“My Jerrycan”: A Glamorous Wartime Souvenir, Packaged in a Decidedly Unglamorous Way

My father met my mom in Germany after the struggle, when he was within the occupation drive. The Nazis had taken her from her dwelling in Hungary and compelled her to work in a ball-bearing manufacturing unit. This bottle of French fragrance was an early present from him to her. I all the time thought the container was an odd alternative for fragrance: are you able to inform me extra? 

—Invoice Hogan, Falls Church, Va.

After the struggle’s finish, First Lieutenant Robert O. Hogan offered future spouse Rozalia Maria Szarka—right here circa 1946—with a putting present. (Courtesy of Invoice Hogan)

French perfumer Marc Fael utilized an completely surprising automobile for the packaging of his tremendous perfume, “My Jerrycan.” Fael’s fragrance, produced and bought within the fast postwar years, married a glamorous perfume with a really unglamorous piece of drugs. The “Jerry can” was a German navy canister (Wehr-macht-Einheitskanister) supposed for one of the vital treasured and scarcest assets—gas—however tailored later for a lot of different functions. The Allies reverse-engineered and adopted its stackable, leakproof design; adverts for the fragrance performed on the motif, noting that the two-inch-tall container was “non-spillable for the purse.” 

Your father might have stood in a protracted line for this pleasant present. After the liberation of Paris and into the postwar years, American forces have been desperate to expertise the French capital. One of the crucial sought-after souvenirs of the European Theater was a bottle of actual French fragrance. Typically, one serviceman or lady on go away can be charged with bringing bottles again for others of their firm or crew.

The Nationwide WWII Museum’s archives include a letter written by Non-public First Class Herman Obermayer to his mom on June 15, 1945, that tells of a day fragrance tour in Paris: “Virtually each retailer is out of the well-known title manufacturers, but when they’ve somewhat there’s all the time a protracted line, about 80% of which is made up of American troopers. After going to a few shops most likely would of determined that there have been higher methods to spend a day than in fragrance retailers, however I met a WAC who insisted on dragging me to Coty, Chanel, Houghbigant [sic], Tabu, Guerlain, Arden, Patou, and a couple of dozen extra whose names have been longer, however who have been additionally sorry that that they had nothing to supply.”

In 1946, this perfume price $12.50—practically $200 at the moment. Issue within the excessive deprivation of struggle skilled by so many, and fragrance appeared much more luxurious. It was the scent of an earlier time, a traditional time, however with a hint of struggle remaining. 

The container is a narrative unto itself, however your dad and mom’ courtship and the circumstances of the present add one other dimension to this question—one worthy of researching and preserving—that left this reader wanting extra. 

—Kim Guise, Senior Curator and Director for Curatorial Affairs, The Nationwide WWII Museum

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