Bishop, Hazel (1906–1998)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Bishop, Hazel (1906–1998)

American chemist and cosmetics manufacturer. Born Hazel Gladys Bishop on August 17, 1906, in Hoboken, New Jersey; died on December 5, 1998; only daughter and one of two children of Henry (an entrepreneur and pioneer motion-picture exhibitor) and Mabel (Billington) Bishop; graduated from the Bergen School for Girls in Jersey City, New Jersey; B.A. from Barnard College, 1929; graduate study at Columbia University.

During the 1950s, any American woman who wore make-up probably owned at least one tube of Hazel Bishop "Lasting Lipstick." What she may not have known was that it took 309 experiments and two years of testing to produce the revolutionary product, most of it done in the home kitchen of a research chemist who had once dreamed of becoming a doctor.

Hazel Gladys Bishop, daughter of a New Jersey entrepreneur, completed a pre-med course at Barnard College in 1929 and was forced by the Depression to shift her graduate studies at Columbia University to the night-school program. Working days as a chemical technician in the New York State Psychiatric Hospital, in 1935 Bishop became the research assistant to Dr. A. Benson Cannon, a leading dermatologist. During World War II, she was a senior organic chemist for Standard Oil, where she concentrated on studies of aviation fuels which eventually led to the development of special gasoline for bomber planes. In 1945, she continued petroleum research with the Socony Vacuum Oil Company.

All the while, Bishop spent evenings at home developing and testing a formula for a "no-smear" lipstick. After years of perfecting the product, she introduced it at a Barnard College Club fashion show in 1949. The following year, she formed Hazel Bishop, Inc., to manufacture the lipstick and launch the product with an unprecedented $1,410,000 advertising campaign. Its success was overwhelming, with copycat "non-smear" products appearing almost daily. In August 1951, Consumer Reports published the results of a test on 31 lipsticks: "The claims of Hazel Bishop to indelibility are not without foundation. But of course no lipstick is permanent…. The fact is, nevertheless, that the new long-staying lipsticks do color the lips for a considerably longer time than the standard versions." Bishop remained president of the company until resigning in November 1951 over a dispute with majority stockholders. When a pending lawsuit was settled in 1954, the company had annual sales in excess of $10 million. However, as agreed in the settlement, Bishop sold her remaining stock and severed all connection with the firm.

After a stint as a consultant to the National Association of Leather Glove Manufacturers, where she developed a cleaner for washing leather gloves, Bishop founded H.B. Laboratories to conduct research into consumer-oriented chemical products. This company produced another leather-cleaning product, in addition to a number of other personal-care and cosmetic items. Among several subsidiary companies formed to manufacture new products was Perfemme, Inc., which in 1957, introduced a solid perfume concentrate in lipstick size.

Bishop believed that women brought insight and first-hand knowledge to cosmetology that men could never match. Declaring her desire to make cosmetics "an integral part of a woman's total wardrobe rather than as a manifestation of vanity," she viewed cosmetics as serious business. During the 1950s, she was elected to the New York Academy of Sciences and named a fellow of the American Institute of Chemists and a member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. She was also a member of the Society of Women Engineers and of the national board of the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. In 1957, she received the first "Women of Courage" award of the Assembly of Brooklyn Jewish Women's Organizations, cited for "her courageous endeavors as a woman leader in industry, business and civic affairs."

Bishop's later career took her out of cosmetic research. In 1962, she became a registered agent for the brokerage firm of Bache and Company, had some success on Wall Street, and worked as a financial analyst. In 1978, she was appointed head of the cosmetics and marketing program at the Fashion Institute of Technology and was the first to occupy the Revlon chair at that institution.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts