Hairbrushes have been around for thousands of years. Early hairbrushes were made of materials like shells and porcupine quills and were used to pick through hair to remove pests, tame tangles, and tug out knots.
Though many hairbrushes were adapted from brushes that were used for painting, no one particular person is credited with drilling holes into a wooden paddle and inserting animal hairs into the holes. Although the hairbrush has evolved through time, the basic design remains the same-- a handle, a paddle, and bristles.
William Kent began manufacturing brushes in England in 1777. The brushes featured bristles that were stitched into the handle by hand (called hand drawing or long holing) and domed bristles. It took as many as twelve people to make some models.
|17th Century comb, used for removing pests and |
In the early 1700s, American newspapers advertised horn and ivory combs. But because they were imported, they were too expensive for most households, giving rise to home industries of horn breaking and comb making, or hornsmiths (hornsmithers).
Enoch Noyes who set up a shop in Leominster, Massachusetts, in 1759, is credited with the beginning of American comb making. He was joined by William Cleland of Germany, and by 1793, there were seventy hornsmithers working for Noyes and Cleland, and Leominster became known as “Comb City.”
To make the cattle horn combs, using a hatchet Noyes would trim the ends of a horn and split it. After soaking the horn in hot oil, he opened it with tongs and laid it between heavy flat stones to cool. Then with a saw or jackknife he cut out the shape, notched in the teeth (comb drums), smoothed off the sides of the comb, and polished it with a handful of wet ashes. He also used ivory and tortoiseshell. Noyes also made buttons.
Later history of combs and brushes --
In 1885, another English businessman, Mason Pearson, invented an automatic brush-boring machine to speed the process of brush making. He also invented the pneumatic rubber cushioned hairbrush the same year. Today, these brushes are considered some of the best on the market because they clean the hair, stimulate the scalp, and spread natural oils down the length of the hair, making it shinier.
Samuel Firey patented a brush with elastic wire teeth and natural bristles in 1870. In 1898, Lyda Newman patented a brush with a detachable handle and air chambers for ventilation.
Alfred Fuller started the Fuller Brush Company in 1906. At the age of 18, he moved from Nova Scotia to Boston and went to work selling brushes for another company. He began making hairbrushes, as well as home cleaning brushes, and selling them door to door, and he soon had a million-dollar business.