January 27, 2024

All things Perfume Passage Foundation on one website!

A Note From The Founders...

We began collecting mens fragrances many many years ago. And like most collectors, we soon branched out, searching for other perfume related items that piqued our interest.

We always loved items that served a dual purpose and once we learned about perfume lamps and burners, we knew we found our next collecting category!

What better time to enjoy the aromas from a perfume lamp or perfume burner than the winter months? We hope you enjoy the aromatic history of some of our favorite collectibles in this issue.


Jeffrey and Rusty, Co-founders

Perfume Lamp History...

While the history of perfume burners goes back centuries, the category of collecting perfume lamps seems to be a somewhat newer area for collectors.

Thinking back to the 18th and 19th centuries, bad odors were everywhere -- no indoor toilets, no garbage pickups and no food refrigeration. So it actually makes sense that removing strong odors were a priority for hospitals, mortuaries and many households.

An answer to the everyday problem were Catalytic lamps. Once called effusion lamps and commonly called perfume lamps today, they were the perfect accessory item to help purify the air from bacteria and odors. They were first developed during the 18th century in Europe, and initially, the lamps were not decorative and the fragrances they emitted were not the most pleasant.

The catalytic burner system was originally designed by German scientist, Justus Von Liebig. Working with French chemist Charles Frederick Gerhardt, their catalytic burner system was successful in purifying the air, removing germs and bad odors.

The main fuel source for their catalytic burners was alcohol and alcohol-based oils. The lamps included a cotton wick that soaked up the oil that was attached to the catalytic burner.

The early lamps worked when a stone burner that was located at the mouth of the lamp was lit. The flame was then blown out after the temperature reached a certain level. Because of the innovative design, the flameless burner remained heated and active due to the low-temp catalytic combustion process.

As catalytic lamps don't use an open flame or electricity, they were usually safer to use than other types of purifiers or even scented candles. In addition, the aromas aren't diffused into the air in concentrated areas, but rather diffused throughout a room in an even manner

Advertisement for Galeries Lafayette, Paris, France (1910)

Lampe Berger...

In 1897, a French inventor and pharmacist, Maurice Berger, improved the original design by Liebig and Gerhardt, and patented his new design in 1898. He then founded a company called Lampe Berger, which is now the world's oldest manufacturer for perfume lamps.

Berger’s goal was to have his creations become household items available to everyone, and his decorative perfume lamps were soon sold throughout Paris department stores. In 1901 Lampe Berger received the National New Invention Award from the French government.

In 1910, Berger opened a Paris shop called L’Ozosenteur to commercialize his Berger lamps. He ran his business until he retired in 1927, selling his business to Jean-Jacques Failliot. The Failliot family continued to grow the company until 1973 when they sold to present owner Philippe Auvray. In 1930 at the age of 64, Berger passed away.

Several artists began partnering with Failliot, using the popularity of Berger's perfume lamps to showcase their artistry and glass making techniques. Emile Galle added the multi-layer glass technique and the houses of Lalique and Baccarat added crystal to the designs and styles of Berger's lamps.

With the additional handcrafted details, the lamps were becoming luxury items and sales substantially increased. Fashion designer Coco Chanel had been known to light a lamp or two in her home and salon!

The creativity of the 1920s helped promote Lampe Berger lamps from practical objects of purifying the air to elegant works of art that diffused fragrances. At Perfume Passage, these early perfume lamps satisfy our interests in glass, perfume and related accessory items!

French Perfume Lamps...

In addition to Lampe Berger, there are several other French perfume lamps as part of the Perfume Passage collection. The art deco style of many of the ceramic lamps fit right into our love of all things deco. These are often made of glass or porcelain and may have a wooden, bronze or metal base. Below are a variety of French perfume lamps.


Robj was a French company founded in 1908 by Jean Born. The company was a retailer and wholesaler, commissioning companies to create electric cigarette lighters, perfume and incense burners, electric lamps and decorative accessories.

The unusual company name is simply an anagram of the founder's name -- nROBJean. The Deco gallery includes a collection of beautiful ceramic Robj perfume lamps from the 1920s and our Spring 2021 Perfume Passage Journal was about Robj.

This Robj perfume lamp called "Draped in the Bouquet" was designed by Jean Courtebassis in 1927. It appeared on the cover of the Perfume Passage Spring 2021 Journal magazine. It measures 13" tall and is marked Robj Paris on the bottom.

A beautiful Robj lamp (above) was shown in a 1920s advertisement for Kirby, Beard & Company.

Many companies manufacturing perfume burners and lamps created their own fragrances.

Here is an example of 'My Perfume to Burn' from Robj.



Additional Perfume Lamps...

Perfume lamps were also manufactured by companies that produced beautiful perfume bottles and powder boxes.

The DeVilbiss Manufacturing company from Toledo, Ohio was known for their atomizer perfume bottles. They were founded by Dr. Allan DeVilbiss, a medical doctor specializing in nose and throat medicine, in 1888. The company’s primary purpose was to manufacture and sell DeVilbiss-invented spray atomizers, designed to apply soothing medicinal coatings to patients’ throats. His son Tom joined the company in 1905, and by 1907 had convinced his father to go into the perfume atomizer business, capitalizing on the company’s spray technology and its established retail network of drug stores.

