Hairbrushes in the Regency, by Zoe Burton

Hairbrushes in the Regency, by Zoe Burton

I’ve mentioned this date before in my December posts, but for those who don’t remember or who are new to Austen Authors, twelve years ago today, on December 7, 2008, I lost my mom. While it still saddens me, I’m not as overwhelmingly so as I was a couple years ago. As always, time heals all wounds. I miss her terribly. Mom was the inspiration for this post, and I hereby dedicate it to her. <3

My mom used to spend a lot of time in front of a mirror. Like, she’d get up from watching television and two sets of commercials later, she still had not returned. So, you’d go looking for her and she’d be in the bathroom, plucking stray hairs out of her brows or chin or where ever, putting on lipstick or lip gloss, or brushing out her bob. My aunt told me once that Mom had been doing this for as long as anyone could remember. Mom liked to look her best, apparently. LOL

When I was a pre-teen, Mom had a vicious hairbrush. It was made in the 50’s or 60’s and was constructed with a very hard plastic. Very. HARD. I was fascinated with it, but it was not a toy and we weren’t allowed in my parents’ room to play with their things, anyway. I don’t remember what color it was, but I believe it was a light color. Possibly a light pink, maybe even with a darker color running through it. I truly do not remember. Anyway, Mom would now and again use that brush to get us kids’ attention. Well, it got mine. I cannot account for my siblings. 😉 This memory, which has actually become rather precious to me since her passing, made me wonder what kind of hairbrushes ladies used in the Regency.

Photo courtesy of Kent Brushes site.

There is an article at the Regency Redingote site that gives a very interesting account of the history of hairbrushes. The article states that only the very rich had hairbrushes up to and through the Regency. (The industrial revolution eventually made their manufacture faster and easier and therefore made hairbrushes easier for all to afford, but that didn’t come until well after the Regency period.) This makes sense, since they were all made by hand, and it was very much a labor-intensive process. In Hertfordshire in 1777, the first company in Britain to produce only hairbrushes was formed by William Kent. His company, G. B. Kent & Sons, is still in business, though it is no longer owned by the Kent family.

Kent Brushes still are made by hand. They use cherry, satinwood, ebony, beechwood, and other fine woods for the block (the part the bristles attach to) and the handle. In the Regency, they seem to have also made some brushes with ivory or bone handles, generally as special orders. They used high-quality wild boar bristles from China and India for most of their hairbrushes. There seems to have been a long-involved process in the preparation of the bristles, as well, with them being cleaned and trimmed, bundled into tufts, then affixed into holes drilled into the block.

As time went on, Kent Brushes found themselves facing competition from other brushmakers, who used cheaper materials and whose customers were people whose pockets weren’t quite as deep as those of the ton.

Hairbrushes for gentlemen had no handles, interestingly enough, and the ones for ladies had long handles. I’m not sure why that would be, but they probably had a good reason.

The poor were not likely to own hairbrushes in the Regency. Some couldn’t even afford a comb. This doesn’t mean no one who was poor owned a brush or comb. There’s a Christmas story that comes to mind, whose title escapes me, where the poor girl in the story cut off her hair to sell to buy something for her husband (a watch chain, I think) only to discover on Christmas morn that he had sold his watch to buy her a hairbrush.

Gentleman’s hairbrush found on Pinterest.

One of my favorite things in JAFF stories has always been silver-backed hairbrush sets. According to this article, those really weren’t as readily available until the mid-1800’s. The silver would have been laminated to the back of the wood. I had always imagined going to a silversmith and having the block and handle made and then whoever, maybe the silversmith, adding the bristles. It seems not, though. Also, it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that brushes and combs were sold as sets. I guess now that I know this, I know not to put them in my Regency stories. 🙂

I have included the link to Kent Brushes at the bottom of this post, for those who are interested. They have some videos and pictures of brushes being made, as well as some interesting pictures. You’ll notice at the top left of the site a badge that indicates they are the official brush maker for the Queen; the company has had that honor for over one hundred years, I believe.

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Before I go, I wanted to give an update on the Christmas story I mentioned last month. It’s nearly finished now. I hope to have it ready to be published in a couple weeks, which puts me really close to Christmas. You might want to put “new Zoe Burton book” on your Christmas wish list. 😉 LOL

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Since I won’t have another blog post until 2021, I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May the next year be much better for all of us than the current year has been! <3

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This post is dedicated to the memory of Edith Angela Moore (May 6, 1942 to December 7, 2008).

 

 Sources:  

https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/the-hairbrush-through-the-regency/

https://kentbrushes.com/  

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/415246028112464584/

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18 COMMENTS
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Sheri Cobb South
August 4, 2021 3:59 PM

Coming late after discovering this article while trying to determine if my hero should have a brush or a comb. (I decided to give him a comb; thank you!) I did want to say, though, that in O. Henry’s short story “The Gift of the Magi,” Della’s husband doesn’t buy her a hairbrush, but combs (the ornamental kind, not just something to groom her hair with) for the hair that isn’t long enough to put up anymore. (At least her hair will grow–“very fast,” as she assures him–but I was always left wondering if they were ever able to reclaim his watch!)

darcybennett
December 17, 2020 12:10 PM

Thank you for sharing!

Jennifer Redlarczyk
Jennifer Redlarczyk
December 10, 2020 9:56 AM

Lovely memories of your mom, Zoe. She is always with you in your heart. Many Blessings!

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
December 7, 2020 9:47 PM

Great post! Your Mom would be proud! It’s always nice to have memories of our lives ones and their traditions that we keep.

J. W. Garrett
J. W. Garrett
December 7, 2020 8:17 PM

What a lovely lady, thanks for sharing her story and her picture. It is funny how stories become a big part of our memories. Both my mother and father are gone now but I remember them fondly and know where they are. Their lives were a testimony to their faith and I would not want them to have to deal with our COVID situation. That would be horrid for them to endure. I will see them one day and I am OK with that. Blessings, Zoe, and a Merry Christmas to you too. Wear a mask, stay safe, and healthy.

Riana Everly
AuAu
December 7, 2020 2:24 PM

It’s funny, those little things that bring back all the wonderful memories. Thanks for that interesting bit of info on hairbrushes!

Patricia Noda
Patricia Noda
December 7, 2020 10:27 AM

Beautiful memory of your dear mother! Still miss my parents whose birthdays fall this month.
The story you mentioned is O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” first published in 1905.
Will be waiting for your latest creation. Stay safe and healthy.

Mirta Ines Trupp
AuAu
December 7, 2020 8:48 AM

May your mom’s memory be always for a blessing.

Regina Jeffers
Admin
December 7, 2020 7:57 AM

Zoe, what a wonderful memory of your mother to share with us. I totally understand. Thanksgiving is always terribly hard on me, for my late mother’s birthday falls during those days before, after, and sometimes on the day. I know my mother would be proud of the woman I have become, and I am certain your mother would be the same, for you are a caring individual. I am proud to claim a connection.

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