Huile D Olive, Superfine, Bertrand Freres, Grasse

The French phrase, “Huile D Olive,” translates to “Olive Oil,” so it’s apparent that the subject bottle contained olive oil produced in Grasse, France by the firm of Bertrand Freres (Bertrand Brothers).

Founded in 1858 by two brothers, Baptistin and Emelien Bertrand, this 19th century engraving of their factory found in the Municipal Archives of Grasse, described the business as:

Fabricants D’ Essences Fines & De Matieres Premieres Pour Parfumerie

or, courtesy of “Google Translate:”

Manufacturers Of Fine Essences & Raw Materials for Perfumery

The business would operate in Grasse under the Bertrand Freres name for well over 100 years.

Located in Southern France, an August 24, 1926 story found in a publication called “Drug Markets,” referred to Grasse as “the heart of the world’s perfume industry.” The story opened with this description of the town which serves to provide some context to the company’s history.

Located about 20 kilometers from Cannes, with an altitude of 692 feet, the town of Grasse is situated in the heart of the flower-growing district of France, and hence might very well be considered the center of France’s perfume industry. And to the extent that other countries depend on France for their oils, pomades and concentrates for their raw materials in manufacturing perfumes, this town of 19,700 inhabitants may be called the heart of the world’s perfume industry…

In this town are located such well-known French houses as Etablissement Antoine Chris, Charabot & Co., Lautier Fils, Pilar Freres, Roure-Bertrand Fils, Bertrand Freres, and others.

Plants are located in Grasse, and these houses either buy their flowers from the peasants, or grow them themselves, and here manufacture their oils, concentrates or pomades as the case may be.

An advertisement that appeared in the May 1, 1865 edition of a British publication called the “Pharmaceutical Journal & Transactions,” provided this menu of products the company manufactured during its first decade.

While the above menu fails to mention olive oil, Bertrand Freres was certainly producing it from the very beginning as evidenced by what is almost certainly the company’s initial directory listing found in the 1859 Industry Trade Directory-Almanac under the heading “District of Grasse.”

   

Translated, the listing reads as follows:

Bertrand Brothers, new improvements for the rectification of essences of mint, anise, etc., distilled waters of bitter orange blossoms, lemons from Portugal; olive oils and all the products of the South.

Sometime in the early 1870’s the Bertrand brothers turned control of the business over to a partnership headed by Hubert Schlienger. He, and later his son Emile Schlienger, would serve as senior partners in the firm up through at least 1940.

It appears that it was also in the 1870’s that the business began to focus their attention on the U. S. market as evidenced  by this news item that appeared in the March 21. 1878 edition of the “Detroit Free Press.”.

Henry Fielding, representative of the essential oil house of Bertrand Freres, Grasse, France, was in the city yesterday. He received several large orders from some of the wholesale drug and perfumery establishments of the city.

It was also in the 1870’s that the company’s products began appearing in United States newspaper advertisements. An advertisement touting their “concentrated essences” appeared in the March 9, 1876 edition of the “Yorkville (York, S. C.) Enquirer.”

Another, this one headlining their olive oil, appeared in the March 25, 1878 edition of Connecticut’s Hartford Courant.

In 1898 and 1899, Fraser, Viger & Co., a self described “grocer and wine merchant” located in French speaking Montreal, Canada, advertised their olive oil using the French wording embossed on the subject bottle:”HUILE d OLIVE.”

A feature on the business published in the May 11, 1911 edition of the “American Perfumer,” depicted their turn of the century Grasse factory, and made it clear that by then their distribution was “world-wide,” specifically referring to the United States and Canada as two of their “chief markets.”

The house of Bertrand Freres, which has won such an enviable reputation in the perfumery trade, was founded in 1858 by two brothers named Baptistin and Emilien Bertrand, who laid the foundation upon which a world-wide trade of extensive proportions has since been built. The chief markets catered to however are Paris, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States…

The house has long had agents practically all over the world, and more recently has invaded South America, where headquarters for the continent have been established in Santiago de Chile…

The spacialties manufactured by the firm are extracts, solid and liquid concretes, floral ottos for confectioners and most of the high grade essential oils.

The company’s U. S. agent at the turn of the century was Clayton Rockhill who, according to his biography published in the 1918 edition of “The Cyclopedia of American Biography, Volume VIII, founded his business in 1884. In 1895, the New York City Copartnership and Corporation Directory identified Rockhill as the “agent for Bertrand Freres, Grasse, France.” The 1890 Copartnership and Corporation Directory simply referred to him as a merchant so it’s likely that their relationship began sometime in the early 1890’s.

