I've been watching episodes of the HBO television series "Deadwood" on my cable's On Demand service. The drama follows the fictionalized incidences of the mining camp of Deadwood, Dakota Territory, in the mid-1870s. While the series does work in historical characters, like "Wild Bill" Hickok and Jane "Calamity Jane" Canary into the story lines, for the most part it shows the town's growing pains on the frontier. If you are sensitive to foul language, examples of extreme violence, and other scenes one might imagine in a nineteenth century Old West mining camp, well, I would not recommend Deadwood.
In one of the episodes I noticed a barber's services offered in the saloon of lead character Al Swearengen. The barber was a white man. That got me to wondering, were there black barbers in the real Deadwood's Old West, like those populated many towns and cities both in the North and South before the Civil War? To help me find out I looked up the Deadwood census of 1880. It was pretty interesting. Deadwood's polyglot population was reflected in the men who shaved its citizens chins and cut their bangs.
The first barber I located was Ah Chin, a thirty-five year old Chinese man. He was born in China, as were both of his parents, as was noted in the 1880 census form. I'm curious if he cut the hair of whites or if he only cut other Chinese.
The next barber was A. C. Buckner, a sixty-one year old single black man. He was born in England. His father was a Virginian, and his mother was from the West Indies. Intriguing!
Next located was Jessy Walker, a thirty-eight year old married black man. He was born in Alabama. It was unknown where his father was born, but his mother was from Virginia.
Paul Baume, a thirty-seven year old single white man was also found. He was born in Connecticut, as was his mother, but his father was born in Germany.
M. J. Myers, a thirty year old single white man, who was an Ohio native, as was both his mother and father.
Andrew Bauman, a thirty-eight year old married white man, who was born in Prussia, as was his parents.
Another German, John C. Muehhessen, was a twenty-nine year old single white man.
Al Flaherty, a twenty-one year old single white man, who was from New York, as were his parents.
Charles Emeigh, a Hoosier from Indiana, was a married thirty-five white man. His father and mother were Pennsylvanians.
Edward Flaherty, a twenty-four year old married man. He was born in New York and his parents were born in Ireland.
B. H. Smith, a twenty-six year old single white man. He and his parents were all native New Yorkers,
Theodore Lyons, a fifty year old single black man, who was born in Kentucky. His father was a Virginian and mother was born in Ohio.
A "hair dresser" W. J. Grodniniski, a thirty-two year old white man from Russia and his parents were Russian, too.
William Saintclair, a twenty-five year old single white man, was born in Indiana. His father was from Ohio and his mother from Virginia. He was also listed a suffering from typhoid fever.
E. R. Sims, a thirty-two year old married mulatto. Sims was born in South Carolina, as were his parents.
John A, Hurlburt, a twenty-three year old single white man. He was born in Michigan, but his parents were both from Pennsylvania.
In summary, I was able to find sixteen total barbers or hair dressers in Deadwood's 1880 census. There was one Chinese barber, four African American barbers, six native-born white barbers, and five white barbers that were foreign born or who had at least one parent that was a non-native of the United States. My past research indicated that few native whites were barbers in 1860 and earlier. Foreign born whites entered the barber trade during this time period, too, and after emancipation there was a gradual increase in native-born white barbers. Deadwood seems to follow the trend I have noticed in the Upper South states of Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland.
Image of Deadwood courtesy of the Library of Congress.