Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kentucky's Black Barbers, Politics, and Newspaper Advertisements

When I became interested in researching antebellum Kentucky's black barbers I wondered if these men would only advertise in newspapers of particular political parties. More specifically, I was curious to see if they would support Whig/Opposition newspapers over Democratic Party newspapers. While neither political party in Kentucky could be called anti-slavery, the Democratic Party seemed to take a firmer stance and support slavery's expansion more than the Whigs/Opposition, whose members often tended to be more in favor of colonization.

Well, there appears to be no such correlation. The above advertisement by George W. Tucker ran in the Western Luminary, a paper that described itself as "A Family Religious Newspaper." And, while not a political paper per se, it shows that black barbers were probably more interested in promoting their business than in limiting their chances for revenue by supporting any particular party or faction newspaper.

Tucker advertised, too, in the Lexington Kentucky Gazette (above in 1836), a Democratic Party paper, and as the ad obviously shows, also in the Lexington Observer and Reporter, a Whig Party paper 

Tucker ran the above ad, as well, in the Kentucky Gazette in 1834.

Likewise, Frankfort barber Henry Samuel advertised his shop and bathhouse in the Frankfort Kentucky Yeoman (above), a Democratic Party newspaper in 1848, and in the Frankfort Commonwealth (below), a Whig paper, the same year.

After thinking about it, advertising in both political parties printed voices only made good business sense on the part of the barbers. Except for a slim difference in principle on the slavery issue, why would they limit their reach to potential paying customers? By advertising in both political parties' papers in the cities in which they were located barbers only increased their exposure and customer base, which in turn made for greater revenue and profit. Profits, of course, could be used to buy additional property or real estate and provide comforts and opportunities for their families in an occupation that most whites refused to do until well after emancipation.

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