The Work of Lydia
After graduating from college in 1921, OLeary
wanted to work for a New York City department
store. But despite her qualifications, stores
rejected her from front-counter jobs because of
her blemish. She settled for a job painting small
cards in a back room.
While painting an iris on a bridge scorecard one
day, she painted one petal too dark. So she touched
it up with a lighter shade that concealed the
dark purple perfectly.
She wondered if she could camouflage her birthmark
as easily. She grabbed the oil paint, covered
her birthmark, and looked in the mirror. No more
OLeary bought some ingredients at a drug
store and began experimenting with water, zinc
powder and glycerine. She eventually teamed up
with a chemist to explore other possible mixtures.
After a few weeks, they tested their new formula.
But every time OLeary smiled, the lotion
cracked. So they made the lotion more pliable,
but it rubbed off easily. Months later, they finally
found the right paste that stayed on and blended
OLeary applied for a patent for her new
makeup, but was denied because it wasnt
clear how her invention was different from other
makeup foundations already patented. OLeary
appealed the decision, arguing her foundation
was more concealing than other cosmetics. After
she used Covermark© on her birthmark in front
of astonished federal judges, the court agreed
and granted OLearys invention a patent
Lydia O'Leary's invention is still in production
today by Covermark (www.covermark.com).
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