell the company before it failed all together. Rather than focus on an upscale market, he knew he’d still be able to sell his product to the working classes by making his products available cheaply and at retail. But to do that would take backing, and he was nearly broke. He asked his friend Rory Kirkland for a loan. Kirkland lent him enough money to keep Maybelline afloat until they could figure out what to do next. 

The family single-handedly held the company together, and everyone took less pay and worked longer hours. Tom Lyle concentrated on advertising, while Noel handled the administration of the company and the employees. Mabel’s husband, Chet, supervised the production of mascara, and Eva’s husband, Ches, managed shipping and the Maybelline trucks that transported products to dime stores and Preston tried to stay sober.

Also started a Blog on Word Press about my 1964 Diary. I will be posting each day of that year so check it out at

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