During the year 1885 in Louisville, Kentucky, John Vashe Pilcher created the JV Pilcher Company, manufacturing cuff links, garment fasteners, and buttons. JV Pilcher's nephew, John Francis Babbitt, would play a key role in the J V Pilcher Company's compact case manufacturing business.
J V Pilcher's first cases were based on Babbitt's first patent filed in January 1926. The design allowed for the assembly of the case without having to solder or rivet any parts. This would have meant a cheap manufacturing process.
On June 21 1933 JV Pilcher died, passing his business to the control of his wife Lucy together with John Babbitt, who became vice-president as well as General Manager Metal Specialities (including compact cases). By this time, even at the depths of The Great Depression, the future of the company was becoming increasingly tied to the success of its compact manufacturing business. In fact, it is a commentary on human nature that during the Depression when so much of the economy was doing so badly, that the cosmetics industry did comparatively well. When all around you are feeling bad, put on makeup!
With the return to normalcy in late 1945, the company returned to its pre-war compact manufacturing business. Packaging bore the simple words 'Pilcher since 1885' and sometimes with the tag line "...if it's beautifully perfect and perfectly beautiful...it's by Pilcher". Cases and puffs were typically marked with the single word 'Pilcher'.
After the war there was a real convergence in the look and feel of American compacts and, other than the brand, it is often difficult to determine which particular company made any particular case. Unlike The Elgin American brand, Volupte, Majestic and Evans who all went on to produce some remarkable novelty compacts after the war, this was not achieved by J V Pilcher. The reason is probably related to the company's ageing management. Lucy Pilcher clung to the position of Chairman of The Board and this continued until her death in 1951, at the age of eighty. John Babbitt, at the time, was almost sixty and there was no one to carry on the Pilcher tradition. It is no surprise, therefore, to see that The J V Pilcher Manufacturing Company was sold in 1953 to become part of a tool-manufacturing group. The result of this sale was that compact case manufacturing ended, forever, for both the company as well as for Louisville. See "Compacts by Vashe and Pilcher - Once more famous than Cassius Clay - and both from Louisville". Collecting Vintage Compacts. Retrieved 2015-10-19.