Syma Busiel (Cohen) (1891 - 1990)

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Birthplace: Russia
Death: Died in Chicago, Cook, IL, USA
Managed by: Cindy Padnos
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Syma Busiel (Cohen)

Syma Cohen (*1891 +1990) had registered as early as July 1st, 1913 a cosmetic label in her and her siblings name. “Esther” was the name of her sister, who got married soon after and left the new company. Courage and entrepreneurial spirit of her younger brother Alfred (*1900 +1951) lead to an enormous success of the enterprise in the 1920ies, the company shares belonged equally to him and Syma then. In only 20 years Lady Esther was the leading brand in the United States.

Purchased house designed by David Adler overlooking Lake MI built in 1911 for the Stonehill family (see book called Houses of David Adler (Pierremont) which had been lost to the bank after the crash, form 1930s - to 1960s, and sold it to be the site of a temple. It was torn down in 1962.

Can see correspondance with Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., records, General Correspondence 1935-1958

Corresponded in 1957-59 with Alfred Barr (Director at MoMA NYC)

Donated art works to National Gallery of Art - Sir Peter Paul Rubens (artist) Flemish, 1577 - 1640

The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek, c. 1626

and Diana sculpture Dated 1778 Marble

She donated $$ while residing in Paris in 1980 for th John Anderson Unity Party presidential campaign

She lived in the Drake Hotel in her later years.

She sued her brother's third wife Suzette when Alfred died to invalidate the Will.

From "North Shore Congregation Israel Newsletter June 24, 2005 - History of the Comgregation

We woudl like any photos of the house sometimes known as the Lady Esther Estate that previously occupied the property. Dan already has a

photo from about 1912 when the house was new. The prior owner of the property was a woman named Syma Busiel (formerly Syma Cohen). There are lots of stories about her prior to 1961, but thereafter she drops from sight. Dan has discovered that in the late ‘60’s she spent time in Athens and that in 1979, she had an address of 28 East 70th Street, New York City. anyone have any knowledge about this company? Feel free to contact Dan directly at 847-835-2743 or

Here is a Chicago Tribune article about the disposition of the furniture from her estate: FEATURES Wood Tale By Lindsey Novak, a free-lance writer | April 16, 1995 Answering an ad in the Chicago Tribune, Scott A. Brainerd, a Chicago attorney with no engineering, architectural or design experience, decided to take a chance. For $2,000, he bought two tons of English walnut originally imported from Europe by Syma Busiel (former owner of Lady Esther Cosmetics) for her estate in Glencoe. The estate, which was designed by architect David Adler, was built in 1910 and torn down in 1962. The nearly unidentifiable wood lay in storage for almost 80 years, scattered in hundreds of pieces.

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Syma Busiel's Timeline

February 21, 1891
Age 6
Chicago, IL, USA

With her mother, sisters Esther and Ida, and two brothers, Abraham (Otto) and Simon.

January, 1900
Age 8

The 1900 census shows her as Sadie Cohen, born in 1890.

Age 18

Syma and her sisters worked as department store salesladies

Age 21
- 1940
Age 38

Syma marketing Lady Esther cosmetics

- 1939
Age 45
Chicago, IL, USA

Designed by Albert Kahn, it was a fine specimen of Art Deco manufacturing plants. The building still exists (although it is paneled over) and is for sale for $2.5 Million -- or you could lease it for $500,000 a year.

The facility is listed in the 1946 (8th Edition) of Industrial Research Laboratories of the United States, published by the National Academy of Sciences. The chief chemist is listed as Melvin A. Goldberg.

Lady Esther became one of the largest cosmetics companies in the United States. There was a Lady Esther Radio hour, and many other shows were sponsored. Full page ads for products appeared in publications such as Life Magazine. Vintage Lady Esther products are still sold on e-Bay, and Lee Pharmaceuticals in California still produces the famous Lady Esther 4-Purpose Cream (it cleanses, moisturizes, softens and serves as a makeup base). Available on line in 4 oz jars for as little as $15, ranging up to over $20.

Age 57
June 20, 1990
Age 99
Chicago, Cook, IL, USA