Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Black Barber John S. Goins "Schooled" at His Shop

In what is probably the most clever and creative antebellum black barber advertisement that I have so far located, Lexington's John Stratford Goins uses comparisons between his craft and that of an academic.

Goins opens the ad by calling his business a "scientific establishment." He then quickly labels himself a "professor of shaving and hair cutting." Goins' scientific establishment is also referred to in the ad as his "college," where he "delivers lectures" in his field of study, i.e. barbering.  Goins schooled his customers from "daylight until 10 o'clock at night."

This ad was helpful in that it provided an idea of what barbers charged for their services at that time. For one "lecture on shaving" Goins charged 12 1/2 cents, and 25 cents for a hair cut. In part of his "lecture room" (barber shop), he offered various grooming items, tobacco products, and, for the follicly challenged, he sold wigs and toupees. In addition, behind his "lecture room" Goins, like many other barbers at this time period, offered a bath house, which charged 25 cents per bath. Patrons also had the option of purchasing five bath tickets for one dollar. 

Although I was unable to locate census information on Goins, I confirmed his race with the 1838-39 Lexington business directory, which used an "*" to signify that he was African American. In the directory Goins was listed as John S. Goin at 25 East Main Street. His business was labeled as "hairdresser, mediterranean baths." It also appears that Goins lived at his business address. I have not been able to determine yet whether he owned or rented the location.

The year before the "scientific establishment" advertisement appeared, Goins ran an intriguing ad (above) that explained that he had previously operated his business in Frankfort, where he was "long known." The notice also states the he was now taking over the shop previously operated by G. W. Tucker. What is interesting about this is that Tucker had advertised his shop only months earlier in the same newspaper.

Goins' creativity and ingenuity in marketing his business is a pleasant surprise. To me it indicates that he thought "outside of the box" in attempt to bring business into his barber shop and thus increase his earning power.


  1. John S. Goin was listed as the head of a household in the 1830 census of Franklin County, page 114. He was listed as free colored [perhaps a Melungeon family].

    The members of the household were enumerated as:

    "Goin, John S. free colored male 36-55
    free colored female 36-55
    free colored female 24-36
    free colored male 24-36
    free colored female 24-36
    free colored male 0-10
    free colored female 0-10
    free colored male 0-10"
    female slave 10-24

  2. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/23372205?uid=2&uid=4&sid=21103695812331

    I've been researching his possible relation to Elijah McCoy.

  3. After the McCoys escaped to Canada, there was an Underground Railroad conductor named John Hatfield that worked with them in smuggling slaves to Canada. He was a freed black barber and deacon in Cincinnati.