18

June

2012

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A Look Back at Barber Shops

by Alexia MacClain

Kochs' Gold Medal Hydraulic Barbers' Chair, No. 25

Kochs' Gold Medal Hydraulic Barbers' Chair, No. 25

Has a red, white, and blue pole near a store ever caught your eye?  It’s happened to me.  I see the red, white, and blue pole but I don’t need to look at the sign.  I know it means there must be a barber shop behind that window.

We might be familiar with how barber shops looked later in the twentieth century.  But what were they like in the first decade of the twentieth century?  What did barber shop furniture look like over a hundred years ago?  This trade catalog by Theo. A. Kochs Co. gives us the chance to go back to 1903 for a glimpse into barber shops of the past.

The 1903 Illustrated Catalogue is a trade catalog by Theo. A. Kochs Co., a company established in 1871.  It begins with several pages of color images of barbers’ chairs.  There are several models shown with three types represented–Kochs’ Gold Medal Hydraulic Barbers’ Chair, Kochs’ Pedestal Columbia Chair, and Kochs’ Columbia Chair.  The upholstered chairs revolve and recline but Kochs’ Gold Medal Hydraulic Barbers’ Chairs also have the ability to be raised or lowered.  One of these is illustrated below.

Theo. A. Kochs Co., Chicago, IL. 1903 Illustrated Catalogue, 1903, Kochs' Gold Medal Hydraulic Barbers' Chair, No. 25.

The catalog goes on to show illustrations of mirror cases.  These have built-in workstands with drawers, cabinets or shelves and, of course, mirrors.  The mirror cases come with space for anywhere from two to six chairs.  Also illustrated in the catalog are dressing cases which look similar to the mirror cases but with space for only one chair.  Flipping to the end of the catalog, there are pages showing supplies such as eye shades, shampoo cloths, rubber sleeves for use while shampooing, barbers’ coats, and much more.

This catalog and others by Theo. A. Kochs Co. are located in the Trade Literature Collection at the National Museum of American History Library.  Check out the Galaxy of Images to see more pages showing images of barber shop furniture and supplies from the early twentieth century.

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