Most of my ancestors had pretty traditional jobs like farmers and merchants, some were in specialized trades like doctor, blacksmith, or weavers. So I was quite intrigued when I came across a barber.
When we hear the word barber today we, of course, think shave and a haircut, maybe even a little tooth pulling, if jokingly recalling rumors of old.
Ellis Barron is one of those ancestors I ran across while trying to fill in some of the surname lines in my Fay tree. Frankly, there isn’t all that much we do know about him. But, his probate includes an inventory taken of his estate when he died in 1676. In this inventory is found barber’s instruments:
Of course the first thought that pops in my head is Sweeney Todd and his lady friend’s nasty meat pies. But that is the stage. However, in real life these barbers did engage in some pretty gross practices along with, yes, tooth extractions, there was: blood lettings, enemas, wound surgery, boil lancing, and digging out hangnails, ingrown hair or nails. Apparently they even preformed the service of castration.
The barber-surgeon was a profession that had been around for a very long time, lasting into the early 1800s. If you are interested in learning more, here are two links to a little history of the barber and the barber pole, and I am sure you could find more:
Ellis also had in his inventory a slave by the name of Shippio. It is thought that he might have been an assistant of Ellis’ in the barber trade, but we don’t know for sure. Shippio was given to Ellis’ wife, Ann, when he died and she willed the barber items to Shippio when she died. Other’s have tried to find out what happened to him, but nothing has been found so far.
… also the Negro servt I leave to my wife, and desire her to have a care of him that he may suffer no wrong …
So the next time I go to the dentist or doctor, I will be very thankful that they have the awesome skills they do to do their job right, so my hairdresser can just focus on my hair.