Friday, May 16, 2014

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

This week's Mystery Artifact inspired quite a bit of conversation, both here at the museum and on Facebook!  We must have several knitters in the audience because several readers thought this . . .

. . . was a clever container for dispensing yarn while knitting or crocheting.  An anonymous reader from our website also thought this item was a dispenser of sorts - for "Lysol Disinfecting Wipes from the olden days"!

Other guesses ranged from a holder for powder or face cream to a dish for hairpins.  These were closer, but still not quite on the mark.  I have to give a shout-out to my grandmother, June J., for being the first to guess that this object is a hair receiver.  (Way to go, Grandma!)  She remembered seeing "fancy dishes" like these on her Grandmother's dressing table.  She also thinks the pieces she is remembering might have been painted by her mother (my great-grandmother), as they had hand-painted violets in a pattern similar to the ones on some dishes and a vase that have been passed down through our family.  I'm even more pleased that I posted this fabulous artifact now, as it came with a serving of my own family's history!

Hair receivers were used to store broken strands of hair that women would remove from their hairbrushes after brushing their hair, which was usually worn quite long.  They were most often porcelain, like the example above, but could also be celluloid or glass with a metal lid, like this other example in our collection:

Women would store the broken strands until they had the correct amount, and then they would reuse the hair as stuffing.  Sometimes it would be used to fill pincushions, as the scented oils women used on their hair would help to lubricate pins and keep them from rusting.  The hair could also be used to fill a hair ratt, which was a bag made of netting and filled with the broken and wadded strands of hair.  The ratt would then be placed inside of a hairstyle to fill out the upswept poofs and large buns that were so fashionable around the turn of the century.

The practice may seem odd to our modern-day sensibilities (although no stranger, I suppose, than weaves or ombre-colored tresses might seem to the Gibson Girls pictured above)!  However, hair ratts are still in use today by the more vintage-minded stylists out there, as this blog post shows:  How To - Vintage Hair

Anecdotal evidence suggests hair receivers were being used by some women into the 1950s, and hair ratts are still available for purchase today.  (I have a friend whom I remember using a loofa to achive the same effect)!  How many of our readers wore hair ratts during the bouffant and beehive craze in the 1960s?  Anyone out there own or use hair receivers or ratts today?

Stop by the museum to see both the examples pictured above, plus lots of other amazing artifacts that were featured this week on CI Living's our story segment!  You can watch the video here:  Earspoons and Chatelaines

Hope to see you at the museum soon.  Enjoy!

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