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The Poor Jews' Shelter reconstruction 1906

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  • Archaic
    replied
    Hair Merchants

    Hi everyone. I have a bit of info about "hair merchants".

    There were merchants who sold horse-hair, because, as Roy mentioned, horse-hair had a number of uses in the Victorian Era. For example, it was commonly used in stuffing upholstered furniture. There were also 'camel-hair' merchants because camel hair was blended with wool to make luxury fabrics.

    However when Victorian tradesmen described themselves as "hair merchants" they were probably referring to human hair.

    This sounds creepy today, but in order to achieve the lush towering hairdos demanded by the fashion standards of the day, middle and upper class ladies frequently augmented their own heads of hair with a wide variety of commercially-available hairpieces. These ranged from simple bangs to fillers, plaits, chignons, and entire wigs. These fashionable hairpieces were commonly referred to as "false hair", but there wasn't a good synthetic substitute so real human hair was used. It was called "false" simply because it wasn't one's own. And of course men wore false hair too. Merchants usually bought the hair in Europe, where it was viewed as a sort of "cash-crop" by the resident women and girls.

    Here's a c.1875 article describing the "Hair Merchant" trade for those of you who might be interested.

    "How is it that two-thirds of the women of the present generation in England, France, America, and in all the fashionable circles of Europe and India, are able to wear twice as much of it as they themselves produce, not to mention wigs masculine of all kinds?

    Hair is imported into this country from Germany, Italy, and France. A very little sometimes comes from Sweden and Spain. The trade in false hair has increased during the last ten years tenfold. Now about 100,000 worth of hair is annually imported into the market, which, when sold retail, realises three times the cost price of "the raw material"; that is to say, in England alone about 300,000 was spent, say, last year, in the purchase of false hair.

    When we remember that a plait, or chignon, can be worn for many years, and at best only newly re-arranged or cleaned and re-made, we obtain some idea of the immense quantity of false hair actually in wear. It must be remembered, however, that numbers of country ladies have two sets, for the convenience of transmitting one set at a time to London to be dressed, for which purpose they sometimes arrange to make an annual inclusive payment. Some fashionable women, and most actresses, have a variety of chignons, curls, plaits, &c., dressed in different modes, to afford them a change of head-dress at pleasure.

    The hair is obtained by travelling hair merchants, who visit towns and villages on the Continent annually, and purchase all that is offered to them. With the peasant-girls of several countries, the annual sale of their hair is a regular institution, and even more generally followed out than the autumnal sea-bathing of our upper ten. In Germany the peasants invariably wear a handkerchief tied over the head, like the women in Ireland, and all that is seen of the natural covering is a coil at the back, partly discernible under the handkerchief. When the hair merchant comes round, the girls all let down their hair, which at other times they do not trouble themselves very frequently to brush or comb; and where it is so abundant and long it is troublesome, and can be dispensed with cheerfully.

    They do not usually suffer the whole to be cut off, but only half or two-thirds; the remainder is quite sufficient to twist up into a neat coil behind, and therefore their appearance is by no means injured by the sale. If pressed by extreme poverty they will often sell the whole—not otherwise; and even that sacrifice does not seem a hard one to those who are accustomed to see every girl they know sell at least half her crop of hair. It is no more a cruel infliction in their estimation, than the piercing of ears is amongst us; but even the sales of hair in this manner would not meet the demand, if the growth were as slow as it usually is amongst English ladies, with whom the common average length is eighteen to twenty-two inches."


    Hope that helps.
    Best regards,
    Archaic
    Last edited by Archaic; 08-14-2011, 05:10 AM.

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  • Robert
    replied
    Those researching 1901 institutions may find this useful :

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  • Roy Corduroy
    replied
    Originally posted by Penny_Dredfull View Post
    I think the "hair mers" at number 82 refers to hair merchants. There was quite trade in women's hair in those days!
    Yes, hair merchants, Penny, but I would think they dealt in horse hair, which had many uses then.

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  • Robert
    replied

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  • TomTomKent
    replied
    Cohen Levy hatmakers? Were two ripper suspects partners in haberdashery (and crime?)?

    No. Sorry.

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  • Penny_Dredfull
    replied
    The Poor Jews's Shelter reconstruction 1906

    I think the "hair mers" at number 82 refers to hair merchants. There was quite trade in women's hair in those days!

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  • Robert
    replied
    Here is another possible Jewish link to number 86 : in the Times Nov 28th 1887 Abey Ashberg, aged 17, described as of the Whittington Club, Leman St, was reported as having been involved in an argument at a greengrocer's.

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  • The Grave Maurice
    replied
    I'm more interested in #82. I wonder what "hair mers" did, exactly.

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  • Roy Corduroy
    replied
    Leman Street 1888

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    Fido, page 219 - "(The address on his death certificate is that of a protestant boys' club and refuge, evidently given in mistake for or by arrangement with the Shelter for Poor Homeless Jews next door.)"

    That being # 86, the Shoeblack Society and Whittington Club & Chambers (youth).

    Roy

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  • Roy Corduroy
    replied
    Photo of interior circa 1906-14.
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    The shelter began operation at 19 Church St, Whitechapel, in 1885 and moved to Leman St three years later. (MovingHere site)

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  • Chris Scott
    started a topic The Poor Jews' Shelter reconstruction 1906

    The Poor Jews' Shelter reconstruction 1906

    I thought this might be of interest as it gives some idea of the internal arrangements at the PJS
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