For not advertising or promoting this Ohio gem, former owner/curator and barber Edwin Jeffers had had visitors from more than 40 states and five countries. The museum is one-of-a-kind. It features 58 barber poles, barber chairs from six eras, re-created barber shops from eras past, hundreds of mugs and razors that are hundreds of years old and blood-letting and tooth-pulling tools that were used long ago when barbers sometimes moonlighted as surgeons and dentists. It’s no wonder Mr. Jeffers had appeared on many cable television shows and a Japanese station.
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Excerpt from past edition of OhioTraveler eMagazine
A LITTLE OFF THE TOP
Everyone should have a barbershop story to tell. If you don’t, get one.
Mine features a 1980’s hotshot straight out of basic training but due for a haircut. The young hotshot goes to the barbershop at his new base and meets a retired full-bird colonel and decorated war hero turned barber. The crusty old man puts the finishing touches on the young man’s hair and although it looks good, the cocky kid says, “Take a little more off the top.” The clippers buzzed through in what seemed only three strokes leaving no hair untouched anywhere and the vet said, “Short enough for ya now?” I was damn near bald!
At first glance barbering may seem pretty straight forward but it has a fascinating history influencing music, theatre, cinema and the practice of medicine.
The instantly recognizable barber pole is a fixture in barbering today. It’s the oldest distinguished mark of any profession or craft dating back before the birth of Christ. The profession itself dates back 6,000 years to Egypt. It is even mentioned in the Old Testament in Ezekiel 5:1. There was a time when barbers doubled as surgeons and dentists. It wasn’t until the 13th century that these professions split.
When barbers practiced surgery it consisted of bloodletting. When this was done a white towel was used. After rinsing it out, the barber would hang it in the doorway to dry. Blood stains would remain, often times creating a red and white twisting pattern. This is the origin of the barber pole. Today’s poles are symbolic and many incorporate blue to represent veins. And of course the red is for blood and white is for bandages.
In early American history, barbering was considered a black man’s trade until German, Italian and other Europeans emigrated. It wasn’t until around the mid 1800’s when barbershops were accepted institutions on American main streets. On December 6, 1886 the barbering profession was unionized in Columbus, Ohio. Since 1985, more than fifty percent of barbering students are female and since 1995 more than fifty percent are African American.
In 1988, Ed Jeffers, longtime barber in Canal Winchester, Ohio, opened the only known barber museum. Barbering exhibits had previously existed but never an entire museum dedicated to preserving the history of the profession. In fact, Jeffers served as caretaker of the Barbers Hall of Fame exhibit founded in 1968 by Raymond Andrew in Columbus, Ohio. The Hall of Fame is now located in the Canal Winchester Barber Museum.
The Ed Jeffers Barber Museum has several rooms spanning 3,500 square feet featuring recreated barber shops and chairs and poles from six eras. Bloodletting and tooth-pulling machines date back hundreds of years. More than 600 razors are displayed as well as 500 shaving mugs and 70 barber poles and chairs. Each area of the museum is meticulously set up to capture the essence of the shops of old and include shoe shine stations, spittoons and other memorabilia. All in all, there are probably several thousand artifacts dating back to the 1700’s. The museum even has a small library room boasting more than 400 volumes related to the barbering trade.
The guest book has entries from 44 states and eight countries. The museum has been featured in Smithsonian Magazine and the front page of the July 30, 1999 Wall Street Journal plus numerous television shows.
The Barbers International Convention is going to be hosted in Columbus, Ohio from May 1 – 3, 2010. On May 3rd, barbers from around the world will tour the Barber Museum in Canal Winchester. It is also open during the Canal Winchester Blues & Rib Fest August 6 – 7, 2010.
The museum does not keep regular hours but may be visited anytime as long as an appointment is made. Groups are welcome and there is a handicap lift available to the second story museum. Admission is $5/person, $4/senior and $3/student.
Ed Jeffers Barber Museum and Hall of Fame is located at 2 ½ South High Street in Canal Winchester, Ohio 43110. Further information may be obtained by calling 614-837-8400 or 614-837-1846. Visit www.edjeffersbarbermuseum.com for details.
By Frank R. Satullo, The OhioTraveler