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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Radio Barber: 1922

Radio Barber: 1922

Washington, D.C., circa 1922. "Coin-operated radio in barbershop." Seen earlier outdoors. A closeup of the instructions for the set, provided by American Field Glass Service (which also supplied, we would guess, coin-operated binoculars and telescopes) can be seen here. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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Can you spare a dime?

A coin-operated radio, whoda thunk? I remember my job in the motels we stayed in during family vacations in the late 50s: running to put quarters in the coin-operated TV when it was about to shut off. Same thing, basically.

Girl or boy?

1. Is the young patron listening to the radio a girl or a boy? I don't expect to see young girls in a barbershop. On the other hand, I don't expect to see such long hair on boys in 1922. Or anytime prior to the Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan.

2. I find it interesting that the patrons appear to be white and the barbers of color. I would have expected segregated barber shops in Washington D.C. in 1922. Or was barbering an occupation open to Blacks?

[The patrons here were all very white. Would you call a hotel where the porters were black "unsegregated"? - Dave]


Were the Barbers so hard up that they couldn't have a radio playing in the shop?

[Early radio listeners used headphones -- the sets were generally unamplified, and loudspeakers were in their infancy. - Dave]

Bookie Barber

My favorite barber when I was a kid was a fellow named Mr. Moore who made book on the side. Actually, he was a bookie and cut hair on the side. He'd cut the top and back, too, but he preferred to take bets on the races at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and other tracks of yore and might take four or five telephone calls while cutting my hair in a shop that looked a lot like the one pictured here.

I generally didn't mind the interruptions; I was in no hurry. My father rarely took me to the barber shop because he went to another place near his office and my mother wouldn't go inside the barber shop because of the girlie magazines and pinup calendars and rough talk and expectoration and such. She'd just drop me off and wait down the block in a boutique or in the fabric store another half block down.

There were lots of interesting pictures in the Argosy and True Detective magazines in the rack, soda pop for a dime in the old machine in the corner, and salty talk about young ladies who passed by the plate glass window. "That'n'll do, I reckon" or "reckon that'n'll do?" was about the sum of it. Cigar smoke was thick and mixed with the medicinal smell of the blue antiseptic comb-bath and the sandalwood shaving soap.

Mr Moore was not a very good barber. Mom always had to touch up crooked bangs or a tuft above the ears when we got home. He apparently wasn't a very good bookie, either. He sold the shop in 1967 or '68 and left town owing money, according to the wags down at the barber shop.

Patron in Background

Shave, hell! I've had this since Second Manassas!

Coin Controlled Radio

Click to enlarge.

Try Your Skill Tuning-In

Reception is clear and mellow
when properly tuned





Concerts, Lectures, Reports, News
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5¢                     DIRECTIONS                     5¢

1. To ascertain if radio waves are being received. Place phones to ears, set dial at 50. Press button on front of box. If voice or music is heard intermittently, radio waves are being received.

2. To listen in. If radio waves are being received, place nickel in coin receiver, revolve handle as far as it will go and release. Adjust dial for satisfactory reception.

3. To avoid interruption. When red light appears deposit another nickel in coin receiver and revolve handle as before.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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