According to the July 1888 issue of the Firelands Pioneer, the first barber shop in Sandusky was operated by Grant Ritchie, an African American who was also active in the Underground Railroad in the Sandusky area, a network of individuals who aided fugitive slaves find their way to freedom in Canada. In the 1850s, most of the barber shops in Sandusky were in the downtown area of the city. Though the picture below is not in color, the J. and F. Bock Barber Shop, located at 812 Water Street in 1886, featured the familiar red, white, and blue pole in front of the shop. The red and white pole (with blue usually added in American poles) has long been a symbol of the barber’s trade.
The 1902 Sandusky City Directory listing for barber shops included the names of thirty three barbers. Harry Parker’s barber shop was in the Sloane House hotel at that time. In the first part of the twentieth century, several hotels in Sandusky had their own barber shops for the convenience of their guests. Barbershops were found in the West House, Commercial Hotel, Murschel House, Hotel Rieger, the Wayne Hotel and the Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point. Below is a photograph of Jerry McMahon’s barber shop in the Hotel Rieger about 1935. Jerry McMahon is on the right. The other barbers in the picture are: Bill Foley, Chet Martin, and Bill Wells. Charles Alexander, in the back of the shop, worked as a shoeshine porter.
John Martin Luipold worked as a barber in Sandusky for over sixty years. In this picture of his barber shop on Hayes Avenue in 1915, you can see a wooden rack holding the shaving mugs of several of his regular customers.
Today, Sandusky still has several traditional barber shops, though some hair styling businesses cater to both male and female customers. The Acme Barber Shop on Columbus Avenue (below, in 1922) has operated under various owners since 1901.
To read more about the history of barbers in Sandusky, see Article 40 in volume two of From the Widow's Walk, by Helen Hansen and Virginia Steinemann.
African American barbers with white patrons was the norm in the late 1800's. It helped create a black middle class. That changed when European immigrants arrived.
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