Monday, February 4, 2013

The Clipper Salesmen

I think I'll pass along these estate sale items to someone who might be able to appreciate them -- like this:
February 4, 2013

Company Historian
Wahl Electric Clipper Corporation
Sterling, IL

Dear Company Historian:

I am enclosing with this note, two items I found at a recent estate sale in my area.

At first, I had no idea what they were. 

When I unrolled them, I realized they are panoramic photographs from the 1930s.  Upon closer inspection, I saw that they are group shots of conventions of Wahl clipper salesmen from that era.  I believe they’re standing in front of your company’s old offices on Third Street.


The Library of Congress has more than 4,000 panoramic photographs in its collection, but apparently it doesn’t have these.  The LOC website explains the history of panoramic pictures and how they were made:

Your company website says the first patent for a vibrating “electromagnetic hair clipper” was granted to your company founder in 1921.  Ten years later, one of these photographs was made.  Is Mr. Wahl one of the people in the front row of this picture?


The photographs are not in the best of shape.  The woman who was holding the estate sale told me, “Take them, just take them – who’s going to want something like this?"  (She had no idea how they got to my part of the country, what their connection was with the estate sale, nor why someone hung onto the pictures for more than three-quarters of a century.)
I thought you might like to have them -- if for no other reason than to look at the faces of the people who worked for the company more than 80 years ago.  You can imagine the personalities of the salesmen if you study the pictures closely.


And you can admire how nicely they dressed: hats and spats and overcoats, the fashion of the day.


But I think the panoramic photographs are more than just a unique find at an estate sale.  During the Great Depression, it must have been important for businessmen, especially men looking for new jobs, to be well-groomed.  I’ve enjoyed looking at these pictures of the salesmen who, through their own work, gave local barbers across America the tools to help men feel confident about their appearance.  I hope you'll consider having the pictures conserved and framed, so other people can appreciate these little time capsules of American business history. 

Sincerely yours,
Editor, The Estate Sale Chronicles

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