Kleenex–a product of the Twenties

imagesOnce upon a time, everyone carried handkerchiefs. Usually linen, sometimes cotton, often decorative and white. Ladies carried delicate lacy ones, gentlemen carried large monogrammed ones, children carried ones printed with juvenile or educational images.

In 1924, Kleenex came out with tissue paper squares that they marketed to women as makeup removers. The description provided to the patent office was “absorbent pads or sheets for removing cold cream.” Ads encouraged women to be like the movie stars, and remove your makeup with cold cream and Kleenex tissues. According to the official Kleenex site, the first magazine ad appeared in 1925 in Ladies Home Journal touting “the new secret of keeping a pretty skin as used by famous movie stars.” Soon, ads were in all the major women’s magazines like McCall’s, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Redbook. 

In 1926, executives discovered that more people were using the tissues as disposable handkerchiefs than for makeup, and they adjusted their advertising accordingly. In 1929 colored tissues were introduced; in 1930, printed tissues; and in 1932, the pocket pack. 

This is good to know, but the characters in my Roaring Twenties series, which takes place in 1924 and 1925, must still use handkerchiefs. I could write a scene where a woman removing her cold cream with a disposable tissue, but I’m not inspired by that idea . . . 

Published in: on January 25, 2014 at 7:56 am  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wonderful post! And I love your blog. The Roaring Twenties – one of my favorite eras. Looking forward to reading more!
    Kind Regards, Lorri AllVintageHankies.etsy.com

    • Thanks, Lorri. The Twenties is certainly one of my favorite times–when I lecture on the topic, I call it the most fascinating decade in American history. No other decade comes close.

  2. One of my characters, a performer, uses kinex in a very short scene. I was surprised to discover they were already in use (my story is set 1926-27). I actually researched the topic to see what she would use in place of klinex 😉
    Well, for once, I could write the scene as my ‘modern’ eye sees it.

    • Your characters (1926-27) can use Kleenex, but only to remove makeup–ha! Mine (1924) shouldn’t use it at all, but I’ll soon get up to 1925 (first Kleenex advertisement), and then they can use it to remove makeup. My characters carry handkerchiefs in their pockets and remove stage makeup with a rag.

      • Well, if we’re to believe the report, kleenex changed their marketing strategy because people were repurposing the things on their own — so I don’t think it’s unreasonable that a character could also recognize they work better for blowing one’s nose than the alternatives and start using them so even if they’re not marketed that way yet.
        I know from experience handkerchiefs don’t always wash out so easily… even worse if you have to wash them by hand. Ick! Disposable ones were probably a huge relief.

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