A collection of three steer horn hair combs from the later Victorian period.
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1880s – 1900s
MATERIALS: steer horn
Here is a collection of three steer horn hair combs from the later Victorian period. #1 and #2 are back combs, which is a type of hair ornament which is specifically designed to be worn on the rear of the dressing. It is deeply curved on the horizontal plane to fit comfortably against the curve of the skull. Such combs are usually wider than they are high, their primary purpose being to support and ornament an up do.
#3 is a simple two pronged comb of a type which was often made in pairs. They were worn throughout the 19th and early 20th century. They could perform both an ornamental and a useful function, being used to hold the elaborate coiffures of the day in place as well as to adorn the hair.
#1 comb with wavy top measures 2½ ins h x 4½ ins w (6 x 11 cm)
#2 comb with curved top measures 5 ins h x 2 ins w (13 x 5 cm)
#3 rectangular comb measures 3½ ins h x 3½ ins w (9 x 9 cm)
Back combs were immensely popular in the period around the turn of the 20th century when they helped support the puffed out Gibson Girl hair dressing and the huge hats of the period. The final picture illustrates similar hair accessories from contemporary sources and shows the hair styles with which they were used.
Until the advent of celluloid in the late 19th century, steer horn was one of the most popular materials for hair combs. The material was cheaply available as a bi product of the meat industry. It was also versatile and could be easily treated to obtain a number of decorative effects. It could be dyed a range of colours, and was often treated to imitate the distinctive “tortoise” pattern of the more expensive material. This was achieved by painting it with various dyes and chemicals.
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Three Victorian practical hair combs steer horn hair ornaments