Old West Barber Shop Haircuts

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Videos I shared in previous articles in this blog series (about Victorian-American and Old West Barber Shops) showed barbers using steamed, hot towels. Now it’s time to focus on Old West Barber Shop Haircuts. Are you half as surprised as I am that barbers found an ingenious way to manage steamed towels and a hot water dispenserheated by gas–in the nineteenth century?

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Kristin Holt | Old West Barber Shop Haircuts. Barber's brass towel steamer and hot water dispenser, heated by gas. Currently for sale on eBay.

Barber’s brass towel steamer and hot water dispenser, heated by gas. Currently for sale on eBay.

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Kristin Holt | Old West Barber Shop Haircuts. "You're only as good as your last haircut." ~ Unknown. Styled by Kristin Holt with a stock photograph.

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Vintage Chairs

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In his book titled Barber Instructor and Toilet Manual (published 1900 and now in public domain), Frank C. Bridgeford explains the necessity of a good, up-to-date barber’s chair in making a good first impression (note: transcription is precisely as it appears in the original text with typos, 19th-century spellings, a missing period at the end of a sentence and all):

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General impressions go along way in this world. A man may have some particular hobby and imagine, for instance, that he is not being properly shaved if the razor is not held in a certain position, or travels in a specified direction, or is not stropped a certain number of times between the first and second goings over. He may have some particular idea upon some particular subject which he uses as a guage of the grade of barber shop he is in, but such a man is the exception and not the rule. The average man has a guage which he applies, but you will find that nine times out of ten his eye rests first upon the barber’s chair. If he sees an old fashioned, uncomfortable chair, a general feeling of dis satisfaction creeps over him  He begins to feel that the soap you use is not good, that your razors pull and that your after-shaving preparation is not pleasant. All this before he puth himself under your care. The sight of the old fashioned chair starts him off in a critical, dissatisfied frame of mind. But if he sees a modern, up-to-date, bright, comfortable looking chair, the result is just the opposite. He does not look for trouble as not in a criticising mood. Of course the soap is good, of course the razor is perfect, and the after-shaving lotion just suits him. He starts in on the right tract and there’s everything in the start one gets always. [sic]

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~ Barber Instructor and Toilet Manual (published 1900) by Frank C. Bridgeford

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Kristin Holt | Old West Barber Shop Haircuts. Vintage 1880's Koken barber chair . for sale on ebay

Vintage 1880s Koken barber chair, currently for sale on ebay

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Kristin Holt | OIld West Barber Shop Haircuts. Patent for improvement in Barber and Dentist Chairs. File Date June 6, 1876. Source: Google.

Patent for improvement in Barber and Dentist Chairs. File Date June 6, 1876. Source: Google.

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J.N. Hooper's Barber Shop. Image: Joe Mabel [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Recreation of J.N. Hooper’s Barber Shop (Seattle circa 1880s) at Museum of History and Industry. Image: Joe Mabel [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

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When fancy-dancy newly tooled Barber Shop Chairs weren’t available, barbers apparently offered a pedestal to allow their clients to recline on a standard chair. Nothing but the best for Old West Barber Shop Haircuts.

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Kristin Holt | Old West Barber Shop Haircut. Vintage Etching (stylized with frame to match article decoration) of vintage barber shop, with standard chair and man reclining to be shaved. Note the high foot stool allowing the man to recline (sort of).line-art-barber-shop-shave-clients-feet-on-pedestal

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Kristin Holt | Old West Barber Shop Hair Cut. Patent for Barber's Foot Rest, filed April 30, 1873. Inventor: Ffice Robert W. Archer. Source: Google.

Patent for Barber’s Foot Rest, filed April 30, 1873. Inventor: Robert W. Archer. Source: Google.

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Kristin Holt | Old West Barber Shop Haircut. Patent from inventor Hans A. Schneekloth for a barber chair with foot rest. Date: August 15, 1890. Image: Google.

Patent from inventor Hans A. Schneekloth for a barber chair with foot rest. Date: August 15, 1890. Image: Google.

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At Home Alternative

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Barber shops existed in well-established towns and even in the Old West… in town. But what about the isolated frontiersman? Or the rancher who lived far out of town? Haircuts became less than necessary, and men often grew their hair overlong.

Pioneers were nothing if not resourceful, and though mother had no formal barber training, she’d do what needed doing (or Pa would) and cut the boys’ hair. Someone would return the favor and cut Pa’s hair. Scissors, barber combs, and barber clippers were for sale in the late 19th Century mail-order catalogs. Scissors would be sharpened with a whetstone, same as knives, and with care, would last a good long while.  Thus, another view of Old West Barber Shop Haircuts.

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Kristin Holt | Old West Barber Shop Haircut. Image of Barber's Sheers and Scissors Sharpener, for sale in the Sears Roebuck and Co. Catalogue, 1897.

Barbers Shears and Scissors Sharpener, for sale in the Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalogue, 1897.

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… or not…

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Mothers have always been targeted by marketers…and haircuts for their children are no exception.

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Kristin Holt | Old West Barber Shop Haircuts. A department store advertises "barbers for boys" on the mezzanine floor of their store. Advertised in The San Francisco Call of San Francisco, California, on July 5, 1896.o-call-on-july-5-1896

Barbers for boys at the 20th century department store, The Emporium, as advertised in The San Francisco Call on July 5, 1896.

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Tools of the Trade

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Evidently, homesteaders on the frontier and townspeople had access to purchasing quality barber tools in the Old West. At least by the time catalogues came into being.

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Left Hand Barbers sheers. 1895 Montgomery Ward Spring and Summer. Additional Barber Sheers

Left Hand Barbers sheers. 1895 Montgomery Ward Spring and Summer. Additional Barber Sheers.

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Kristin Holt | Old West Barber Shop Haircuts. Hair Clippers Patent, original from 1892, renewed in 1894. Inventor: Joseph K. Priest of Nashua, New Hampshire. Source: Google.

Hair Clippers Patent, original from 1892, renewed in 1894. Inventor: Joseph K. Priest of Nashua, New Hampshire. Source: Google.

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Kristin Holt | Old West Barber Shop Haircuts. Part 1 of 4) Toilet Hair Clippers for sale in the 1895 Montgomery Ward Spring and Summer Catalog.

1 of 4) Toilet Hair Clippers for sale in the 1895 Montgomery Ward Spring and Summer

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Kristin Holt | Old West Barber Shop Haircuts. Part 2 of 4) Toilet Hair Clippers for sale in the 1895 Montgomery Ward Spring and Summer Catalog.

2 of 4) Toilet Hair Clippers from 1895 Montgomery Ward Spring and Summer

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Kristin Holt | Old West Barber Shop Haircuts. Part 3 of 4) Toilet Hair Clippers for sale in the 1895 Montgomery Ward Spring and Summer Catalog.

3 of 4) Toilet Hair Clippers for sale in the 1895 Montgomery Ward Spring and Summer

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Kristin Holt | Old West Barber Shop Haircuts. Part 4 of 4) Toilet Hair Clippers for sale in the 1895 Montgomery Ward Spring and Summer Catalog.

4 of 4) Toilet Hair Clippers from 1895 Montgomery Ward Spring and Summer

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Related Articles

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Updated September 2019
Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt LC