Barber Pole The Barbers ClubBarber Pole

How It All Began
History Behind The Barber Pole

How It All Began
     Once upon a time there was a little female adventurer named Lourdes.  From time to time Lourdes would beckon Slag from his workroom to chat about life as a mortal.  One fine evening Slag was gazing over the realms and noticed a small gathering of mortals in the wedding chapel, where Lourdes was known to dwell most of the time.  Slag decided that he would teleport to their location and chat with the mortals for a while.

     Upon entering the chapel Slag was instantly aware that there seemed to be a problem with Lourdes.  The adventurers had formed a small circle around Lourdes and seemed to have a look of amazement as they watched Lourdes and spoke with her.  It reminded Slag of the crowds of people that used to persecute people with odd attributes that ventured into his home town when he was a child.  Being curious himself, Slag parted through the onlookers and saw a fearsome sight.  Lourdes was standing in the middle of the crowd seeming a bit distraught.  She looked like most other female adventurers in the realm, except that there seemed to be a problem with Lourdes' rear end.  Oddly enough, a voluminous poof of hair was protruding from the back of her breeches.

     It seemed there was such a massive hair growth that it would not fit within the confines of her britches.  At first Slag looked upon Lourdes and gasped having never seen such an atrocity.  After a few moments of examining Lourdes' 'growth' diligently, Slag decided that her problem could be dealt with.  He remembered meeting a wise old  barber in the years past known as Filipe.

     Slag remembered being told of such problems by Filipe, yet he dismissed them as old wise tales and never thought twice about anything like that ever actually occurring.  After remembering what Filipe had told him, and seeing drastic symptoms of Lourdes affliction, Slag vowed to form a group of mortals and immortals alike that would band against this dreaded condition.  After a while, this group came to be known as the Barbers Club of NannyMUD.  This group has vowed to save others from this and other hair growth abnormalities by shaving the person suffering from this disorder on sight.

And thus the barber decree was born:


by Harry Perelman, M.D.

    The barber's trade is an ancient one. Razors have been found among relics of the Bronze Age (circa 3500 B.C.). Barbering is mentioned in the Bible by Ezekiel who said "And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber's razor, and cause it to pass upon thine head and upon thine beard." Barbering was introduced in Rome in 296 B.C. and barbers became most popular and prosperous. Their shops were centers for daily news and gossip. All free men of Rome were clean-shaven, while slaves were forced to wear beards. It is from the Roman (Latin) word barba, meaning beard, that the word "barber" is derived. About 334 B.C., Alexander the Great made his soldiers shave regularly for the purpose of gaining an advantage in hand-to-hand combat so that his warriors were able to grasp an enemy by the beard, while they themselves were safeguarded in this method of fighting.

   The barbers of early days were also the surgeons and dentists. Most early physicians distained surgery and the barbers did surgery of wounds, bloodletting, cupping and leeching, enemas and extracting teeth. Since the barbers were involved not only with haircutting, hair dressing and shaving but also with surgery, they were called barber-surgeons. They formed their first organization in France in 1094. In an effort to distinguish between academic surgeons and barber-surgeons, the College deSaint Come, founded in Paris about 1210, identified the former as surgeons of the long robe and the latter as surgeons of the short robe. French barbers and surgeons were organized as a guild in 1391, and barber-surgeons were admitted to the faculty of the University of Paris in 1505. Ambroise Pare (1510-1590), the father of modern surgery and the greatest surgeon of the Renaissance, began his career as an itinerant barber surgeon. His brother was a barber surgeon and his sister married a barber surgeon. In England the barbers were chartered as a guild by Edward IV in 1462 as the Company of Barbers. The surgeons formed a guild 30 years later and the two companies were united by statute of Henry VIII in 1540 under the name of the United Barber Surgeon's Company. In actual practice, however, barbers who cut hair and gave shaves were forbidden to practice surgery except for bloodletting and pulling teeth and surgeons were prohibited from "barbery of shaving". In France a decree by Louis XV in 1743 prohibited barbers from practicing surgery and in England in 1745 the surgeons were separated from the barbers by acts passed during the reign of George ll. The surgeons then formed a corporation of surgeons with the title of "masters, Governors and Commonalty of the Honorable Society of the Surgeons of London". This body was subsequently dissolved and later replaced by the Royal College of Surgeons in 1800 during the reign of George III.

   The origin of the barber's pole appears to be associated with his service of bloodletting. The original pole has a brass basin at its top representing the vessel in which leeches were kept and also represented the basin which received the blood. The pole itself represented the staff which the patient held onto during the operation. The red and white stripes represented the bandages used during the procedure-red for the bandage stained with blood during the operation and white for the clean bandage. The bandages would be hung out to dry after washing on the pole and would blow and twist together forming the spiral pattern similar to the modern day barber pole. The bloodstained bandages became recognized as the emblem of the barber-surgeon's profession. Later in time, the emblem was replaced by a painted wooden pole of white and red stripes. These colors are recognized as the true colors of the barber emblem. Red, white and blue are widely used in America due partly to the fact that the national flag has these colors. Another interpretation of these barber pole colors is that red represents arterial blood, blue is symbolic of venous blood and white depicts the bandage. After formation of the United Barber Surgeon's Company in England, a statute required barbers to use a blue and white pole and the surgeons to use a red pole. In France, the surgeons of the long robe placed a red pole with a basin attached to identify their offices. The modern barber pole now has a ball in stead of the basin.

   In 1950 there were four manufacturers of barber poles in the United States. Mr. William Marvy of St. Paul, Minn. started his business then and is now the only surviving barber pole manufacturer in the North American continent. In 1968, Mr. Marvy made his 50,000th barber pole and by 1974 over 60,000 poles have been made. Mr. Marvy states that the sale of barber poles has dropped considerably in recent years due to the fact that there are very few new barbershops opening now. A few years ago there were over 100,000 barber shops in this country but now there are only about 85,000. 

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This page was last modified by Gabe on March 26, 2004.