The History Of The Barber Pole


The Modern Barber Pole originated
in the day when blood letting was one of the principal duties of the barbering trade. The two spiral ribbons painted around the pole represented two long bandages, one twisted around the arm before bleeding (to make the vein stand out), and the other used to bind it afterwards.
The patient clutched the staff firmly during the entire operation. Originally, when not in use, the pole with bandage pre-wound (so it might be ready when needed) was hung at the door as a sign. Later an imitation was painted and given a permanent place on the sidewalk outside.” So states the Barber’s Manual.
Some historians credit the blue stripe on the American poles as having been transported from blue and white bands on English poles of the 1700’s. Other authorities say that American barbers added the blue stripe to their red and white poles as a patriotic gesture.
The majority of early American barber poles were freestanding sidewalk pillars ranging from six to twelve feet in height. During the late 1890’s municipal authorities began to outlaw barber poles and cigar store Indians as public safety hazards. The wooden Indians were taken inside for a while, but eventually
more than 100,000 of thee obsolete figures were thrown in rivers, buried in garbage dumps or fed to fireplaces. Only about 3,000 authentic cigar store Indians exist today in museums and private collections.
Most wooden barber poles simply did not survive the outdoor elements
of wind, rain, and hungry termites. Although not as rare as tobacco figures, early poles with original paint intact are quite scarce. Recent auction prices have ranged from $1,000 to $12,000 each. Among the most valuable today are the flat sided stained glass poles that often hung in hotel lobbies.
Koch’s offered a 12-inch diameter leaded glass globe in their 1926 catalog. Few of these have survived
Modern barber poles, with revolving
interior cylinders, cost from $300 to $750 each and are still available from the last remaining factory outlet, the William Marvy company of 1538 St,. Clair Avenue,
St. Paul Minnesota. The Marvy factory has produced more than 75,000 poles over the last half century. Today much of their activity
centers around replacement parts and restoration work; but they still offer a selection of nine barber
poles ranging from eighteen to forty- seven inches tall.

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