In addition to atomizer bottles, they produced wonderful perfume lamps in the 1920-1930s. Several examples are part of the DeVilbiss display in the Deco gallery.


Fulper was one of the oldest pottery companies in the US, founded in 1814 as Samuel Hill Pottery in Flemington, New Jersey.

Originally known for producing drain tiles and other household objects, they were purchased by Hill's partner Abraham Fulper in 1860 and after his death in 1861, his son William took over.

The Fulper Pottery Company soon began producing several successful lines of pottery using specific glaze technologies. In addition to vases, bowls, candlesticks, bookends and other decorative objects, they also made perfume lamps. This Fulper 1920s parrot perfume lamp has been found in multiple colors and its base has areas to hold fragrant oil. The large bird lifts off the base.

Did You Know...

  • A Lampe Berger perfume lamp burner can efficiently last up to 200 lightings.

  • Today Lampe Berger produces over 800,000 fragrance lamps annually, along with over five million liters of its fragrance oils in over 60 different scents.

  • An older perfume lamp will have a plug with prongs that are the same size, modern plugs have prongs that are different sizes. Exposed wires or screws are other indications of an antique cord as are fabric or cotton-covered cords.

  • Children were popular motifs for perfume lamps.This unmarked 1930s lamp shows a young boy with a book and his dog!

  • While air fresheners and room sprays usually mask odors, perfume lamps actively purify, cleanse and perfume the air in a wide area.

  • Precautions should be taken when using vintage or new perfume lamps, making sure not to use them in an unventilated room.

Parts Of a Perfume Lamp...

  • The crown covers the hot stone to prevent accidental contact.

  • A snuffer cap covers the catalytic stone. This prevents the oil from evaporating when the lamp is not in use. It's also used to cover the hot stone to turn the lamp "off."

  • The retainer is a small metal clip that holds the stone, collar and wick together. You shouldn't ever remove this clip.

  • The stone is a special porous ceramic material coated in platinum and other rare metals. It's where the lamp does its work.

  • A collar supports the stone and secures the wick in place.

  • The wick carries the oil from the body to the stone.

  • The assembly is a group name for the wick, collar, stone and retainer.

  • The neck is a metal crimp attached to the lamp body which supports the assembly and can't be removed.

  • The body is the main part of the lamp that holds the oil.
Perfume Passage Is On Social Media...

There's no doubt about it, social media has become a part of the everyday life for billions of people and businesses. According to an online article from Search Engine Journal, there are over 400,000 new social users every day.

Perfume Passage has joined the ranks of the billions, and increased our presence on several social media platforms to share our collections, events and publications! Click on the highlighted links below to view some of our videos, stories and collections. And then surf and swipe away!


IPBA member and recent convention keynote speaker Erin Parsons visited Perfume Passage with her film crew. They spent a fun few days with Jeffrey and Rusty filming the galleries and sharing perfume stories.

Several of her Perfume Passage videos have already been posted on her social media platforms. Erin's "You've Never Seen Fragrance Like This" about Perfume Passage had garnered nearly 400,000 views on YouTube in just a few months! Can we say we went viral?!


We started our Facebook page soon after our grand opening in 2019, creating the perfect place to share Perfume Passage happenings! We're able to link to our other online platforms to stay in touch with fellow collectors.


With nearly 3,000 followers (increasing weekly!), the platform is a great website to post videos and share our collections and their history.


We've been expanding our presence on TikTok and have begun sharing "Scent-Bites!" These are brief video stories about collections and companies that are on display in our galleries. Jeffrey highlighted the Chicago company Jovan in our inaugural video, showing several items that are part of our permanent "Made in Chicago" exhibit.

Perfume Passage Journal...

The Perfume Passage Journal subscription program for 2024 begins with our next publication about a fascinating US company--Vantine. Established in New York around 1866, the company introduced Asiatic goods to local buyers, including rugs, household items and toiletries along with a variety of perfumes.

2024 Perfume Passage Journal Subscription

If you haven't ordered the recent Journal - Issue 7, all about French perfumer and costumer Paul Poiret, it's available through our website. You won't want to miss the fascinating story of the first fashion couturier to launch his own line of perfumes and decorative accessories!

Information about all past Journal magazines and tour schedules are also available on the website.

Perfume Passage is closed through March as we're preparing for new displays, exhibits and special programming. However, if any of our perfume friends are planning a visit to the Windy City and would like to stop by for a tour, please contact us at: info@perfumepassage.org.

Types of tours include:

  • Private docent-guided tours
  • Group tours
  • Symphony of Scents and Sounds
Contact us for more information
Our mission is to preserve the history, beauty and artistry of perfume bottles, compacts, ephemera and related vanity items. Through education, outreach, and awareness of the Perfume Passage collection and library, our goal is to inspire art lovers, collectors, archivists and curators to keep this history alive. 

Perfume Passage Foundation perfumepassage.org

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