“Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits” – Window to History
As the song says, a shave and a haircut in early Cumberland County barber shops cost around a quarter or “two bits”. In our local communities the barber shop was, and still is a place where men go to get that shave, haircut or both and while they wait their turn to exchange the local gossip, personal views on the weather and on the politics of the day.
Barber shops became predominant around 1830 and remained so for the next 100 years. This was a period of time when it was popular for men to have beards, side whiskers and of course, mustaches. Facial hair was a fashion “order of the day”. Not surprisingly, these facial features often took more care and time than a clean shaven face.
The “barber pole” is, without a question, the most significant form of advertising for today’s barber shop. Red and white striped, sometimes with a bit of blue, a barber pole twisting next to a small storefront signifies a place where men can get a haircut, a shave and a bit of masculine companionship. But this was not always the case. Back in the day, the red and white we associate with good grooming used to represent blood, bandages, leeches and pain. There was a time when barbers were expected to perform bloodletting and other medical procedures to heal the sick; red represented blood and white represented bandages. The “Barber surgeons” in Ancient Rome also performed teeth extraction, cupping, leeching, bloodletting, surgery and enemas.
WHEW!!! Thank goodness today’s barber poles represent little more than being a simple barber shop that just cuts hair and does shaves.
This Window will be on exhibit in the museum until May 2017.
Photo Caption: A.H. Weaver Shaving Parlor in Carlisle, PA.