Law Office Exterior and Barber Shop

Old Cowtown Museum Tour

Law Office Exterior and Barber Shop

Wichita, Kansas 67203, United States

Created By: Old Cowtown Museum


The Law Office and Barber shop

The Law Office located in the Business District of Old Cowtown Museum, represents legal practices in Wichita and Sedgwick County, Kansas during the 1870s. As early as 1872, there were at least seventeen lawyers in the Wichita area, although many practiced part time and needed a second job in orer to sustain an income. This was not an unusual practice throughout the nation during the time period.

Many lawyers were also budding politicians who used their knowledge of the law to secure positions of influence in local affairs. As with other professionals of the period, such as doctors and editors, lawyers received great benefit from belonging to the "night" political party. Similarly, they frequently acquired influence and gained the trust of residents by functioning as local land agents.

Whereas criminal trials occasionally brightened the legal life of a town, few lawyers could have survived without the paperwork and litigation provided by land purchases, title transfers, mortgages, sales, and claim jumping.

Debt collection may have been one of a lawyer’s most important sources of income, as evidenced by the many advertisements for negotiation of land loans in the early Wichita newspapers.

The Barbershop located in the Business District of Old Cowtown Museum, represents a business and social institution of the expanding metropolitan community during the 1870s. Barbershops were sometimes referred to as "shaving saloons." Due to the barbershop’s gender‑specific orientation and its bathing facilities, the barbershop often reflected the atmosphere of a men’s club. .

Ladies would not set foot in a place like this. Aside from the intimate bathing and grooming of th opposite gender the men would be talking politics or business of which women had no say. ladies would not want to hear the swearing, jokes and tall tales that were thrown around by most of the men..

Barbers were at their shops six days a week, and early on Sunday mormings for shaves before church.. Locals would come in once or twice a week for a shave, and have their boots blacked by a young man. Many barbers began working in shops as apprentices; sweeping up, shining boots and shoes, and cleaning spittoons.

The average price of a shave was 10 cents, and a haircut was 15 cents. For a few cents extra the barber would splash on a little lilac water. Fashionable men also used cherry laurel water as after shave. So, for a little less than a days pay the cowboy would get himself cleaned up from weeks on the trail. Business was very good when any special event took place, such as a circus or the county fair, since many visitors would be in town.

A bath was 50 cents, which was a half‑day's pay for a cowboy. He could have it hot or cold. It was the customer's choice. Some wanted cold baths, because many, including some doctors, advocated cold bathing. Debates raged for years over cold verses hot.

Amazingly the use of soap was considered by some less important than the therapeutic effect of washing. Some medical experts deplored taking full baths in a tub like we have here. One doctor said, "A bathtub is a zinc coffin". One of the most popular brands of soap was Ivory.

After the bath the customer would come and wait his turn in the setting chairs. Once in the barber chair, the barber, using a brush, would whip up lather from shaving soap placed in a mug.

Barbers were careful with the local customers. They knew the fellows with tender faces, and only a mild Castile soap was applied. Repeat business, as always, was important. Many of the locals had their own mug that they left at the shop. It was somewhat of a status symbol to have your personalized mug placed into the mug cabinet. We have several examples of personalize mugs, such as, lawyer, doctor, and dentist.

Once the man's face was lathered, the barber honed his razor on a strop, a long thick piece of leather. The barber would run the razor blade along the length to put a fine edge on the blade.

Facial Hair -The 1870s was a time when men, more than likely, had a growth of hair somewhere on the face. There were mustaches; lamb chop sideburns, and some sported full beards. They had become popular during the Civil War. Many of the etiquette books of this time period regarded facial hair as natural, expressive, healthful, dignified, handsome and virile. One writer declared, "shaving renders the face effeminate".

This point of interest is part of the tour: Old Cowtown Museum Tour


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