In the Whiteley Room

Model Violet Blythe with a small comb in her hair.
Violet Blythe by Bassano Ltd, 9 July 1915
Photographs Collection, National Portrait Gallery x80727.

Hair combs are one of the oldest tools known to mankind with the oldest known comb dating to over 10,000 years ago.  The earliest combs were simple affairs used for grooming one’s hair but it was not long before decorative combs began showing up in diverse cultures all over the world. 

In the United States, the 19th and early 20th centuries saw the popularity of decorative hair combs soar.  Changes in technology, specifically the “plastic revolution,” made these luxury items available and affordable.  The Camden Archives & Museum presents Hair Combs: Alluring & Practical through August 30, 2020.  The hair combs on display represent both changes in fashion from the 1860s to the 1930s and the changes that chemistry made to people's lives with the advent of plastics.