Max Factor's Beauty Calibrator: A beauty-measuring device to analyze facial flaws, 1930s

In the 1930s, makeup legend Max Factor invented an ingenious combination of phrenology, cosmetics, and a pseudoscientific approach to analyzing the imperfections of a woman's face. It's the Beauty Micrometer, a clockwork orange-style device that claims to measure facial ugliness.

Placed on and around the head and face, the Beauty Micrometer uses flexible metal strips that align with a person's facial features.

The screws holding the strips in place allow 325 adjustments, enabling the operator to make fine measurements with an accuracy of one-thousandth of an inch.

The inventors said there are two key measurements they looked for: the height of the nose and forehead should be the same, and the eyes should be separated by the width of one eye.

When an imperfection is identified, corrective makeup can be applied to enhance or reduce the feature. The company Max Factor claims that the device helped Max Factor, Sr. understand female faces better.

The Beauty Micrometer was completed in 1932 and built primarily for use in the film industry. According to the Modern Mechanics article, when an actor's face is shown too large their "flaws" are magnified and "glaring distortions" can be created.

The device was intended to solve a perceived problem, and the inventors also envisioned it being used in beauty shops.

However, it did not become popular and did not find widespread use. Only one beauty micrometer is believed to exist. It is on display at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum.

Born in 1872 in what is now Poland, Maximilian Faktorowicz started working in the wig and cosmetics industry at an early age.

After serving in the army, he opened a cosmetics shop near Moscow and soon became the official cosmetologist for the Imperial Russian Grand Opera and even the royal family.

By 1904, concerned about growing anti-Semitic persecution in the Russian Empire, he and his wife decided to move to America with their brother Nathan and uncle Fischel.

The family moved to Ellis Island, where a customs officer shortened their surname from Faktorowicz to Factor.
Factor settled in St. Louis and later Los Angeles, where he hoped to come to the ground floor of the nascent motion picture industry with his custom-made wigs and facial products.

Initially, he set up a shop on South Central Avenue, and advertised the business as "Max Factor's Antiseptic Hair Store".

After founding "Max Factor & Company" in 1909, he soon became a West Coast distributor of Leichner and Minor, two major theatrical makeup manufacturers.

Factor began experimenting with various compounds in an effort to develop suitable makeup for the new film medium.

By 1914, he had perfected the first cosmetic made specifically for motion picture use—a diluted greasepaint in cream form, packaged in a jar, and made in 12 exact-graduation colors. Unlike dramatic cosmetics, it won't crack or cake.

With this major achievement, Max Factor became the rights to cosmetics for film production. Soon, movie stars were eager to sample "Flexible Greasepaint", while filmmakers sought out Factor's human hair wig.

He allowed manufacturers of old western countries to rent wigs on the condition that their sons would be given parts. Boys used to see expensive wigs.

Factor marketed a range of cosmetics to the public during the 1920s, emphasizing that every girl could look like a movie star by using Max Factor cosmetics.

In 1920, Max Factor heeded his son's suggestion, and officially began referring to its products as "make-up". By that time, the term "cosmetics" had been used, as "make-up" was only used in theater or by people of dubious reputation—not something to be used in polite society.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented an Honorary Academy Award to Max Factor in 1929 for his contributions to the film industry. Additionally, Max Factor has been awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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