The Hairdresser's Daughter
by Clara Augusta, 1892

I

 am unfortunate enough to be the daughter of a hairdresser.  My father is an artist of the first water, has the handsomest suite of rooms in the city, does an  enormous business, and dresses the heads of all the first ladies in town.

By birth he was a Connecticut Yankee, by the name of Peter Jones, but since he set up in the hairdressing business he has been M. Pierre de la Johannes.

My hair was kept short until I was fourteen; after that it was not cut.  At sixteen I rejoiced in a very luxuriant crop of dark brown ringlets.  It was at just that epoch that the rage for false hair came in.  Everybody had hair on the brain.  My father worked night and day constructing curls, etc., and still the supply never equaled the demand.

Every woman's head ran to hair to such an extent that no wonder naturalists were astounded and felt grave fears that there was to be some sudden and radical change in the organization of the female sex.

The Bible tells us that we cannot make one's hair white or black, but that assertion was written down before these days of patent hair renewers, restorers, tonics and invigorators.  I know people who had white heads yesterday, and today are happy with hair as black as the ravenís wing.  I have seen black-haired women changed to golden haired blondes, and vice versa, all in the course of a week or less.

As soon as this infatuation in regard to hair commenced, my father began to make experiments on my locks.  Every new style which came out was reproduced on my head.  My hair was braided, and twisted, and frizzed, and puffed, and left to hang loose, and then again drawn so tight that I couldn't shut my mouth, and my forehead shone like the sheepskin on the head of a drum.

I had a lover, but I never could have time to bring him to the point, for he came evenings, and evenings my father always practiced on my hair.  My suitor did very nearly propose on one occasion, that is, he got so far as to say he loved me, and wanted me to ó

And here my father made his appearance, and marched me off to the shop to have my hair dressed "a la Greeque."

Philip was very angry, and persisted in believing it was a contrived plan between my father and myself, and a fortnight afterwards he married Ellen Hastings.

By and by father turned his attention to the manufacture of restoratives and depilatories; all warranted efficacious, of course, "and all of them had been faithfully tested by a member of the discoverer's own family," meaning me.

Oh, dear, how much I had endured from them.  I had gallons of restorers poured on my devoted head, I had smelled of lead, glycerine, cayenne, sage tea, olive oil and beeswax, sulphur, nitrate of silver, bergamot, bay rum, gum shellac, and only my scientific parent knows what I had my hair burned with curling irons, bleached to red, and from red changed to black, and from black to brown, and so on "ad infinitum."  My head had been soaked for twenty-four hours in an alkali, for the same length of time in an acid, and I had sat on top of the house in the hot July sun to "bleach" until I felt like a mud pie baked on the desert of Sahara.

Time passed on, and brought me a second sweetheart.  George Guild was his name.  He was an extremely sensitive young man, a little superstitious, and inclined to be unstable in most matters.  But he was good looking, and had some property, and we were engaged, with the full consent of my parents.

At the time I promised myself to him I had black hair, just the color he most admired, but two or three days afterward my father took it into his head to bleach my locks to auburn.

George came to see me.  What a fearful change passed over him as he looked at me!  He grew pale as death, gasped, and acted as if he had about made up his mind to swoon.  Then, gathering his energies for a final effort, he seized his hat and made for the door.

He did not come again, and I, sick with suspense, sent for him and appointed a certain evening for the visit.  The very day I expected him father called me down to the shop just as I was going to dress to receive George.

He had a new restorer, and just as he was about to submerge my head in the new concoction he was called away to dress Mrs. Col. Morgan's head for a ball.   So he left Bob, his blundering assistant, to apply the restorer.  It was a most villainous smelling compound the boy plastered me with, and as soon as the operation was over I hurried up to my chamber and dressed.  Then I descended to the parlor to await George's coming.

My head felt strangely, and presently the scalp began to itch and smart most intolerably.  It grew worse and worse, until, at last, in sheer desperation, I seized a brush, and applied it to my head.

Good heaven!  The hair fell off in handfuls, and possessed by a horrible sort of fascination, I stood there before the glass and brushed until my head was as bare as a peeled onion!

And then the door opened and George Guild came in.  He cast at me one glance of horrified dismay, uttered a cry of alarm and fled from the house.  I heard the next day he had taken the train for California.  A letter, which he left behind, told me that he loved me, but he was satisfied that I had dealings with the Evil One, and therefore dared not link his fate with mine.

For a week or two I cried most of the time after losing my hair and lover.  But now that time enables me to think calmly of the matter, I do not regret the accident, for I have escaped the eternal manipulation of my father.

I wear a wig, and have no desire that my hair shall grow faster than it chooses to.

from American Hairdresser, July 1893

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