Who invented the comb?

Hot comb - Hot comb

An illustration for a hot comb patent from 1920

A hot comb (also known as a Directional comb or Press comb ) a metal comb that is used to straighten moderate or coarse hair and create a smoother hair texture. A hot comb is heated and used to straighten the hair from the roots. It can be attached directly to the heat source or heated electrically.


The hot comb was an invention developed in France to give women with coarse curly hair a fine, straight look that was traditionally modeled by historical Egyptian women.

Parisian François Marcel Grateau is said to have revolutionized hair styling when he invented and introduced heated irons in France in 1872 to curl and wave his clients' hair. His Marcel Wave remained in fashion for many decades. The British Library of Science and Society credits L. Pelleray of Paris with the manufacture of heated irons in the 1870s. An example of a version of Pelleray's curling iron from the 1890s is in the Chudnow Museum in Milwaukee.

It is believed that Elroy J. Duncan invented and manufactured the first hot comb, or heated metal straightening comb, in America. Sometimes the device is referred to as a "press comb". During the late 19th century, Dr. Scott's electric hair curler is advertised in several publications including the Bloomingdale catalog of 1886 and the June 1889 issue of Lippincotts magazine that It was marketed to men for the care of beards and mustaches imitating the "loose and fluffy" hairstyles of actress Lillie Langtry and opera singer Adelina Patti, the popular white entertainer of the time.

Mrs. Baum's Hair Emporium, a store on Eighth Avenue in New York with a large clientele consisting primarily of African American women, advertised women. Baum's "completely new and improved" directional comb in 1912. In May and June 1914 she became a different woman. Baum advertisements claimed they now have a "shampoo dryer and hair straightening comb," which is said to have been patented April 1, 1914. U.S. Patent 1,096,666 for a heated "hair drying" comb - but not a hair straightening comb - is credited to Emilia Baum and granted May 12, 1914.

In May 1915, the New York Humania Hair Company marketed a "solid brass smoothing comb" for 89 cents. That same month, Wolf Brothers of Indianapolis advertised the hair straightening comb and alcohol heating comb for $ 1.00. Louisville's La Creole Company claimed to have invented a self-heating comb that did not require an external flame. In September 1915, JE Laing, owner of Laings Barbershop in Kansas City, Kansas, claimed to have invented the "king of straightening irons" with a 3/4 "wide, 9 1/2" long comb that also had a reversible handle for use with the left or right hand. Indol Laboratories, owned by Bernia Austin of Harlem, offered a steel magnetic comb for $ 5.00 in November 1916.

Walter Sammons of Philadelphia filed an application for Patent No. 1,362,823 on April 9, 1920. The patent was granted on December 21, 1920. The founder of the Poro Company, Annie Malone, has been credited with receiving the first patent for this tool by some sources, but that year Official Journal of the US Patent Office does not list her in 1920 as the holder of a hot comb patent.

The Patent Office Gazette dated May 16, 1922, however, includes Annie M. Malone of St. Louis in a list of patent owners of designs who have been granted patent no. Securing the closure of the lid of Poro products "to prevent other products from selling in packaging that looks like Poro products.

Hair care entrepreneur Ms. CJ Walker has never claimed to have invented the hot comb, although the invention and tooth spacing change have often been inaccurately attributed, but there is no evidence or documentation to support this claim. In the 1910s, Walker received her combs from various suppliers, including Louisa B. Cason of Cincinnati, Ohio, who finally filed patent application 1,413,255 on February 17, 1921 for a comb Cason had developed several years earlier. The patent was granted on April 18, 1922, although Cason had made the combs without a patent for many years.

Possible consequences

It is not uncommon for hair to be burned and damaged when a conventional hot comb is used. A hot comb is often heated to over 65 degrees Celsius. If you are not careful, severe burns and scars can occur.

The hot petrolatum used with the iron was thought to cause chronic inflammation around the upper segment of the hair follicle, leading to degeneration of the outer root sheath.

A study of hot comb alopecia was conducted in 1992 and it was found that there was a poor correlation between hot comb use and disease incidence and progression. The study comes to the conclusion that the term follicular degeneration syndrome (FDS) is suggested for this clinically and histologically different form of scar alopecia.

Hot comb alopecia and follicular degeneration syndrome are irreversible alopecia of the scalp that was believed to occur in people who straighten their hair with hot combs, but this idea was later debunked.

further reading

  • Byrd, Ayana D., Tharps, Lori L. Hair Story: Unraveling the Roots of Black Hair in America. New York: St. Martin's Press. 2001
  • The Black Inventor Online Museum, Blackinventor.com
  • Philip LoPresti, MD; Christopher M. Papa, MD; Albert M. Kligman, MD, PhD. "Hot Comb Alopecia" Arch Dermatol. 1968; 98 (3): 234- 238.
  • LTC Leonard C. Sperling, MC; COL Purnima Sau, MC, Archives of Dermatology “The Follicular Degeneration Syndrome in Black Patients: 'Hot Comb Alopecia' revised and revised”. 1992; 128 (1): 68- 74.
  • Patton, Tracy Owens. "Hey girl, am I more than my hair? African American women and their struggles with beauty, body image and hair. “NWSA Journal 18, No. 2 (2006): 24-51.
  • Banks, Ingrid. Hair affairs. New York: New York University Press, 2000.
  • Djanie, Akua. "The Black Woman and the Myth of Beauty" New Africa 488 (October 2009): 60-61.
  • Akbari, Lisa. Black Women's Guide to Beautiful Hair: A Positive Approach to Managing Any Hair Type or Style. Illinois: Sourcebooks. Inc, 2002.
  • Rooks, Noliwe M. Hair Raising: Beauty Culture and African American Women. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1996.
  • Image library for science and society, [1]