Friday, April 11, 2014

Samuel A. Oldham Advertisements

I have mentioned African American barber Samuel A. Oldham in number of recent posts, but I believe that I have neglected to share any of his advertisements. The earliest of Oldham's ads that I have located (above) so far is one from 1835 that was printed in the Lexington Kentucky Gazette. In it Oldham - as often appears in black barber ads - thanks his past customers for their patronage. Then he promotes his "Bath-House" which offered that service "at all hours--night or day." Oldham next provided clear directions to ensure that potential new customers could find his shop. In addition, and apparently in effort to generate extra revenue, Oldham also advertised that he carried "fancy articles," which meant toiletries, and sold "jointed, alabaster, and wax" dolls, as well as "curls, wigs, and top pieces." I suppose by curls he meant hair extensions, and that his top pieces referred to toupees.  

The following year Oldham ran an extended column advertisement that covered much of same material as the previous ad. An interesting point this notice made though was that Oldham had "FOUR HANDS that he can depend upon as Shavers and Hair Cutters."   

The above ad, which Oldham ran in 1840, explained to his customers that he had relocated his shop or at least part of his business, to a new address. The ad says his dressing room has moved a block away from his old stand, but the ad does not indicate if the barber shop part had been relocated. However, it seems the bath house moved, too, as well as his "fancy store" that sold toiletries and other assorted goods.     

Oldham had at least two sons that followed him into the barber trade. As this ad by his son Nathaniel states, the son had learned barbering from his father in Lexington. The purpose for this ad, which ran in the fall of 1840, was to announce the opening of Nathaniel's shop. Another of Oldham's sons, Samuel C. Oldham seems to have only worked in his father's shop.   

Perhaps Nathaniel Oldham's Lexington shop did not prove successful, or maybe his father's business proved too competitive, because he eventually moved to Maysville, Kentucky. Nathaniel is listed there in both the 1850 and 1860 census. Samuel A. Oldham is listed in the 1850 Lexington census as 56 years old and son Samuel C. as 22. Oldham the elder was not listed as having any real estate property in 1850. In 1860, father Oldham was 66 and son Samuel C. was 33. Oldham was listed as having no real estate again in 1860, but was noted as having $1500 in personal property. 

The information contained in these advertisements is very valuable in providing a better understanding of their business activities. In addition, it will be interesting to map the location of their shops along with others in the Lexington city directory to see the density of competition for barbering services and to see where barbers chose to locate their businesses. 

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