Who Invented the Curling Iron?

June 17, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

So who invented the curling iron? You will find many references to “invented” and “patented by” or “introduced by”. The original inventor is lost in the mists of time but this much I have found out…

In 1866, Hiram Maxim applied for and obtained the first of many patents at age 26 for a hair curling iron. He also has a machine gun bearing his name.


Hiram Maxim 1840-1916.

Four years later, two Frenchmen, Maurice Lentheric and Marcel Grateau, used hot-air drying and heated curling tongs to make long-lasting Marcel waves. Twenty years later, Alexandre F. Godefroy, a French hairdresser, invented the hair dryer, composed of a bonnet attached to a flexible chimney that extended to a gas stove.

In 1905, Sarah Breedlove Walker created a cosmetic industry in Indianapolis, Indiana. She became the first African-American female millionaire in America after inventing a method for straightening hair using emollient creams and hot combs. In 1906, Charles L. Nessler, a German hairdresser working in London, applied a borax paste and curled hair with an iron to make the first permanent waves. This expensive process took a long twelve hours. Eight years later, Eugene Sutter adapted the method by designing a dryer that contained twenty heaters to do the job of waving more efficiently. Following Sutter was Gaston Boudou, who modified Sutter’s dryer and invented an automatic roller. By 1920, Rambaud, a Paris beautician, had perfected a system of curling and drying permed hair for softer, looser curls by using an electric hot-air dryer, an innovation of the period made by the Racine Universal Motor Company of Racine, Wisconsin.


This antique electric curling iron has wooden handles and was made to plug into a light socket.



This is an antique curling iron and crimper thought to be early 20th Century.


Antique Victorian curling iron.


This is a hair curling iron with a beaded silver handle. It was made by Mulholland Bros. Inc. in Aurora IL. active between 1915-1932.


These irons were generally heated over a kerosene lamp then rolling a small tuft of hair in it to set the hair.


The red one is made by Duro and has a push button to turn it on, neither the black or brown one has a name.


Early Hair tongs.

Till next time Good Luck,


Invention of the Hair dryer

June 9, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

The first model hairdryer was created by Alexandre F. Godefoy in 1890 in his salon in France. Some of the other blow dryers were actually purpose made boxes that sat on a table.


I could not find any commentary on this photo, only is known to be a late 1800′s hairdryer.

The hair dryer was patterned after the vacuum cleaner and as a marketing gimmick, some vacuum cleaners had attachments that could be used to dry your hair. Hand held dryers were introduced by the US Racine Universal Motor Company (Wisconsin), and the Hamilton Beach Co. in 1920 . Most of the electric motor business left Racine in the 1960′s.


This is a 1920 Hamilton Beach Hairdryer, they were built like tanks and believe it or not this one is said to still work. (you can see it at

In 1922 a small enough electric motor was developed so the dryer could be hand held. This was added to a hairdryer and it then became very popular. Over the next 40 years improvements in heat level, speed and weight made hairdryers even better to use.


figure 1: This early electric fan-driven hairdryer was used by middle class families and could be found in Germany cir.1925. This photo is taken from the Science Museum.


figure 2: This blow dryer is from the mid 40′s and has a wooden handle with a cloth cord. It is marked “Kwik Way Mfg.”


figure 3: This blow dryer is pink with a wooden handle and is made by Kenmore. It is thought to be somewhere in the 1940′s-1950′s range.


figure 4: This is a vintage electric 1960′s Bettina Universal hair dryer in an ostrich skin suitcase. The heating unit is attached to the carrier and blows hot air through the hose into the plastic cap.

So you see how far we’ve come from boxes on tables to cordless hair dryers. I got to tell you that I am far more likely to use the hand held with or without the cord but definitely without the box! Till next time Good Luck,