by Kristin Holt,
What is a hair receiver?
As with all "Dressing Table" accoutrements, Victorians gave family members and close friends items like hair receivers or brush-and-comb sets for their morning toilette.
|Hair Receivers Advertised in The Boston Globe (of Boston, Mass.), Dec 3, 1899.|
Quick Price Comparison:
49c in 1889 is approximately $15 in 2019 (latest date available).
24c in 1889 is approximately $7.50 in 2019 (latest date available).
Our nineteenth century ancestors had their own ideas about a lady’s toilette. (All the “getting pretty” one does in the morning.) You might be familiar with the old-fashioned “one-hundred strokes” of a hairbrush through one’s ankle-length, excruciatingly long 19th century hair. You might know all about the intricate hairstyles Victorian-American ladies twisted and braided and pinned. Oh, and curled. With 19th century curling irons. And augmented with hair that was never theirs to begin with. Let's just say Victorian ladies augmented and padded all sorts of things.
But what to do with the loose hairs in the hairbrush, comb, and clinging like a pestilence to one’s bustle? (If you have long hair like many of our 19th century ancestors before us, you know much HAIR is found by the vacuum and broom... it’s everywhere!)
Hence, ladies needed a place to stash all those loose hairs. Under the carpet won’t count, not even for lazy housekeepers or rich upper-crust Missus who have hired help to sweep up the mess later, Yes, including beneath the boudoir carpet. A lady requires a hair receiver.
Make Your Own, Like a 19th Century Gal
|Hair Receiver Craft Instructions from Perrysburg Journal, July 7, 1876.|
If that style doesn’t appeal to you, here’s another! The writer’s descriptive words makes it possible to visualize the craft without requiring a photograph.
Why stash hair (of all things)?
To use it, of course.
Important 19th century uses of saved human hair:
1. To fill a hair net (or twenty) [known in the day as a ratt or a rat], sewn closed, to fill out one’s own upd0. “It’s mine, naturally. All that luxurious fullness, all mine.”
2. Specifically to stuff pin cushions—why? Because the oils on the hairs within would lubricate the pins each time they’re stored in the cushion, thus helping the pin slide through fabric.
3. To stuff pillows, furniture upholstery, and padded clothing (like football pants)—as human hair was infinitely softer than other substances like straw. More importantly, hair is FREE. And it’s everywhere.
4. Treasured artwork – Hair Embroidery is 3D in appearance and is often framed in a shadow box. Many Victorian fanciful artists won the equivalent of a blue ribbon (then known as PREMIUMS).
5. Hair is so intimate, so personal, that women embroidered handkerchiefs for their soldier sweethearts or husbands to carry over their hearts. (I’m not kidding.) The embroidery would be in his lady’s hair—not ribbon, not dyed thread, but her hair. No matter the shade.
6. When desperate, a beautiful head of hair could be sold. A market for human hair was alive and well throughout the Victorian era, around the world.
A Unique Occupation
Do you recall the blog article I shared with you about the surprisingly LONG list of occupations in the Old American West? Let's add Gray Hair Puller.
Surprised? Do you know more about this fascinating subject?
Please scroll down and comment.
Kristin Holt writes articles about everything nineteenth century American West, and adores inter-connected ideas. This post scratches the surface of Victorian Hair and nineteenth-century grooming practices. Come explore!
Copyright © 2020 Kristin Holt LC