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European perfumery started in earnest around the turn of the twentieth century, and developed apace with the discovery of aroma chemicals: coumarin, vanillin, cyclamen aldehyde, the great nitro musks. The Great War left industry and cities largely intact and killed countless males. Many factors then conspired to make the period 1918-1939 the golden age of mass perfumery: working women vying for the remaining men, cheap aroma chemicals, cheap labor to harvest the naturals, flourishing visual arts and music, the obsolescence of prewar bourgeois dignity, replaced by irreverence and optimism. The WWII destroyed the great engine of European chemistry (Germany). The tail end of German chemistry on the Rhine lay in the neutral Switzerland and was untouched, which is wy today two of the biggest perfumery houses in the world (Firmenich and Givaudan) are Swiss. Postwar France stank. In 1951, six years after the Liberation, only one household in fifteen had an internal bathroom. The Paris Metro at rush hour was famous for its unwashed stench. Given cost constraints, French perfumes in those years ('50) had an air de famille, a perfumey feel based on then-cheap drydown materials like sandalwood oil and salicylate esters. Being able to smell someone's fragrance was a sign of intimacy. When a perfume left a trail (called sillage) it was remarked upon, usually unfavourably. It is a strange coincidence, or perhaps a hint of the existence of God, that skin melanin is a polymer spontaneously formed from phenols, and that the perfumery materials that defined American perfumery were also in good part phenols.
Luca Turin (Perfumes: The Guide)