Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Free Black Barber's Adverstisements

Back last spring, while I was researching slavery advertisements in Kentucky's Civil War newspapers, I occasionally came across advertisements from barbers. Knowing that most barbers in slave states were African American, I made note of the advertisements, promising myself to return and do more research later. Back then I posted about Henry Samuel, a free black barber in Frankfort that advertised often the the Commonwealth.

One of the other initial advertisements I came across is pictured above. Of course, I wanted to try to find out more about John P. Glark to determine if indeed he was an African American, and any other information I could locate. At that time, little did I know that the barber's name had been printed incorrectly. The man's name was actually John P. Clark.

The above advertisement ran in the Lexington Observer and Reporter on October 19, 1861. In it Clark makes notice that his shop had moved to Short Street in Lexington. I intentionally left the advertisement below Clark's partially visible to show that these black barbers' ads were not segregated in any way from other businesses that advertised seeking patrons. The ad that lists "Ambrotypes" was a photographer in Lexington named Anderson.  

John P. Clarke [sic] is listed in the 1860 census as a 39 year old barber with $600 in personal property. Also listed in the household were Catherine Clark, a 29 year old seamstress, who I assume was John's wife, and six year old Ellen, who I'm guessing was John's daughter. In addition, Clark's home included Luther Dandridge, 17, an "apprentice barber."

Clark ran the advertisement above in the Lexington Kentucky Statesman, on January 1, 1861. Clark likely reasoned he could increase his business by posting in two of the city's newspapers. Apparently this ad noted his address before moving to the Short Street location. 

The language Clark used in the notice is particularly interesting, but perhaps not surprising given the time, location, and circumstances for his business. Like many other ads from black barbers that I have located, Clark thanks his customers for using his services and asks for their continued patronage.  

Clark's ad (above) changed looks when he again advertised in the Kentucky Statesman, on August 9, 1861. This ad, ran a couple of months before the very top notice, also informs the public of the moving of his shop to the Short Street location in the Old Post Office building. In this ad Clark uses the same service-style language. This ad asks not only for old customers to come by for their grooming needs, but also "as many new ones as possible."

I also found John P. Clark in the 1867 Lexington city directory. Apparently at that time he was no longer in business for himself but was working at the Southern Hotel. The directory listed Clark's home residence as being on Church Street between Upper Street and Mulberry. I would sincerely like to know what happened to Clark to cause him to lose his shop.

It seems that Clark's hard luck continued, for in the 1870 census, there is no mention of Catherine or Ellen Clark, who were listed with him in 1860. In 1870, Clark was listed as living in Alexander Clark's home (perhaps his father), and apparently out of barbering altogether as at the time he was working at a brickyard.

Did Clark's new location in 1861 prove to be more expensive than what he was earning in revenue? Did perhaps some personal demon prevent Clark from keeping his business and family? Maybe the competition drove Clark out of the barbering trade. After all, in that 1867 directory there were 18 black barbers listed in city in addition to Clark. In a town the size of Lexington the competition of haircuts and shaves must have been fierce. Perhaps it was a combination of circumstances. Or, maybe he just got tired of cow-towing to his so-called superiors.   

1 comment:

  1. Luther Dandridge was my great-great grandfather �� and amazingly while he was listed as white on the 1860 census, he was in fact African American. He served under Colonel Garrison as a member of the USCT and was also a Buffalo Soldier in the civil war. I have been researching for a while now and am still desperately searching for a photo of him somewhere. I appreciated reading this article. Thank you