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Harvest Of Hair

Harvest Of Hair image
Parent Issue
Day
23
Month
April
Year
1897
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

Histoiy records the fact that in 1G82, in England, long, flaxen hair was purchased frorn the head at 10 shillings an ounce, while other fine hair fetched from 5 to 7 shillings for the same quantity, and within the present century the heads of whole families in Devonshire were let out by the year at so much per poll, a periwig maker of Exeter going round at certain periods to cut the locks, afterward oiliug the skull of cach bereft person. That the use of false hair as an aid to f eminine beauty was not unknown to the ancients is well proved. The Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, long before the dawn of the Christian era, resorted to the weariug of tresses obtained from other persons' heads. Tbey even went so far as to paint bald heads so as to represent them as covered with short hair, also inarblc caps so painted were worn. A valuable merchaudise in the blond hair of Germán wonien is mentioned in ancient Roman history. A question that has doubtless often presented itself is, Where did all this hair come from? This question I will endeavor to answer. With the coming of spring in the midlands and west of France appeared what may fltly be termed a singular class of nomadic individuals, arnied with long, iron tipped staves and bearing heavy pucks of merchandise upon their backs. At first glance one would have taken them to be ordinary hawkers, yet merchandise was but an accessory to their strange industry. They were the coujieurs, the reapers of a hirsnte harvest. Armed with long, keen shears, they went their way seeking the tresses of willing victims dwelling in outlying hamlets and villages of peasaut France, and a laborious business it was. From "dewy mom" tmtil the shadows of uight gathered thickly they did their 10 or 1 5 miles a day - often fruitlessly and with empty stomachs, their only bed the wayside. In Auvergne these seekers af ter hair were known as chimneurs. The Bretons called them margoulins. These terms have uot fit English parallels. These curious journeymen exerted every effort to gain their ends - a good head of hair - the former prefcrring the local fairs as a workroom, the latter choosing to visit the dwellings of their possible clients. In snmmer the Brittany margoulin was often seen going through the streets, carrying bis long staff, from which hung twists of hair, while he cried in doleful tones the well known "Piau, piau!" at the sound of which the cottagers, with an itching desire to possess some of his gewgaws, attracted the wanderer's attention. He was only too pleased to dazzle their eyes with his many colored wares, and the bargaining was not slow to begin. While the womeu fingered his goods the margoulin weighed her tresses with his hand, a proceeding at which he was adept through long practice. The bargain ended, the woman yielded her abundant locks in return for a few yards of cotton stuff or a gay petticoat, to which, thanks to the progress of civilization, the coupeur had to add a small sum of money. Sometimes the transaction was not completed without much discussion on both sides. Very often the coupeur had to return to the charge owing to female indecisión, and he was more thau happy when sure that a tardy remorse would not rob him of half his coveted trophy. Until the authorities intervened, cutting was couducted in public as an amusement for onlookers, it being considered liighly entertaining to hear 10 or 12 rival coupeurs eulogizing their wares, each protesting his to be far superior to his fellow's. The prohibition of this custom drove the hairbarvesters to erect tente, rent for the day unoccupied shops, cellars, stables or any corner they could find wherein to establish themselves. Sticks were then stuck up, from them being suspended petticoats as a lure, as an indication of what could be had in exchango for tresses; to the petticoats were attached twists of hair as trademarks. The ruse succeeded, peasants halted, casting envious glances at the multicolored garments. They were handled and even tried on, thus alïording an opportunity to the coupeurs to flatter their fair customers - who did not long rest - and victory rewarded the cute buyers. In Auvergne - where the coupeurs were most numerous - the greatest harvest was reaped on St. John 's day. The ingathering extended from April to September, during which month the butchers, bakers, locksmiths, etc, forsook their ordinary avocations for that of the coupeur, returniug to their legitímate trades with the coming of the dead season. The hair of different countries was distinguished by certain qualities. For instánce, that of Auvergne was the coarsest; the finest and most flaxen from Belgium; the blackest and longest from Italy, while that procured in Brittany was the most beautiful. thousrh least well cared for. -

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Subjects
Ann Arbor Argus
Old News