It seemed like an unassuming file box until Arnie Goldstein opened it.

Goldstein, who was helping his friend in Redondo Beach clean out her garage for a yard sale, said he was in awe when he realized the file box was filled with letters dated during the years of World War II.

“The first thing I said was, ‘Oh my god, this is history,’” Goldstein said. “I sat there and said, ‘Do you know what you have here?’ This is incredible stuff to find after all these years.”

The letters were the back-and-forth correspondence of David Factor — son of renowned Hollywood make-up artist Max Factor — and his distant relatives in Poland. Those letters were not the only notable items found in this Redondo Beach garage. Goldstein also found many other relics of old Hollywood dating back to the 1920s, many of them connected to Max Factor, including promotional materials, document negatives, signed letters and unpublished memoirs.

Goldstein, who is also the owner of mailbox rental company Postal Solutions in Torrance, said his friend in Redondo Beach was the daughter of a facilities manager at Max Factor’s studio. When the Los Angeles studio closed down, the manager stored leftover items in his garage instead of throwing them away. The facilities manager passed away about five years ago, Goldstein said, and the items have been stored untouched in his garage for 27 years.

(The Redondo Beach resident requested she and her father not be named in this article for privacy reasons.)

“The whole collection’s a history of the company going back to the early days,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein’s friend Stephen Woo, a Torrance resident and president of Virtu-All Technologies Inc., volunteered to go through the items and identify them.

“They brought over this vanload of boxes,” Woo said. “A lot of it was junk—they didn’t throw anything away.”

“There might be more stuff, we just can’t find it,” he added. “Her garage is filled with stuff.”

Woo and Goldstein say they are not yet sure what to do with the found items but have been consulting with various other sources about the decision.

Woo said Max Factor coined the term “make-up,” wording that didn’t always have a glamorous reputation. Max Factor, who began had first begun making a name for himself in the cosmetician world around 1914, improved upon theatrical make-up that often cracked and dried by making products that were of higher quality. He later became the make-up artist of the stars, working with actresses such as Joan Crawford and Judy Garland.

He also inspired a public interest in make-up, particularly among women, and marketed make-up to the general public.

“Make-up was only used by actors and prostitutes,” Goldstein said. “He [Max Factor] introduced it to the public through drug stores and they had to teach women how to apply it. Hard to believe today, huh?”

“He made the stars,” Woo said. “People came to him because he was a make-up artist of the stars. He created that look—if it wasn’t for him women wouldn’t wear make-up the way they do today. He created (that look of) lipstick, rouge.”

Woo said he has always had an interest in the entertainment industry — and previously has worked as an actor in theater. He said he first heard about the Max Factor collection Goldstein discovered when the two friends were chatting one day about their favorite old TV shows after one of them brought up “I Love Lucy.”

One of the items discovered was a piece of Max Factor’s signature invention, The Beauty Calibrator — a device that was attached to a woman’s head to measure her facial features. The rest of The Beauty Calibrator—the only one of its kind—is on display at The Hollywood Museum. There is also a Max Factor Museum in Hollywood on Highland Boulevard, in the location of the studio. Max Factor is now a branch owned by Proctor and Gamble Co.

Goldstein said the facilities manager who stored these items in his garage probably took what was leftover in the building after Proctor and Gamble bought the company and moved many items to their Kentucky location. Goldstein said he thinks the facilities manager, who he has never met, most likely stored these items to keep them from being thrown away.

“He was a unique person,” Goldstein  said. “He was really their go-to guy. He was in charge of all of their facilities.”

Max Factor was of Polish Jewish decent, and as Woo looked through the letters his son David wrote to various different family members in Poland during World War II, he realized that David Factor had probably never even met most of these relatives before and that many of them were distant cousins.

The letters began before the holocaust, and David Factor asked about the family and gave advice about how his relatives could start up their own businesses. Many of the letters were written in English, but some are in Polish or Yiddish. Woo said that during the war the letters begin to take on a more serious tone.

In some of the letters David Factor writes of sending his family money. As the correspondence went on, some letters were returned to David unopened. Woo speculates this could be a sign that some of David Factor’s family members may have died. He also said that the letters were also commonly opened and read by censors.

Woo held up an envelope with a stamp on it labeled, “Examined by 4447.” The letter had been returned, sealed, to its sender.

“During the war there was no talk about the extermination camps in the media or anywhere,” Woo said. “Nobody supposedly knew about it. They knew about concentration camps but no extermination camps. They didn’t get into details in the letter they had to couch their words. They were afraid they would be censored.”

Woo and Goldstein have not opened the sealed letters in the collection because they want to consult with other parties interested in the collection before doing so. There are about 80 letters total.

“I bet this is probably the most extensive collection of personal letters during the holocaust,” Woo said. “I can’t imagine anyone saving everything and collecting that much.”

Those interested in contacting Woo about the Max Factor items may contact him at