Home LifestyleCareer The History of Hoboken’s Hazel Bishop and the World’s First Stay-On Lipstick

The History of Hoboken’s Hazel Bishop and the World’s First Stay-On Lipstick

by Eliot Hudson
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British make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury once said, “Give a woman the right makeup and she can conquer the world.” Hoboken’s own Hazel Bishop instead chose to conquer the world by inventing her own makeup. It was this early 20th-century trailblazer from Hoboken who kicked down the doors of science, business, and fashion to forge the world’s first non-smear lipstick. Before Hazel Bishop, lipstick left greasy marks on glasses, teeth, and the cheeks of children and sweethearts everywhere. But Hazel took the world by storm, creating a lipstick that, according to her ad campaign: “Stays on you… not on him!” She believed — and proved — that women brought insight and first-hand experience to cosmetology that men could not match. Read on to learn more about Hazel Bishop’s groundbreaking stay-on lipstick.

Hazel’s Early Life

Hazel Bishop was born in 1906 to an entrepreneurial family in Hoboken. Her father, Harry Bishop, owned several successful businesses: “Bishop’s Bazaar” at 106 Washington Street; a 5 & 10 Cents store at 129 Washington Street; another at 310 Washington Street (now a Panera); and “Bishop’s Theatre” in the current building of the Shannon.

hazel bishop

7-year-old Hazel in front of Bishop’s Theatre, now The Shannon (Photo credit: Hoboken Historical Museum)

One Thanksgiving, Harry Bishop advertised his candy emporium by bringing Santa Claus to Hoboken on an elephant. While inspired by her father’s spirit, her mother’s advice forever echoed in Hazel’s ears: “Open your own business, even if it’s only a peanut stand!”

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The Start of Hazel’s Career

Hazel graduated from Bergen School for Girls in Jersey City before attending Barnard College where she graduated in 1929 with a B.A. in chemistry. She intended to enter graduate school that fall, but the stock market crash in October of that year prematurely ended her academic career. Still, she practiced chemistry in the 1930s, developing a pimple concealer and menthol tissues which never went to market.

hazel bishop

The former location of Henry Bishops at 129 Washington Street (Photo credit: Hoboken Historical Museum)

During World War II, Hazel advanced the war effort by discovering how to prevent fuel deposits from building up within the engines of long-flight bomber missions, thereby making planes more efficient while saving lives. At night, she experimented in her own kitchen by mixing dyes, oils, and molten wax, hoping to create a non-drying, smudge-proof, long-lasting lipstick. After 309 experiments and two years of testing, she’d developed the formula for the first-ever “no-smear” lipstick.

Hazel’s Business: Her Rise + Fall

By 1948, Hazel founded her own business, Hazel Bishop Inc., debuting the lipstick at the Barnard College Club Fashion Show in 1949. Immediate success prompted Hazel to launch her brand in the summer of 1950 at Lord & Taylor. The lipstick tubes retailed at $1 each — and sold out on the very first day. The business acumen she’d learned in Hoboken proved useful, because in only four years, sales of her lipstick soared to over $10 million.

Any woman who owned lipstick in the 1950s likely had at least one of Bishop’s “Lasting Lipsticks.” She became the first solo woman to grace the cover of Business Week and kicked off a battle for the lipstick market which became known as the “lipstick wars.” Unfortunately, she also became a casualty of these wars.

hazel bishop

The former location of the 5 & 10 Cents store at 310 Washington Street, now a Panera (Photo credit: Hoboken Historical Museum)

To help launch her product, Hazel had brought in an advertiser, Raymond Spector, who excitedly bought up shares in Hazel Bishop Inc., becoming Chief Executive and principal shareholder in the process. By 1954, however, Hazel was unhappy with the direction in which Raymond was leading the company and a battle for control ensued.

With 92% of the shares, Raymond wielded the greater power and forced Hazel out of the very company she’d built from the ground up. To add insult to injury, he stipulated that she was not permitted to use her own name to sell any cosmetic products. Her very own company, which had raked in millions, doled out only $310,000 to Hazel in the settlement.

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The Aftermath and Triumph

Despite the setback, Hazel pressed forward, manufacturing new products like a perfume balm which could be applied topically and a leather glove cleaner called “Leather Lav.” She continued to receive professional accolades — she was elected to the New York Academy of Sciences, named a fellow of the American Institute of Chemists, and became a member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. By 1980, she accepted a position as the Revlon Chair of Cosmetics Marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology, thereby helping to lead the company which had once been her chief rival.

the shannon hoboken

The Shannon present day

Long after Hazel left the business, she still mixed lipstick for herself, a red shade with a blue cast. When she died on December 5th, 1998, she’d achieved her oft-stated goal: to make cosmetics “an integral part of a woman’s total wardrobe rather than as a manifestation of vanity.” Just as importantly, Hazel Bishop proved that little trailblazers from Hoboken can change the world in science, business, and fashion.

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