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Shorter Hair Was Downfall For Combs

Decorative hair combs as a fashion accessory actually date back to ancient times. They have usually been regarded as a piece of jewelry, and accorded the same respect.

The first half of the 18th century was the most extravagant period in hairdressing, and many beautiful combs, often inset with precious stones, were made during that period for the wealthy women of society. At the same time, home on the farm, farmers with skilled hands were also carving hair combs for their wives from ivory, horn and tortoise shell.

In the early 19th century, after industrialized machinery was at work, combs became more available. Coral, cut steel, and the cast Berlin Iron were among the materials used. Cameos were often inset into these pieces.

During the Victorian period, the high coiffure called for combs as the finishing touch. Among the affluent, tortoise shell combs were favored, and competition as to whose comb was the highest and most elegant was a serious matter. (Tortoise shell was selling at about $70/pound in 1850, so it definitely called for wealth to afford one of these combs.) They were inset with rubies, pearls, diamonds or other precious stones.

Cattle horn became widely used in the United States for making combs during this period. As tortoise shell became more costly, it was found that cattle horn could be made to resemble the tortoise shell and tanneries all had piles of horn available at very little cost.

When Queen Victoria was named Empress of India in 1876, ivory became a popular material for combs, also. And black materials, such as jet, vulcanite (the hard rubber invented by Charles Goodyear,) and ebonite were in demand during the queen’s many years of mourning,

For those less affluent, celluloid, treated to resemble ivory or tortoise shell, made a good substitute. It was used in comb making from about 1870 on. Even celluloid could get “dressed up,” however, and some combs were inlaid with gold, silver or rhinestones. Combs ceased to be a fashion accessory when the short hair styles of the 1920s replaced the more elaborate hairdos of preceding years. There was, however, a short period during the 1930s when decorative combs were worn once again.

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Scottish Architect Was Versatile Designer

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was born in Glasgow in 1868. He attended night classes in architecture at Glasgow School of Art, and eventually became one of the most famous designers of the Arts and Crafts movement of the 20th century.

The Glasgow style, which he was instrumental in forming, was more abstract and geometric than the Arts and Crafts work done in other countries.

Mackintosh designed everything from buildings to furniture to electroplated silverware. He died in 1928.

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