Florence Nightingale Graham lost her mother while she was still a child and was unable to finish high school because of lack of funds. After wandering from job to job she finally, at the age of thirty, decided to join her brother William in New York City.
Florence had a lovely complexion, but realized that not all women did, so she took a job with Eleanor Adair, whose salon was one of the first to give facials. Florence insisted on learning from Eleanor all her beauty tips, and soon realized that working for someone else was a dead end. Florence and Elizabeth Hubbard, who manufactured beauty products, soon joined forces and they opened a salon in New York City at 509 Fifth Avenue.
Unfortunately the two ladies did not see eye to eye and the partnership was soon dissolved. Florence asked her brother for a small loan and started her own salon, putting her flair for classic decorating to work. The entrance to the salon featured a red door and brass nameplate, which would ultimately become the name of her most famous fragrance, “Red Door.” Wanting to change her lifestyle, she came up with the name ‘Elizabeth Arden,’ and from then on she never used the name Graham, except in racing circles.
Always referred to as ‘that woman’ by Arden, Rubinstein ruled over the beauty world in Paris. They were involved in a bitter rivalry for many years which reached a climax in 1938 when Arden stole Rubinstein’s general manager and eleven of his staff members. Madame Rubinstein countered by hiring Arden’s former husband, Thomas J.Lewis, for her own business.
Arden’s cosmetic sales as well as custom-made clothing and hairdressing were the bulk of Arden’s business as the salons were not terribly profitable. But with such innovations as lipsticks that matched skin tones and/or clothing, mascaras, rouge and eye shadows, she was able to open 100 retail locations in North America, South American and Europe.
Arden was married twice; first to Thomas Jenkins Lewis, whom she wed in 1915 and divorced in 1934, and second to Prince Michael Evlanoff in 1942. This marriage was dissolved in 1944. She had equaled her rival Helena in marrying a Russian prince.
Arden had opened a health spa at her country home in Mount Vernon, Maine, and later began another one in Phoenix, Arizona. She traveled, sponsored charity events and became a part of New York’s high society. She also loved horses, and her Maine Chance Stables in Lexington, Kentucky, brought in almost $600,000 in purses in 1945.
Florence Nightingale Graham did not become a nurse, but her beauty products certainly made a lot of women feel good about themselves.
Elizabeth Arden died in New York City in her eighty-eighth year and at the time was sole owner of the business. Her birth date was not recorded, but according to relatives it was 1878.