Ref NoGB1752.EFL/IC
Alt Ref NoOFR:
LevelSub collection
TitleIcilma Co. Ltd
DescriptionORIGINS AND EARLY DEVELOPMENT

In 1898 the founder of Icilma, Stephen Armitage, a civil engineer from Yorkshire, acquired permission from the government to exploit a natural mineral water spring located next to Lake Mouïlah in Port-aux-Poules, Algeria, which had been discovered in the 1890s by oil prospectors. Initially he planned to build a health spa resort near the spring, but this idea was abandoned due to the marshy terrain and presence of mosquitoes. Two small hotels were built at the side of the lake, however, and a thermal establishment (with plunges, sprays, baths, and douches) was created.

As the health resort became too difficult a plan to implement, Armitage instead moved to Paris in 1899, establishing himself as a Toilet Specialist and setting up a salon at 5, Avenue de l'Opéra. He sold bottles of the mineral water as a beauty aid as well as a range of other products, including face cream, cold cream, dentifrice paste, hair lotion, and soap. He introduced the brand name Icilma, apparently combining two Arabic words 'icil' meaning flows and 'mha' meaning water.

By 1900 the salon had closed and Stephen Armitage had moved to England; he would later claim "France was not ready for Icilma." Armitage moved his operation to 142 Gray's Inn Road, London, and named the business 'Nature's Remedy Company.' The trademarks of Amel and Selama were also established around this time. The total staff of this establishment did not exceed a dozen and Armitage was works manager and chemist. He also designed the machinery that created the Icilma cream.

It was whilst in London that Icilma Fluor Cream was introduced by the company, the 'fluor' referring to the Calcium Fluoride present in the spring water. The fluor name was eventually dropped, except on the labels of the pots themselves, and the product was referred to simply as Icilma Cream. The product was a non-greasy cream which was capable of holding a substantial proportion of Icilma mineral water as well as being suited for toilet purposes. Stephen Armitage's brother, Dr. J. Auriol Armitage, served as Chairman of the company around this time and it was his responsibility to ensure the product was suitable for the skin. The cream's perfume was chosen after consultation with fragrance experts from the Riviera.

Mr. L.H. Hartland-Swann, who would go on to become Managing Director and then Chairman of the company, joined Icilma in 1905. Two years later, after outgrowing the Gray's Inn Road site, the company moved to larger premises at 14a Rosebery Avenue, London. As there was no office room at this address Stephen Armitage purchased a mansion flat on the same road for the purposes of establishing an office. During the company's time at Rosebery Avenue, wet shampoo (Icilma Shampoo Sachets) and dry shampoo (Icilma Hair Powder) were introduced. Sales increased, and more space had to be taken on the same street (these were underground chambers). In response to the growing business a real factory had to be purchased; in September 1911 Icilma moved to a factory site in King's Road, St. Pancras. Stephen Armitage died in June 1912.

In 1919 the International Icilma Trading Company Limited was incorporated to carry on business as manufacturers of toilet preparations.

Icilma Bouquet Face Powder was launched in 1920; it was a sister product to the cream and contained the same bouquet perfume.

ACQUISITION: LEVER BROTHERS AND UNILEVER 1922-1966
In 1922 Lever Brothers acquired Icilma. On 30 Sep 1929 the company's name was shortened to the Icilma Company Ltd. At this time products sold included Icilma cream, Icilma flesh-tinted cream, shampoo sachets, hair powder, nail polish powder, cold cream, hair lotion, tooth powder, face powder, brilliantine, talcum powder, lipstick and several varieties of fragranced soap. In addition the company continued to sell bottles of mineral water in standard, large and pocket-sized bottles. A range of men's toiletries was added in around the 1930s, including Coro-shave shaving cream, Coro-creem hair cream, Coro-fix hair dressing and Cordenta dental plate cleaner.

After Unilever was formed in 1930 there was rationalisation of the toiletry manufacturing concerns which were formerly subsidiaries of Lever Brothers.

Icilma became subject to this reorganisation. When in 1938 the lease of the St. Pancras premises expired, the company was transferred to the Isleworth factory site of A&F Pears.

During the Second World War the sales side of the Icilma range was merged with that of A&F Pears including at this time Coroshave, Icilma shampoos, Icilma vanishing cream, cold cream, flesh tinted rouge cream and face powder. In 1950 the cold cream, face powder and flesh-tinted rouge cream were withdrawn from sale, and the range was redressed and renamed the Poem cosmetics range of 'beauty aids by Icilma.' This range included tinted foundation, face powder, lipstick and cleansing cold cream. However, when in 1953 the marketing of Icilma creams and shampoo was transferred to Pepsodent, the Poem line was discontinued and Icilma shampoo, Icilma vanishing cream and Icilma Poem tinted foundation cream were the remaining products sold. Sales were declining as a result, according to the Pepsodent Sales Division, of their previous connection to the Poem range, and in 1954 the decision was taken to gradually wind down production and sales. By the end of 1956 production of the shampoo and tinted foundation cream had ceased, although these products continued to be sold alongside the vanishing cream.

Icilma products were withdrawn from sale from 1 July 1967, although stocks had been running low all over the country since December the previous year. In the first seven months of 1967 over 470 letters were received by the company from consumers expressing disappointment regarding the withdrawal of the brand.

Records in EFL/IC date from the time that the marketing of Icilma products was transferred to A & F Pears Ltd in 1939. For Icilma material prior to this period see the Lever Brothers Ltd collection, LBL. Further post 1939 Icilma records can be found with Pepsodent Ltd sales and marketing material (EFL/PP/4) and in the A & F Pears collection (AFP).
Date1917-1952
Access StatusOpen
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