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Hits from the Past
Written by Christopher Box
Published on June 20, 2011
For as long as people have had hair they have wanted to find a way to tame the tangles and show off their hair to its best.
Hairbrushes may have been around for thousands of years but they have certainly changed in style over the years. Here's a quick look at the history of the hairbrush that shows how this essential styling tool has evolved over time.
Early Hair Brushes
Portraits, paintings and sculptures from the Ancient Roman, Greek and Egyptian eras show that people were styling, curling and braiding their hair and suggests that these ancient civilizations must have devised and used some form of hair styling tools.
Excavations from Egyptian tombs have found beauty tools such as brushes, combs and mirrors. These early brushes found by archeologists show that natural materials were used as bristles such as bones, shells, porcupine quills, flint and animal hair. Handles were generally made of wood, bronze or copper.
Kent Brushes: Handmade brushes featuring bristles that were stitched into the brush by hand (called "hand drawing" or "long holing") were made in England by William Kent from as early as 1777. It could take as many as 12 people to make some models of these hairbrushes. Kent Brushes is to this day one of the UK’s longest established companies and still makes over 250 different kinds of brushes.
Mason Pearson Brushes: Another English businessman, Mason Pearson, developed an automatic brush-boring machine to speed up the brush making process back in 1885. And in the same year he invented a pneumatic rubber cushioned hairbrush. Mason Pearson brushes are considered some of the best on the market to this day because of their ability to clean the hair and spread natural oils down the length of the hair - making it shinier. Mason Pearson brushes also stimulate the scalp and increase blood flow to the roots of the hair – both important for healthy hair.
United States Hair Brush Developments: The first U.S. patent for a hairbrush was made by Hugh Rock in 1854. This brush featured a metal handle and had a scalloped edged, ornamental design. Rock’s brushes became popular to give as gifts, especially when sold as part of a set with a comb and mirror and were given to new babies and new brides. In 1870 Samuel Firey also patented a brush with natural bristles and elastic wire teeth. And in 1898, Lyda Newman patented a new kind of brush with air chambers for ventilation that came with a detachable handle.
The Fuller Brush Co: Alfred Fuller established the Fuller Brush Company in 1906. Fuller moved from Nova Scotia to Boston at the age of 18 and began work selling hairbrushes for another company. He became unsatisfied with the product he was selling and decided he could do better, so began making his own hairbrushes and home cleaning brushes. He started off selling his brushes door to door and soon found himself with million-dollar business! The Fuller Brush Man became a well-known popular culture icon in the US, and Walt Disney even cast Donald Duck as a Fuller Brush Man in one of his cartoons.
In ancient times, hair styling was seen as a luxury reserved for the wealthy. However times change and now anyone and everyone can care for his or her hair. Manufacturers started to make cheaper combs and brushes using less-expensive materials than animal hair and solid wood.
Today, hairbrushes are made with plastic handles and nylon bristles although hair-care professionals still insist that natural fibers are the best for your hair, even though they are more expensive. Many modern brushes feature holes for ventilation, to make blow-drying more efficient, and padded handles for easy grip and comfort of use showing that the humble hairbrush has come a long way since its early, ancient origins.
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