The Sweet Smell of Chess

Feb 13, 2011, 9:57 AM |

that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.
-Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Grace Mary Chess Robinson founded her own enterprise, a perfumery named the Mary Chess Company, in 1932 when she was totally disappoint with some eau de toilette she had bought.  Working both out of her home in New York City and from a shop Shepherd Market in the Mayfair district (her husband was treasurer for the Royal Philharmonic, while she had been a sculptor of metal and ceramic flowers for the Queen herself.), she began by making cold creams, graduating to Roman oils, lotions and finally perfumes. Mary Chess created all her own scents using all natural ingredients from her own garden. Remember, 1932 was in the midst of the Great Depression when most businesses were closing and few people were opening new ventures. But banking on a public yen for luxuries, her cottage industry blossomed into a multi-million dollar business. Mary Chess sold her enterprise prior to her death in 1964.

Appropriately enough, Grace Mary Robinson capitalized on her name by commissioning the Wheaton Glass Company of Millville, New Jersey to fashion perfume bottles in the shape of chess pieces.

Chess Life, Nov. 1950 stated:
Mary Chess Adds Aroma to Game
A New York perfumer, Mary Chess, has added scent to the ancient game with assorted perfumes in bottles shaped as the various chess pieces, from lowly Pawn to stately King and Queen.


Mary Chess actually started producing her "chessmen" line shortly after WWII. Each bottle (or possibly just each different chess piece) contained a different fragrance.


This is a "his and her" gift set

 fairly exquisite in gold
Almost needless to say, the chessmen series was a big seller for Mary Chess.

Avon also sold perfume, i.e. cologne for men,  in chess bottles. While these 1970's bottles were also produced by the Wheaton Glass Company of N.J., they seem to be in a much lower class than those of Mary Chess.











While not particularly related, while researching Mary Chess I found among chess collectibles, wine stoppers in the shape of chess pieces:
The first one is sold by Kikkerland and the second is of unknown origin.