Cosmetics entrepreneur Mary E. Cobb (1852-1902) is credited with introducing the modern manicure to the United States. She learned the skill sometime after marrying Dr. Joseph Parker Pray, a podiatrist and cosmetics manufacturer, and opened her first parlor in 1878 adjoining his practice at 69 West 23rd Street in New York City.
After years of highly publicized proceedings, Cobb and Pray divorced in 1884 and she reverted to her maiden name, under which she operated her fashionable Manhattan parlors (also on West 23rd Street) and outposts in Chicago and London. Cobb developed and sold her own line of cosmetics, which included Bran-u Nail Powder polish, Pan-za hand cream, Manicure Eko soap, and Cherri-lip, a blush tint for nails, lips, and cheeks. In her pamphlet "How to be your own manicure" (1884), she described herself as the "originator of the manicure art in America"--a title her ex-husband competitively claimed in his own advertisements.