This early advertisemt associating Rockhill with Bertrand Freres appeared in the April 1, 1897 edition of the “American Soap Journal & Perfume Gazette.

Originally located at 30 Platt Street, Rockhill’s business moved to 114 John Street around 1900. Then in 1906 he formed a  partnership with Carl Louis Vietor. Their partnership notice appeared in the March 1, 1906 edition of the “Soap Gazette and Perfumer.”

A copartnership has been formed between Clayton Rockhill and Carl L. Vietor, both of this city, under the firm name of Rockhill & Vietor, to carry on the general shipping and commission business which has been carried on by Mr. Rockhill. Mr. Vietor, who is the son of George F. Vietor, a well-known dry goods merchant of this city, has been with Mr. Rockhill for two years.

An advertisement in the same March 1 edition of the “Soap Gazette and Perfumer” made it clear that their business relationship with Bertrand Feres remained unchanged.

Sometime in 1912 Rockhill & Vietor moved to 22 Cliff Street where the company was listed up through 1921. During this time, Bertrand Freres apparently managed a separate olive oil branch managed by importer Chandros Weddle at his office at 100 Hudson Street. This entry in the 1915 Copartnership and Corporation Directory associated Rockhill and Vietor with the perfume business and Weddle with olive oil, and was typically how Bertrand Freres was listed beginning in 1912.

In 1922 Rockhill & Vietor announced a move to new quarters in the February edition of the “American Perfumer.”

Rockhill and Vietor, established in John Street (actually 30 Platt)  in 1884 by the late Clayton Rockhill and now at 22 Cliff Street, will move to new quarters in the near future, combining the oil department with its other branches at 62 Grand Street.

Two months later, Rockhill & Vietor was dissolved (Rockhill had passed away in 1918), and replaced by a new firm, P. R. Dreyer, located not on Grand Street but Beekman Street.

Confused? Hopefully this May 1, 1922 story in the “Soap Gazette and Perfumer” will serve to clarify.

Due to the liquidation of the firm of Rockhill & Vietor, New York, P. R. Dreyer, who has been manager of the essential oil department of the company for several years, has been appointed American and Canadian agent for Bertrand Freres, Grasse, France, and American agent for N. V. Chemische Fabric Naarden, Bussum, Holland, which firms Rockhill and Vietor represented heretofore.

Mr. Dreyer has been associated with the essential oil industry for more than twenty years and enjoys an extensive acquaintance among the members of the soap, perfume and allied trades, particularly in the East and Middle-West.

The new headquarters of Mr. Dreyer are located at 109-111 Beekman Street, New York City.

Up through 1925 and possibly longer, NYC directories continued to associate Chandros Weddle with Bertrand Freres at his 100 Hudson Street location so it appears that the olive oil business remained separate and distinct.

Meanwhile, back in Grasse at around the same time, the company was in the process of expanding their physical plant. According to the French “Ministre De La Culture” web site:

Like other perfumery companies the company Bertrand Freres had an annex site built in the early 1920’s dedicated to extraction by volatile solvents. There are two main reasons for the construction of this new site: to move the extraction workshops away from the inhabited areas and to avoid overloading the site of the parent plant with its already very dense buildings by adding new constructions. The annex establishment is built on a rose plantation that the company owned.

The new facility, constructed adjacent to their existing facility, was described in a December, 1922 feature published the American Perfumer.

Bertrand Frteres are now occupying their enlarged factory at Grasse, France, which was completed last Spring, thus adding with a modern concrete fire-proof structure, another fitting milestone in the history of this well known concern…

The new factory has three stories appropriately arranged to carry on manufacturing processes with the least waste of effort. Perhaps the most striking things to catch the eye of the visitor are the tiled walls, the abundance of natural light and the scrupulous cleanliness maintained throughout the factory. The most modern machinery and equipment have been installed, it is stated, and safety devices are freely employed. Above the third floor there is an oriental pavilion for entertaining guests. The boiler house occupies a unit by itself quite distinct from the factory proper and the fluted smoke stack rises far above the highest point in the factory where any manufacturing processes are conducted, preventing any possible damage by smoke.

The feature included several views of the newly enlarged factory.

Shown clockwise from the top left are: rectifying stills; general view of the plant; a group of stills; volatile solvent extracting apparatus; entrance to the offices and vacuum stills.

P.R Dreyer advertisements in several 1922 editions of the “American Perfumer” featured the enlarged facility.

 

Four years later, in 1926, the August 24th edition of “Drug Markets” announced that Bertrand Freres had established an American corporation with Dreyer serving as president.

