During the 1950s after a busy day at Barnes-Hind Pharmacy in San Francisco, Harry William Hind would relax by blending chemicals together in search of the most appealing scent that he ultimately would bottle as a Christmas gift for customers.
Hind was the pharmacist and was the first pharmacist recognized by the American Pharmaceutical Association with an Ebert Prize Medal, awarded for “understanding why drugs act in the body.”
For years one of his many successful research projects helped tuberculosis sufferers in sanitariums predominantly in California and Arizona.
The spark that led Hind to his leisure-time quest to create a unique perfume was the inheritance of stock, including essential oils and fixatives worth $12,000. The perfume paraphernalia was bequeathed to him by his mother-in-law, Helen Miesse, via her gift from a French doctor who came to America to retire and make perfume.
In the photo (left) is Harry Hind’s mother-in-law, Helen Miesse, who was the inspiration for Circa 23. Submitted photo
The San Francisco Chronicle featured an extended article Sunday, Jan. 29, 1950 titled, “Circa 23: Rose Absolute in A Retort” by Evelyn Hannay.
Hind remarked, “Now that I have worked with perfumes, I appreciate their cost. The creation of a new fragrance calls for expensive ingredients, both natural and chemical, and plenty of time for a bouquet to develop.”
For example, it took a minimum of 60 days for a blend to “calm down” and the bouquet to develop. Hind would develop five before testing among friends, nurses and customers to confirm their favorite.
After much patience, Hind’s first successful blend was called Circa 23, named because it was his 23rd try. Circa 23 was then bottled for holiday gift giving for customers of Barnes-Hind Pharmacy.
After years and untold requests to sell the product, 500 half-ounce bottles were packaged for Christmas gifts and offered for $8 for half-ounce in an imported bottle from Czechoslovakia nestled on purple velvet in a gold box until the inventory was depleted. For years, customers would return asking to purchase more, but Hind never intended his career would change from research pharmacist to commercial perfume connoisseur.
In 2012, Hind passed away at 96, leaving a legacy of inventiveness, entrepreneurship and business acumen to his son and grandchildren, members of the Greg Hind Family.
Circa 23 was never to be forgotten. Jane and daughter Kirsten Hind related the updated story: “Harry had given the original formula to Greg and granddaughter Kirsten. They decided to reproduce the fragrance and bring it to market after Kirsten graduated from college. She graduated with degrees in French and business and it was Greg’s way to teach Kirsten in real terms what starting a business was all about.
They found a French parfumier working in the U.S. who could reconfigure the scent using elements and percentages that are legal today. Some elements that Hind blended were no longer legal.
For example, ambergris, an excretion from the sperm whale had been used commonly in perfumes and was in the original formula, but it is not allowed to be used today. It took several tries to perfect the current version of the formula and then several more years to perfect the bottle design, roller top and packaging. By 2012, they brought it to market and since Helen Miesse was an inspiration for the perfume, the family decided to use her image in marketing — a tribute to her, but also recognizing the family’s French heritage and love for the French language and culture.
Circa 23 is a concentrated perfume, in a roll-on top so the product is less exposed to air and not wasted as with aerosols. The perfume is meant to be used sparingly, on special occasions. The product improves with age and has been purchased as a collectible and/or a keepsake.
During the holidays periodicals and broadcasting ramp up their advertisements for perfumes for gift giving. Why not test one out not sold through mass marketing but produced by one of our local families?
Sample orders are available at GH Sports (Greg Hind Sports), 3765 S. Higuera St., Ste. 100, in SLO, or online at: https://circacompany.com/circa-23-sample-via. For more information about Circa 23 see: www.circacompany.com.
Freelance writer, columnist and author of “Colonel Baker’s Field: An American Pioneer Story,” Judy Salamacha’s Then & Now column is a regular feature of Simply Clear Marketing & Media. Contact her at: [email protected] or (805) 801-1422 with story ideas.