Parkersburg woman hopes museum will take bottle collection

Photo by Jess Mancini Dorothy Mills of Parkersburg poses with a small assortment of the old Avon bottles she would like someone to display in a museum.

PARKERSBURG — A Parkersburg woman who has collected more than a thousand old glass Avon bottles wants to give them to a museum.

“I think I just like for everyone to enjoy them,” said Dorothy Mills, whose home includes shelves filled with the decorative bottles.

But many more are in boxes, she said.

Mills started collecting the bottles about 25 years ago. She picked up many at yard sales.

“I’d say I’m a collector,” Mills said.

Photo by Jess Mancini Among the decorative Avon bottles Dorothy Mills has collected over the years are the screwdriver and hammer.

Avon was established in 1886 in New York City as the California Perfume Co. by David H. McConnell, a traveling book salesman. He mixed the perfumes by hand in his apartment.

The company, which changed its name to Avon in 1937, then started marketing its perfumes in decorative bottles with the Glass Car Decanter in 1968.

Mills said she was drawn to collecting the bottles because she believed them to be unique and beautiful.

“Because the bottles are so pretty and so different,” she said. “You know women.”

That’s the old ones, not the new ones, Mills said. Avon has gone to plastic, she said.

Photo by Jess Mancini Dorothy Mills of Parkersburg holds the Betsy Ross bottle by Avon that her daughter -in-law’s uncle helped design. She has collected more than a thousand bottles she hopes will someday be publicly displayed.

Many of the bottles are displayed on shelves in her home. She has eight shelves of Avon bottles.

“But a lot more are in boxes,” she said of the collection.

“Some are filled with perfume,” Mills said. “Some are not.”

Mills has no estimate of the collection’s value.

“I’m not one of these internet people who looks things up on Google,” Mills said.

Dozens of Avon collectors clubs can be found by googling it on the internet. The Avon Historical Archive at the Hagley Library in Wilmington, Del., includes many photos and historical information about the company.

A museum of Avon bottles may have much interest, she said.

“I think it would be a good tourist attraction,” Mills said.

Finding a museum for the bottles may be difficult.

“There are no museums for Avon bottles,” said Madison Williams of Madison Williams Auctioneering and Appraisals of Parkersburg.

Avon bottles were made at Fostoria Glass in Moundsville and at Viking Glass in New Martinsville, Williams said. The intent at the beginning was to make limited editions; however, the limited run of thousands turned into mass production of millions, which dropped the value of the bottles.

“Now Avon bottles…you can hardly give them away,” said Williams, recounting an auction where boxes of bottles, filled and unopened, went for $8 a box.

“There is just no money for Avon bottles,” Williams said.

Mills is concerned of giving the collection away to someone who doesn’t create or display them in a museum.

“I’ve been thinking about that, too,” she said.

Nonetheless, she wants people to call her about the collection at 304 485-6745.

Collecting the bottles was a hobby, Mills said. So is quilting and so is painting.

“I really like to do landscapes, but sometimes I’ll do still lifes,” she said.

However, she hasn’t done much painting lately.

“That’s the problem right now,” Mills said. “I don’t have anything to get my hands into.”