Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Think You're Having a Bad Hair Day?

I remember in junior high that if you came to school with your hair a mess everyone would ask you, "Have you heard of this new invention?....It's called a comb!" And, heaven forbid that you show up for your school pictures with the "bed head." As a matter of fact, I remember that the school photography company gave out free combs so you could look well-groomed. Well, apparently for some nineteenth-century men, the "smooth do" was a matter of little concern when it was time to have their likeness made. For my examples I have provided three individuals...and these are not some unknown yahoos...even though they looked like it when these images were made.

First, we have Kansas senator James Lane (pictured above). Lane was born in Lawrenceburg, Indiana and served as Hoosier U.S. congressman before he moved to Kansas in the 1850s. Lane was as fierce as a free-state proponent in Kansas as this image makes him out to be. During the Civil War he raised a brigade of Kansans and was commissioned a general. I don't know what Lane (or the photographer) was thinking when this image was taken. That's a pretty bad look. Maybe he didn't care, and maybe the photographer thought he would have a little fun at Lane's expense by not advising him to find a comb. He certainly doesn't have the excuse that they weren't invented yet.

Next we have "Honest Abe." As I understand it Lincoln was about 47 years old when this image was taken, so that would put this in the mid-1850s. Certainly he had not attained the fame that would come in a few short years, but he was a well known and well paid Illinois attorney that should have had a positive image to uphold. In this picture, Lincoln looks like he either came straight to the photographer from his pillow, or after a hard-fought wrestling match.

Lastly, we have stern-looking John C. Calhoun from South Carolina. Along with Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, Calhoun was regarded as one of the most important statesmen in the nineteenth-century. Although he died over a decade before the Civil War, Calhoun is often credited with laying the foundation for eventual Southern secession. He fiercely defended Southern interests such as slavery and free trade and longed to be president. Calhoun had a head of hair that any man his age would envy, but true to his fiery nature he never seems to have been able to control it. Even when he pulled it straight back from his forehead it appeared Medusa-like.
So, the next time you find it difficult to tame your mane, don't feel so bad. You can easily claim to be in good company....if you have a time machine.

3 comments:

  1. i googled kansas sen. lane out of curiosity. was reading about him and wanted to see what he looked like.
    apparently ,at least for a while he was head of security in the lincoln white house. his uniform during this time was overalls with a leather vest. when going outside, he invariably wore a bearskin coat. regardless of the weather.

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