Max Factor, Sr., born Maximilian Faktorowicz, was a successful Jewish businessman, cosmetician, chemist, wigmaker. Founder of cosmetics giant Max Factor & Company, he largely developed the modern cosmetics industry and popularised the term make-up in noun form based on the verb.
Factor was born in ?ód?, Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, to Abraham Factorowitz and Cecilia Tandowsky. His mother died in 1874 and his father, a hard-working grocer, rabbi or textile mill worker, could not afford a formal education for his four children. By the age of eight years old, Factor was working as an assistant to a dentist/pharmacist. At the age of nine he was apprenticed to a ?ód??s wigmaker and cosmetician. The experience gained here enabled him to gain a position at Anton of Berlin, a leading hairstylist and make-up creator. By the age of fourteen he was working at Korpo, in Moscow a wigmaker and cosmetician to the Imperial Russian Grand Opera. He spent the years from eighteen to twenty two undertaking his compulsory military service in the Russian Army where he served in the Hospital Corps.
Upon his discharge he opened his own shop in the town of Ryazan’ near Moscow, selling hand-made rouges, creams, fragrances, and wigs. He became well-known when a travelling theatrical troupe wore Factor?s cosmetics to perform for Russian nobility. The Russian nobility appointed Factor the official cosmetic expert for the royal family and the Imperial Russian Grand Opera, an honor which led to him being closely monitored. He married Esther Rosa and by 1904 they had produced three children, Freda, Cecilia and Davis. By 1904 concerned about the increasing anti-Jewish persecution developing in Russia he and his wife decided to follow his brother Nathan and uncle Fischel to America. Worried that he would not be released from his royal service, he arranged with the assistance of a friend to take a rest cure at Carlsbad. After meeting up with his family they travelled in the steerage class on board the S.S. Moltke III and were processed at Ellis Island on February 25, 1904; he had $40,000 in his possession. Upon arrival his name was misspelt by the custom inspector as Factor.
Factor made a new start in St. Louis, Missouri. He sold his rouges and creams at the 1904 World?s Fair, operating under the newly re-spelled name Max Factor. Unfortunately his partner in the venture stole all of his stock and the profits. With assistance from his brother and uncle, Factor recovered and opened a barber shop. On 17 March 1906 his wife collapsed and died from a brain haemorrhage. Anxious to provide a mother for his four children he married Huma “Helen” Sradkowska on 15 August 1906. Despite the birth of Louis the marriage was short lived and ended in a prolonged court battle, the result of which Factor obtained custody of all of his children.