September 9

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Boston Evening-Post (September 9, 1771).

“He has invented an HAIR-ROLL upon an entire new Construction.”

In the 1770s, fashionable women preferred a towering hairstyle known as the high roll.  Their high hair testified that they had the leisure time to maintain the style and the means to hire hairdressers or maids to assist in achieving the style.  While some women with high rolls wore wigs, most arranged their own hair around pads and rollers, sometimes embellished with plumes, ribbons, hats, or other adornments.  Women wore high rolls to assert status, but they also became targets of critics who condemned luxury and the corrupting influences sometimes associated with consumer culture in the eighteenth century.

William Warden, a wigmaker who kept shop on King Street in Boston, attempted to catch the attention of prospective customers with an advertisement “To the LADIES” in the September 9, 1771, edition of the Boston Evening-Post.  He promoted a product that he invented to aid women in achieving the style while also making high hair more comfortable to wear.  Warden proclaimed that he “invented an HAIR-ROLL upon an entire new Construction,” one that weighed significantly less than those made and sold by his competitors.  The wigmaker estimated that most “Rolls in common use weigh from Seven to Ten Ounces, whereas those he makes do not exceed Three.”  Warden did not believe that he needed to provide further recommendation for his product.  “The Advantages of a light Roll over a heavy one,” he declared, “are so obvious that it would be affrontive to the Understanding to point them out.”  Women who wore the style may have been delighted to learn of hair rollers that were easier to balance and put less strain on their necks.

According to Warden, being fashionable did not mean having to be uncomfortable, or at least not as uncomfortable as most hair rolls made the women who wore them.  He invited women to give his new product a try, giving them access to a popular fashion, the high roll, without experiencing some of the disadvantages often associated with it.