Bertrand Freres, well known Grasse, France, essential oil house has formed an American branch with headquarters in New York. P. R. Dreyer, of P. R. Dreyer, New York, who has been representing the French company in this country is president of the new company. E. Schlienger, senior partner of the French house is vice president, A. Mueller, a member of the parent concern is secretary-treasurer, and O. C. Ispell is assistant secretary-treasurer. By this division of officers, the American company is able to function in this country with a certain degree of independence while actual control of the company is maintained by the parent concern in Grasse. A more active participation in the American essential oil market is anticipated by this step, and the French company looks for an increased and larger business following this active and aggressive step.

 

Whether Weddle continued his association with Bertrand Freres and their olive oil after the U. S. incorporation is unclear, however, he continued to be listed at 100 Hudson Street with the occupation of “food products” until he ultimately passed away in 1933. . That being said, I suspect, but can’t confirm, that by the end of the 1926 to 1933 time frame, the company was focused solely on perfumes and essential oils and the distribution of olive oil was all but forgotten in the United States.

Shortly after the incorporation, the November edition of “Drug Markets reported that a fire had forced P. R. Dreyer to move to a new location.

P. R. Dreyer, New York, whose place of business was damaged by fire recently, has leased a 3 – story building at 26 Cliff Street.

Sometime in the late 1930’s they apparently relocated to 12 East 12th Street before moving to 119 W 19th Street, where both Bertrand Freres and P. R. Dreyer were listed together throughout most of  the early 1940’s. By the late 1940’s’s the companies were listed with separate addresses with Bertrand Freres located at 111 Broadway in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, and 443 Fourth Avenue in the late 1950’s up through at least 1960.

In 1973 the Bertrand Freres business moved across the Hudson River to Maywood, New Jersey to serve as the U. S. distributor for a Unilever company called Proprietary Perfumes Ltd.. The September 2, 1973 edition of “The (Hackensack, New Jersey) Record” told the story.

New Jersey alone has more than 50 perfume compounding companies. The state has become a center for the industry.

One of the latest entrants into the already crowded New Jersey field is Bertrand Freres Ltd., which moved from New York City to 17 Brook Ave. in Maywood earlier this year.

The firm is the American subsidiary of Bertrand Freres S. A. of Grasse, France – Grasse, north of Cannes, is in an area that has been the perfume center of the world for several centuries.

Bertrand Freres Ltd. moved to New Jersey after getting what its managers referred to as a new lease on life. That lease came in the form of U. S. distribution rights for Proprietary Perfumes Ltd (PPL) of Kent, England. PPL is the perfuming subsidiary of the giant multinational conglomerate Unilever, which is also the parent of Lever brothers, the soap and cosmetic company. 

Subsequently Bertrand Freres merged with PPL and another Unilever subsidiary forming “PPF International.” The merger was reported in the February 2, 1982 edition of several U. S. newspapers.

A merger of two British companies and a French firm to form one of the world’s largest fragrance and flavor producers, with annual sales of $200 million was announced yesterday.

Gerald Landers, appointed director of fragrance operations of the company, to be called PPF, said “the U.S. market will be our key growth market,” although the new company’s headquarters will be in Ashford, Kent, England. Landers is marketing director of Ashford’s Proprietary Perfumes Ltd., one of the three merging companies and the fifth largest supplier of fragrance compounds in the world. The other two firms are Food Industries Ltd. of Bromborough, England, and Bertrand Freres of Grasse, France.

As far as I can tell this marked the end of the Bertrand Freres company name.

Later, in 1986, Unilever set it sights on another firm, Naarden International with the intent of merging it with PPF. According to an August 19, 1986 story in London’s “Daily Telegraph:”

Unilever, the Anglo Dutch consumer products group, aims to boost the international status of its specialty chemicals division with a 110 million pound bid for Naarden International, the major Dutch producer of industrial fragrances.

Unilever hopes to combine Naarden with PPF International, its own fragrance group formed in 1982…

The merger was finalized several months later and the following year Unilever combined Naarden and PPF under the name of “Quest International.” According to the the French “Ministre De La Culture,” web site, Quest continued to occupy the Grasse factory site until 1998.

The bottle I found is 10 ounces in size and was blown in a “turn mold.” It sports a blob seal on which the product and company information is presented.

This likely dates it sometime around the turn of the century. Strangely, newspaper advertisements for their olive oil make no mention of a 10 ounce size. In fact, there’s no mention of sizes smaller than a pint. The following is from 1897/1898,

and this one’s from the early 1910’s.