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THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Weeks, Carl
(December 2, 1876–June 2, 1962)

–cosmetics manufacturer and art collector who had the Salisbury House built—was born in rural Linn County, Iowa, to Charles Weeks, veterinarian and hog breeder, and Laura (Chamberlain) Weeks. Weeks was just two years old when his family loaded their belongings into two covered wagons and headed for Kansas. Over the course of 10 years, they raised cattle and operated a general store and a hotel before heading back to Iowa in 1888, this time settling in Des Moines.

    Carl Weeks, by then 13 years old, went to work for the business owned by his mother's family, Chamberlain Medicine Company, seller of lotions and patent (over-the-counter) medicines. With the family's support, he enrolled at Des Moines/Highland Park Pharmacy School, and passed the examination to become a registered pharmacist in 1893. As a young pharmacy student, Weeks often saved his lunch allowance money to purchase books. His mother recalled, "Carl was a reader and inventor, even as a boy."

    Weeks's first position was in the Green and Bentley Pharmacy in Oskaloosa, followed by the opening of the Red Cross Pharmacy in Centerville. In 1902 he returned to Des Moines and went to work with his brothers Deyet and Leo at the D. Weeks Company, manufacturing patent medicines and face powder. The business grew rapidly, due in large measure to the use of direct mail, a marketing innovation.

    In 1907 Weeks married Edith Van Slyke after a four-year courtship during which he visited her in Europe, where she was studying art. While there, he devoted considerable time to carefully observing a growing Paris market for women's cosmetics.

    The year 1916 marked an entrepreneurial milestone for Weeks. Through the D. Weeks Company, Weeks incorporated the Armand Face Powder Company. Armand's chief product, a unique combination of face powder and cold cream, was mixed with imported Italian talcs and colors and French absolute perfume oils. This new product was rapidly and widely accepted. By 1927 Fortune magazine recognized Armand as the number one manufacturer in U.S. face powder sales. Weeks went on to establish offices in Canada, Mexico, Australia, France, and England.

    Weeks's fortune from his success as a pioneer in the cosmetics manufacturing busi ness allowed him to pursue a passion for art and antiquities, a passion that led to the building of his Des Moines home, Salisbury House. Salisbury House was the re-creation of an English manor in Salisbury, England. Built between 1923 and 1928 at a cost of $1.5 million, the four-story manor had 42 rooms in its 28,000 square feet, set on two acres of gardens and nine acres of virgin woodlands. Carl Weeks, his wife, Edith, and their sons, William, Charles, Evert, and Lafayette, moved into Salisbury House in 1926. Weeks oversaw every construction detail and remarked during its creation, "If this house doesn't look 100 years old the day it is finished, we have failed."

    While Salisbury House was being built, he and his wife traveled the world, amassing a collection of nearly 10,000 pieces of art, antiques, books, and curiosities, including paintings by Joseph Stella, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Anthony Vandyck, and many others. The mansion's library, paneled in 16th-century oak, would grow to hold 2,100 rare volumes of first editions by such authors as D. H. Lawrence, Walt Whitman, and Ernest Hemingway, along with more than 700 letters and documents from royal and historic figures.

    Carl Weeks's passion for art was manifest in his great house and collections, but also in his commitment to arts in the community. He served on the board of trustees of the Edmundson Art Foundation and was a founder of the Des Moines Art Center, Civic Music Association, and Des Moines Community Playhouse.

    Weeks served as a trustee of Drake University for many years and was instrumental in establishing its College of Pharmacy. He chaired the building of Drake Stadium, ensuring that the Drake Relays would not be moved elsewhere. He also served on the board of directors for Iowa Des Moines National Bank (Wells Fargo) for more than 30 years and Equitable of Iowa Insurance Company (ING) for 28 years.

    Weeks's enduring legacy, Salisbury House and Gardens and its vast collection, is open year-round for tours and special events. Salisbury House, now owned by Salisbury House Foundation, annually draws some 30,000 visitors of all ages who experience timeless treasures of art, history, and architecture. Carl Weeks once said, "If you candream it, you can build it," then realized his dreams as a pioneer in the cosmetics industry and as a lifelong supporter of the arts and his community.
Sources See Gordon Adams, "Salisbury House," Iowan 4 (April–May 1956), 36–41, 44, 47; Charles W. Roberts, "The Saga of Salisbury House," Iowan 25 (Spring 1977), 4–26, 48–52; and www.salisburyhouse.org.
Contributor: Mary Beth Hill

Cite as: Hill, Mary Beth. "Weeks, Carl" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 19 October 2017