Antique 19th Century barber pole, currently for sale on eBay.

Antique 19th Century barber pole, currently for sale on eBay.

SIGN OF THE BARBER POLE

A barber’s pole is a type of sign used by barbers to signify the place or shop where they perform their craft. The trade sign is, by a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, a staff or pole with a helix of colored stripes (often red and white in many countries, but usually red, white, and blue in the United States). [source]

Old Wooden Barber Pole. Image: Pinterest.

Old Wooden Barber Pole. Image: Pinterest.

The standard symbol of a striped pole to alert passersby to the purpose of the shop was generated from general illiteracy of the Middle Ages. Even as the Victorian Era (with very high literacy rates) brought Euro-Americans west in North America, the symbol and “sign” persisted and remained a common fixture into the early- to mid-twentieth century.

“Because of the general illiteracy of the populace, early store owners used descriptive emblems or figures to advertise their shops’ wares; for example, barber poles advertise barber shops, show globes advertised apothecaries and the three gold balls represent pawn shops.” [source]

VICTORIAN-ERA OLD WEST BARBER ADVERTISEMENTS

Smooth Shave ad. Atchison Daily Patriot of Atchison, Kansas on July 25, 1870

Atchison Daily Patriot of Atchison, Kansas on July 25, 1870.

Helmer's barber shop ad. The Leavenworth Times of Leavenworth, Kansas, on March 30, 1870

The Leavenworth Times of Leavenworth, Kansas, on March 30, 1870.

Close Shave. OK Barber Shop. The Daily Kansas Tribune of Lawrence, Kansas on January 5, 1870

The Daily Kansas Tribune of Lawrence, Kansas on January 5, 1870.

Barber Shop ad. Marysville Locomotive of Marysville, Kansas on January 7, 1871

Marysville Locomotive of Marysville, Kansas on January 7, 1871.

Barber and Hair Cutter. Razors keen. The Holt County Sentinel of Oregon, Missouri on August 4, 1871

The Holt County Sentinel of Oregon, Missouri on August 4, 1871.

Barber brags he can shave 2 days ahead…

SHAVE 2 DAYS GROWTH. The Indiana Progress of Indiana, Pennsylvania on February 12, 1874

The Indiana Progress of Indiana, Pennsylvania on February 12, 1874.

WHAT DID OLD WEST BARBERS CHARGE?

Shave and a hair cut, two bits?

Barber prices. Fort Scott Daily Monitor of Fort Scott, Kansas, on March 8, 1870

Barber prices. Fort Scott Daily Monitor of Fort Scott, Kansas, on March 8, 1870.

$0.10 of 1870 dollars would be worth: $1.82 in 2015 (latest year available)

$0.20 of 1870 dollars would be worth: $3.64 in 2015

$0.25 of 1870 dollars would be worth: $4.55 in 2015

$0.40 of 1870 dollars would be worth: $7.27 in 2015

~ www.DaveManuel.com Inflation Calculator

CHINESE SHAVE

Chinese shave. Part 1. Osage County Chronicle of Burlingame, Kansas on September 6, 1872

Chinese shave. Part 1. Osage County Chronicle of Burlingame, Kansas on September 6, 1872.

Chinese shave. Part 2. Osage County Chronicle of Burlingame, Kansas on September 6, 1872

Chinese shave. Part 2. Osage County Chronicle of Burlingame, Kansas on September 6, 1872.

$0.02 of 1872 dollars would be worth: $0.39 in 2015 (latest year available)

~ www.DaveManuel.com Inflation Calculator

OLD WEST BARBERS WERE MEN (And females in the business caused quite a stir!)

Detroit has female barber. The Emporia Weekly News. Emporia, Kansas on January 21, 1870

Detroit has female barber, published in The Emporia Weekly News of Emporia, Kansas on January 21, 1870.

Four Girl Barbers. Part 1. The Sedalia Weekly Bazoo of Sedalia, Missouri, on October 23, 1883

Four Girl Barbers, Part 1. The Sedalia Weekly Bazoo of Sedalia, Missouri, on October 23, 1883.

Four Girl Barbers. Part 2. The Sedalia Weekly Bazoo of Sedalia, Missouri, on October 23, 1883

Four Girl Barbers, Part 2. The Sedalia Weekly Bazoo of Sedalia, Missouri, on October 23, 1883.

Four Girl Barbers. Part 3. The Sedalia Weekly Bazoo of Sedalia, Missouri, on October 23, 1883

Four Girl Barbers, Part 3. The Sedalia Weekly Bazoo of Sedalia, Missouri, on October 23, 1883.

THE BARBERS’ TRADE

In a book titled Barber Instructor and Toilet Manual, published in 1900 (now in the public domain) by Frank C. Bridgeford, the author cites reasons why the the Barber’s choice of professions is a life calling:

There are few trades offering better inducements than that of the barber. Everywhere in the civilized wo[r]ld he readily finds employment. It is not at all likely that the barbers trade will to any great extent ever be interfered with by machinery. The barber commands a good salary and steady imployment. He is constantly surrounded by the current news of the day and always has time to read and keep abreast with the progress of the world. Barbers wages in the United States run from ten to eighteen dollars a week, owing to locality and other conditions. [sic] (all punctuation, spelling, and formatting directly transcribed from the historic book)

~ Barber Instructor and Toilet Manual, 1900, by Frank C. Bridgeford

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$10 of 1900 dollars would be worth: $285.71 in 2015 (latest year available), per week salary, = roughly $1142.00 per month

$18 of 1900 dollars would be worth: $514.29 in 2015 (latest year available), per week salary, = roughly $2057.00 per month

~ www.DaveManuel.com Inflation Calculator

Up Next!

Victorian Shaving, Part 1:

Straight-Blade Razors wielded by Barbers and by Men at Home

Victorian Shaving Part 1Victorian Shaving, Part 1

then….

Victorian Shaving, Part 2:

Safety Razors wielded by Barbers and Men at Home (the competition was fierce!)

Victorian Shaving Part 2Victorian Shaving, Part 2

.

Freckles, Complexions, Cosmetics, and Victorian Beauty Concoctions False Beauty Spots Old West Bath House Old West Bath Tubs Hair Indicative of Character Styling Ladies’ Hair; American 19th Century Victorian Ladies’ Hairdressers Victorian Era Men’s Hairstyles Old West Barber Shop Haircuts Victorian Shaving, Part 2 Victorian Shaving, Part 1 Victorian Hair Augmentation Victorian Curling Irons L-O-N-G Victorian Hair Mail-Order Catalogs: Timeline & Truth Mail-Order Catalogs in the Old West

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Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt, LC
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