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Smell & Tell: Helen Keller’s Smelling Session with Perfumer Michel Pasquier


Wednesday December 18, 2019: 6:30pm to 8:45pm


Pittsfield Branch: Program Room


Helen Keller participated in a smelling session with a perfumer in the fall of 1950. The event was described in an article titled “The World Through Three Senses” that Keller wrote for the March 1951 edition of Ladies’ Home Journal. The name of the perfumer was conspicuously absent, which was odd considering the postwar boom in women’s perfumes and the fact that Keller was an avid gardener who adored flowers.

It turns out that Helen Keller didn’t leave the perfumer’s name out of the article—the editor did. Michelle Krell Kydd discovered this after the American Foundation for the Blind launched the first fully accessible digital archive of The Helen Keller Collection in June 2019. The draft of “The World Through Three Senses” wasn’t hidden behind a paywall; it was hidden in plain sight. The perfumer’s name was Michel Pasquier.

Mr. Pasquier was an independent perfumer who compounded fragrances in his lab at 7 West 46th Street in New York City. Keller joined a small group of women in Westport, Connecticut who met with the perfumer and evaluated eight unidentified perfumes, each inspired by a single flower. The women used Pasquier’s “whiff sachets” during the exercise, and tried to guess the name of the flower that inspired each perfume.

We’ll recreate the smelling session experienced by Helen Keller using single floral notes and finished fragrances. supplied by International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF). We’ll also smell Pasquier’s Tobruk perfume (1952) and see a vintage Pasquier gift set that includes the whiff sachets that Helen Keller referenced in “The World Through Three Senses.” Join us for several historic “firsts” at this Smell & Tell.

The Smell and Tell series of art+science programming is led by Michelle Krell Kydd, a trained nose in flavors and fragrance who shares her passion for gastronomy and the perfume arts on Glass Petal Smoke. Smell & Tell builds community through interactions with flavor, fragrance and storytelling. The unique and popular series celebrates its seventh anniversary year at the Ann Arbor District Library and is ongoing.