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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Just a Little Off the Top: 1925

Just a Little Off the Top: 1925

Washington, D.C., circa 1925. "Barbershop, Investment Building," 15th and K Streets N.W. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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We'll Have a Hot Towel in the Old Town Tonight

Those hot towels are the BEST thing! SportsClips still does this, and they are a national chain of barbers. One must get the upper level of service: the "MVP" or "Triple Play." You can always dampen a towel and microwave for about 30 seconds at home, and the effect is just as glamorous.

...Youuure so next!

The highlight of this photo, for me, are the towel warmers. If you came in for a shave, they'd wrap your mug in a hot towel, to soften the beard. From what I've heard, the towels were almost hot enough to make you jump out of the chair.

Clip Joint

That blue liquid is called Barbicide (that's a brand name - others brands probably exist, but Barbicide was the first). It wasn't around at the time this picture was taken. Before a comb/razor/shear sanitizer was invented, barbers just rinsed them in water, if that. Preventing the spread of scalp diseases wasn't big in most barbers' minds. I don't even know if they had to be licensed in any state back then.

(Fans of The Andy Griffith Show will get the subject line.)


"Tonsorial" is derived from "tonsure" and has nothing to do with the word "tonsil":

Tonsure n. 1. The act of shaving the head or part of the head, especially as a preliminary to becoming a priest or a member of a monastic order.
2. The part of a monk's or priest's head that has been shaved.
tr.v. ton·sured, ton·sur·ing, ton·sures
To shave the head of.

A Little Off the Inside, Please

My father was born in 1920, and at the age of about 6 or 7 he had his tonsils removed at a barbershop. He walked home alone afterwards. Just one of the those almost unbelievable stories merely one generation away.

Tonsorial Services

Many moons ago barbers also did some dental work and minor surgical procedures and I know this because my grandfather had his nasal polyps removed by a barber and his long-gone relative received tooth extraction and dentures from a different "barber". I was told they also removed tonsils upon request. Hence the word "tonsorial" was coined. I don't mean to be a "know-it-all", but young people might find this both disgusting and appalling, yet true.

Just a trim

Next! you are someone I would love to know IRL--hehehe

The short wall is to conceal the plumbing. Other than it blocks the "view" of the opposing window it was a cheap solution. I'm enjoying this one...look at the barred much to see. I heart Shorpy!

Four Chairs - No Waiting

This shop appears not to have any those blue liquid-filled jars for sanitizing combs. I remember shops like these in New York, with reclining chairs and paper-covered headrests. Those odd looking fittings on the side of the arms were for attaching the kid booster seat. The barber in the reflection sports a tie! Why was the electric barber pole seen in the mirror's reflection inside the shop? Was the shop in an arcade of this building and prohibited from having the pole in the public area?

Barber chairs

I'd love to have one of those old barber's chairs for my living room - okay, maybe the model with the padded leather armrests.

I remember them from the old-style barber shops, and they were so large and comfortable.


I like the barber lurking in the shadows of the first mirror on the left. And all the oil & vinegar they'd put on those guys heads! Curious too, the short wall in front of the windows. Makes me wonder what the whole space looked like.


Hope they cut women's hair because I'm on my way! So clean, so tidy, so welcoming. At my age, I could use a shave too so maybe they'll make an exception.

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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