Collection Item of the Week: Perm Machine

Permanent Wave Machine 

By HHM collections manager Heather Hoagland

Despite appearances, this is not some kind of torture device—although may have caused women to suffer for fashion. This is a permanent wave machine. With the combination of a reagent on the hair and the addition of heat through the top of the device (known as the “chandelier”), this machine would create a stylish wave.

permmachine2

Image: Wiki Commons

First, a proprietary alkaline reagent would be applied to the hair. Each beautician would create their own special blend, determined by their own experience, as well as the type of hair and style desired. Although I couldn’t confirm this myself, curator Jack Kabrud claims this reagent could include cow urine!

Sections of hair would then be wrapped around one of the metal coils and clamped into place and the electric machine would add heat to the hair, setting the wave in place.

This particular machine was produced by E. Frederics, Inc. of New York, circa 1928. The image below shows representatives of the company giving a demonstration in New York in 1928.

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