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April/2005 * 04/27/05
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Take thee a barber’s
Better yet, take yourself to the Ed Jeffers Barber Museum in Canal Winchester, Ohio. What started in 1988 with a paltry 10 pieces of barbering memorabilia now covers 3500 square feet. Ed Jeffers is an extraordinary collector, and according to the man himself, about the only thing he doesn't have is a reversed clock (for reading in the mirror) with a barber pole on either side -- although he does know where there is one and he's after it.
Climbing 21 wooden steps to a narrow hall lined in the brick building above Zeke’s Barbershop, you’re not quite sure what to expect. Immediately catching the eye is a rotating array of 60 barber poles (several still hand-cranked) and the gleaming rows of polished wooden chairs replete in red velvet. Mirrors, bottles, tonics, lotions, tools and clippers -- Ed’s collection is incredible by itself, but even more so as the man fills in the color behind the artifacts.
With almost half a century of hands-on experience, Ed knows his business. He has been on the Ohio Barber Board for more than three decades and with the National Association of Barber Boards of America for almost as long. His passion for preserving and sharing the history of his profession is boundless.
In the main room, a glass-cased assortment of hand-blown, hand-painted tonic bottles and a series of shaving mugs line one wall. It was considered high status to have your name personalized on a mug at the barbershop. To one side are a set of four chairs dating 1858 (one of the first reclining models), 1866, 1878 and 1890.
Ed skipped over the rather evil-looking scalp steamer on the opposite side of the room and had us searching for the pole that was not like the others. School kids love this part of the tour, Ed adds with a laugh. All barber poles run up, this one runs down.
There’s a story behind the colors in the pole too. Between 1450 and 1745 all barbers were barber/surgeons, Ed notes with a devilish gleam in his eyes. When they parted professions, the barbers kept the pole and surgeons took the serpent. White on the pole represents bandages, red for blood and blue for veins.
Talking from behind the jeweler’s display case loaded with razors and clippers, even a rolling hair brush worth $4.50 in the 1884 catalogue open nearby, the silver-tongued barber turns on the charm. “I never cut ladies hair,” Ed smiles, “ ‘cause I was afraid I’d fall in love with them.”
Good thing there were lady barbers -- in fact one of them left a bequest to the museum. The copy of the will reads, “I, Linda L. Manzer, give and transfer all my right title and interest to all my barber antiques to the Barber Museum located in the State of Ohio.” There’s only one. That’s the Ed Jeffers Barber Museum, one-of-a-kind.
Beneath shuttered windows are a series of unusual and rare chairs -- the 1861 Civil War folding barber chair (for only $15 according to the catalogue of the era), the WWI army chair (draped with Ed’s Korean War dog tags) and the swan’s head carved armrest chair.
The black-and-white tiled back room is still a licensed shop, used only occasionally these days. Edwin C. Jeffers license hangs on the wall, complete with a smiling, admitedly younger-looking barber. The expiry date reads August 31, 2006 -- hmm, better book an appointment soon.
Another anteroom holds the Barber’s hall of fame, lined with photos of barbers who’ve done more than just stand behind a chair and cut hair. Across the hall is a series of knickknacks (including barbering-themed music boxes), photographs and the sci-fi cosmology room.
The Ed Jeffers Barber Museum -- for stories that delight and a collection that amazes, be sure to clip this one.
If You Go:
Ed Jeffers Barber Museum is located in Canal Winchester, Ohio (2 - 12 South High Street) -- a short drive south of Columbus, Ohio. Tours and admission are free, but visits must be arranged ahead of time (no set hours). Phone (614) 833-9931 or email BarberMuseum@Earthlink.net .
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