Vintage Diner Perfume and Napkin Dispenser

Retro Staff Comments

A common sight on diner tables since the 1930s has most definitely been the iconic napkin dispenser. Something you may not have seen are some of the variations on the napkin dispenser theme. In order to maximize profits while utilizing the small space that was available for napkins and condiments led to the invention of clever combination vendors, like the perfume and napkin dispenser machine.


Perfume Vending Machine

An innovative space saver as well as a clever way to maximize profits, the Perfume and Napkin Dispenser was a common feature on diner tables of the 1950s.


This machine was purchased at a flea market in Maine. It measures 11.75” tall by 8″ wide by 6″ deep and dates from around the late ‘50s to early ’60s. We don’t know who the manufacturer was. It has a metal base and is encased in hard plastic. In addition to having paper napkins at the ready, this dispenser offered 4 different scents of perfume, so ladies could freshen up while out for the evening at the local diner. In this case, the imported perfumes included were Evening in Paris, Virtuoso, Palomar and Breathless, but the perfumes offered could vary. The plexiglass sign attached to the back of the dispenser could easily be switched out to feature other scents.


Perfume and napkin dispenser

From the 1940s through early 1960s, the combination perfume and napkin dispenser was a popular sales gimmick placed on diner tables.


Perfume Vending Machine

Vending six ampules or vials of perfume per cardboard tube for 25 cents. There was a choice of four different perfume scents.


Diner Napkin Perfume Vendor

Napkin dispensers were positioned on either side of the perfume dispenser, making this a machine with a dual purpose.


There are two levers; one for making your selection and one for dispensing the perfume. For 25 cents, a cardboard tube would be dispensed. Within the tube were 4 individual plastene vials, or “bottlettes”. The ends of the vial would be broken off and the single application of scent could be used. There are also napkin dispensers on either side of the machine. One of the other variations we have seen on the napkin dispenser/vending machine is one that we have also featured in our blog—the Jewel Madam X Napkin Dispenser which, for a penny, would dispense fortunes in addition to napkins.

Let us know if you have come across some interesting variations on the napkin vending machines. We’d love to hear about it!

And if you’re interested in picking up your own napkin dispenser with a cool retro look, consider the selection at

Last updated: May 15, 2015
Filed under: Vintage Finds Tagged with: 1950s, diner, vintage items