As you know, this website is all about my book, African Americans of Chattanooga: A History of Unsung Heroes, which debuted in January, 2008. My book was a six year labor of love that resulted in a treasure of “unsung” historical information. This website is my way of sharing some of that information with you.
Today we’re going to talk about how they were “doing it” in Chattanooga in the olden days.
To the right is the late Mr. John G. Higgins, a prominent barber of the late 1890’s, and owner of the O.K. Shaving Parlor.
Higgins was the inventor of the Eureka Straightening Comb, a wildly successful item in those rugged days before “permanents” and “relaxers” became widely known. The Eureka was guaranteed to “straighten the hair of colored people,” and brought Higgins so much money and fame, he was often badgered to sell his company.
But Higgins didn’t just dabble with straightening hair–he believed in cutting it off, too! The photo to the left shows the interior of one of Higgins’ best-known barber shops, the O.K. Shaving Parlor. It was located at 911 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37401. In 1904, this shop was considered one of the most beautiful in the city, and was frequented by some of the city’s finest citizens–black and white.
Higgins was certainly a progressive man. He came to Chattanooga in 1886 and worked at the barber trade for over 30 years. Aside from his straightening comb empire, he owned and controlled eleven other barber shops (Tonsorial Parlors). Now that’s what I call doing it.
Higgins was the grandfather of the late Mrs. Josephine Dorsey Wheeler, daughter-in-law of Dr. Emma Rochelle Wheeler, Chattanooga’s first African American female physician.
Be sure to pick up your copy of African Americans of Chattanooga and find out who else was doing it. Just click on the icon to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon.com’s website, where you can make your purchase.
Until next time, best wishes and happy writing.