Thursday, January 19, 2017
William Hayden, Kentucky Slave Barber
I find myself once again with an odd Thursday off from work and watching TCM, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to make another post.
This past week while reading Slavery and Forced Migration in the Antebellum South, by Damian Alan Pargas, I stumbled upon a slave narrative that had previously escaped my observation. When Pargas discusses the various ways that slaves were transported in the domestic slave trade he mentioned the Frankfort, Kentucky, slave William Hayden, who had traveled via steamboat to the Deep South.
I was naturally curious with this reference so I quickly checked the footnotes to find its source. It was from the Narrative of William Hayden: Containing a Faithful Account of his Travels for a Number of Years, whilst a Slave in the South, which was Hayden's autobiography and was self published in 1846. I found a copy on Google Books.
Hayden was born in Stafford County, Virginia in 1785, and as a child was sent to Kentucky by his owner. There he was bought up as a house servant boy and was afforded an education. Later, he was also trained in the art of rope making, working in several ropewalks in Franklin and Scott Counties. However, hemp rope work did not seem to appeal to Hayden, and almost by happenstance, he fell into the profession of barbering with the permission of his master. Due to my interest in African American barbers in the antebellum Upper South, I found this part particularly interesting.
In past research, I have found numerous references to free black barbers and how they were apprenticed by their elders in the hair cutting and shaving trade. However, there is relatively slim information on enslaved barbers. Hayden described his introduction to barbering:
"In the Spring of 1811, I packed up, and went back to Frankfort. I left my horse with a friend of mine with directions to sell him, and after paying himself out of the proceeds for his trouble, to remit me the balance wherewith to pay my hire. I then when to the Barber shop of Mr. John S. Gowans [Goins], who had formed a friendship for me during my boyhood, when acting in the capacity of a fish-monger, and who felt disposed to aid me in all his power. Hearing that I had come again to Frankfort, he held out the hand of fellowship to me, and the friendship has left its indelible mark upon my heart, which can never be erased, until I meet him again in the Land of Spirits, whither he has long since departed.
After telling my friend my circumstances, and my desires, I asked if he would undertake to learn me the trade.After a long parley, during which he gave me little encouragement, he requested me to call again after breakfast, and he would give me a final answer."
Hayden did as requested, and returned to watch the master shave some of his patrons and cut the hair of others. When Goins finished with his customers, the two men talked. Goins then gave Hayden a razor to sharpen. Hayden did so and Goins approved after inspecting it closely. Goins gave the slave Hayden another razor to hone, and likewise received high praise for his work. Hayden recalled:
"The [barber] apprentices were rather taken a-back, for at first, they had considered it a capital joke, that a factory boy should presume to learn the Tonsorial art; but who, now, no doubt concluded, with Sam Patch, that 'some things can be done as well as others.' He then advised me to get a cup and box, and having given me a pair of razors and a hone, he told me to take them, with a clean towel, and go the rounds of the town every morning, shaving as many as I could for half price, and that in the course of a few weeks, I would be able to set up shop for myself. Before parting with him, to enter upon the duties of my new occupation, I asked him what he charged for the kindness he had shown me, and the advice and instruction which he had given me? His reply was, 'the only recompense I ask, is, that if you see any of my children or grandchildren in need, you will aid them as well as you can.' To this I greatly assented."
Instead of remaining in Frankfort, Hayden walked to Georgetown, and followed Goins's instructions. Fortune smiled on the enslaved man. He entered an inn and came upon a stranger who requested the service of a shave. Hayden obliged and confidently performed his new job. When Hayden informed the stranger that he was the would-be barber's first-ever customer, the man "was astonished and predicted for me a high standing in my vocation."
Hayden continued to serve as Georgetown's "street barber," as he called himself and was happy to find that he had made a profit of $8.00 after his first month's work. Hayden got his master to lease him a piece of town property on which his master built a shop, with the agreement that the slave barber give a portion of his proceeds to his master. Catching the entrepreneurial spirit, Hayden combined forces with a female slave friend and they also entered into a confectionery business partnership. Along with his two businesses' earnings, Hayden won a couple of lotteries, which added to this growing wealth.
Still enslaved, Hayden unfortunately changed hands and served for a time as help for a slave trader making trips up and down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Hayden purchased his freedom in 1824 and received his deed of manumission from then owner Thomas Phillips of Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky. He eventually settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he worked as a barber and wrote and published his slave narrative.