Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Early Kentucky Barber Advertisements

In contemplating the reach of my research on African American barbers, I did not know how far back I would be able to find information. And, let me state up front that I have not been able to confirm that the barbers mentioned here in this post were men of color. Unfortunately, at this point, the early census information has not been able to corroborate my suspicion that they were African American. 

The above advertisement ran the earliest of all those shown here. It was among the many diverse notices in the Lexington Kentucky Gazette on September 9, 1812. In it barber Thomas Young announced his movement to a new location, offered a wealth of health and beauty aids, and asked for the public's patronage. 

Young continued to advertise in the Kentucky Gazette. The ad immediately above ran on November 3, 1812. In this ad Young, like other later black barber ads, calls his customers his "friends." Young's notice wisely offered to this patrons "spanish and domestic segars, and prime chewing tobacco," all of which I am sure were popular with the men that brought him business.

Like Thomas Young, I have been unable to confirm that another Lexington barber, Charles Cummens, was African American. Cummens is listed in the 1818 Lexington City Business Directory, but racial distinctions were apparently not made in that early publication, and I have not been able to locate him in the 1810 or 1820 census. 

Cummens, like Young, was an active advertiser.  He placed notices about his business as early as 1813. The above as was in the December 19, 1814, issue of the Kentucky Gazette. In this ad he announced his skill in cutting hair and shaving. He also noted that he carried a line of wigs and hair "FAC SIMILIES." Along with these services, he listed a number of beauty and grooming products that were "just received from Philadelphia."

Cummins added a bit of poetry to his advertising when the above notice ran in the Kentucky Gazette on August 14, 1815.  The language he used is intriguing to me. What does he mean by the opening line "The Eagle suffers Little Birds to Sing?" And, is he making a point of being a black barber with the line "Pale barbers saw him spurn their bounded reign?" Hmmmm.

Yet another early ad was run by barber Solomon Bundley. This one in the Kentucky Gazette on September 28, 1813. Bundley made sure to give clear directions  to his business location. There he wished to be visited and show that he deserved "a share of the public patronage." 

If anyone has any information on these gentleman or can point me toward where I can find out more about them, I would greatly appreciate any tips. If I can determine that these men were African Americans that were advertising at this early point, it will make a strong case for my proposed argument and answer one of my big questions.

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