Saturday, April 19, 2014

Black Barbers and the 1850 Kentucky Census


Well, today I finally finished going through all of the Kentucky counties in the 1850 census in my search for African American barbers. I did this for several reasons. First, I wanted to see where these men were primarily located. Knowing where they were will hopefully help me narrow down my search for even more of their newspaper advertisements. Second, I wanted to know what kind of property values they owned. Unfortunately, the 1850 census only gives real estate values. To get personal property values, one needs to search the 1860 census. Third, the 1850 census was the first census available that actually listed free persons' occupations. I am sure that in this census there were free men of color who were barbers but were either given a generic "laborer" for their occupation or were left totally blank for their profession. That is how it goes though, one just has to work with what one has.

There were a few neat things that turned up in my census search that I thought I'd share:

The oldest barber was 73 years old. His name was Doctor Perkins and he barbered in Augusta (Bracken County). He owned $400 in real estate.

The youngest, Seward Johnson, was 13. He was located in the 7th Ward of Louisville and was in either in the household or barber shop of Andrew Johnson, a 51 year old barber and possibly his father. It was interesting that Seward Johnson's occupation was given as the census form only asks for the occupations of males 15 years old and up. Other young barbers included: 16 year old Peter Mallery in Samuel A. Oldham's Lexington household; also in Lexington 17 year old Robert Taylor; 15 year old John Burney in Frankfort; 15 year old John Wilson and 17 year old Henry Hutchinson in Maysville; and, 17 year old Zachariah Mitchell in Bowling Green.

Not surprisingly, barbers were located in Kentucky's cities and towns. After all that is where the greatest customers were to be found. Having a barber shop in some rural outpost would just not have been good business sense. Suspected towns and cities such as Louisville (47 barbers), Lexington (9), and Frankfort (12) had the most barbers. Although Frankfort was less populated than Lexington, it likely had a few more barbers due to the fact that it was the state capital, and thus had a ready population that needed barbering services. Maysville had 8 barbers. Most other towns and cities had only a hand full of barbers. Danville (2), Augusta (1), Princeton (1), Hopkinsville (1), Cynthiana (1), Henderson (1), Nicholasville (1), Covington (2), Smithland (2), Paducah (1), Russellville (1), Harrodsburg (1), Shelbyville (2), Georgetown (4), Bowling Green (2), and Versailles (3). If I count correctly, that is 102 Kentucky African American barbers.

45 of the barbers were listed as "mulatto," while 57 were described as "black."

20 barbers owned real estate for a total combined wealth of $19,600. The average barber real estate owner thus owned $980. The wealthiest barber was 55 year old Louisvillian David Graves, who owned $4000 in real estate. These figures are almost certainly incomplete, as wealthy Louisville barber Washington Spradling and prosperous Lexington barber Samuel A. Oldham, were both noted as not owning real estate on the census, which is probably wrong. But again, you work with what you have.

As I made my way through the end of the counties alphabetically today, I was surprised to find a "mulatto" barber named L. Talbot, in Shelbyville (above image).  He was 46 years old and lived with his 51 year old wife and 7 year old daughter. Talbot owned $300 in real estate. Very neat!

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