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FEATURES Feb 10 2013 10:01AM
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The original Madame CJ Walker pomades

All About the Tradition: The Origins of Pomades and Hairdresses

by Laquita Thomas-Banks http://allnaptural.blogspot.com/

One of the first things that come to mind when I think about pomades or hairdresses is sitting on the floor in between my mother’s legs getting my scalp ‘greased’.

Back then I didn’t know what the ingredients were in these sulfur or menthol-smelling formulas, but I liked the results – cool-feeling parts in my scalp and shiny plaits or puff balls slicked into place.

Blue Magic plastic clear containers containing the blue or green ‘grease’ stick out in my mind. Little did I know the creators of Blue Magic were the same ones who created the Royal Crown brand pomade in 1938.

Another brand I clearly remember seeing on my mother’s dresser is Murray’s in its orange tin can. Interestingly enough, Murray’s Superior Pomade, originated in the 1920s, has the same ingredients since 1925. It is made with petrolatum, mineral oil and perfume. Royal Crown, by the way, contained pretty much the same ingredients with added olive oil.

According to Wikipedia, the use of “pomade” in English is derived from French, “pomade”, meaning “an ointment” itself arising from Latin “pomum” (fruit apple) via Italian “pomo” meaning “apple”, because the original ointment recipe contained mashed apples.

It also states that in the early 19th century bear fat was a common pomade ingredient, but by the early 20th century, petroleum jelly, beeswax and even lard were used. Pomades were associated with the slick men’s hairstyles of the early to middle 20th century.

The Ducktail, Pompadour and Quiff were styles achieved using pomades. After Royal Crown and Murray’s, Dixie Peach became a popular pomade in the US from Word War II through the 1960s with teenage boys.

Delving centuries back, during the 1890s Sarah Breedlove began to suffer from a scalp ailment that caused her to lose most of her hair. According to Madam CJ Walker.com, she experimented with many homemade remedies and store-bought products, including those made by Annie Malone, another black woman entrepreneur.

In 1905 Sarah moved to Denver as a sales agent for Malone. She then married her third husband Charles Joseph Walker, and after changing her name to “Madam” C.J. Walker she founded her own business and began selling Madam Walker’s Hair Grower. This was a scalp conditioning and healing formula which she claimed had been revealed to her in a dream.

Madam CJ Walker’s Hair Grower contained petrolatum, beeswax, copper sulfate, precipitated sulfur, coconut oil and violet extract. Madam Walker’s products were intended to treat scalp disease that was rampant in the early 1900s, but some believed her purpose was to straighten hair.

"Right here let me correct the erroneous impression held by some that I claim to straighten hair," she told a reporter in 1918 after she had been called the "de-kink queen" by a white newspaper. "I deplore such an impression because I have always held myself out as a hair culturist. I grow hair."

Today we have our very own modern-day Madam CJ Walker – Lisa Price, the creator of Carol’s Daughter products. Her mission is to fulfill the beauty needs of the diversity of skins that make up the tapestry of our world by creating high-quality hair, body and skincare products made with natural ingredients.

Included in her cache of wonderful products are Marguerite's Magic containing soy bean oil, sweet almond oil, and shea butter; Mimosa Hair Honey, containing herbs such as sage, nettle, lavender and rosemary; and, Healthy Butter, a water-based hairdress containing beeswax, jojoba and cocoa and shea butter.

These pomades/hairdresses are carrying on the tradition of little girls getting their scalps ‘greased’ but with the added benefits of ingredients that are petrolatum and mineral oil-free and that contain other essential oils and herbs that nourish both the hair and scalp.

Sources

Madam C.J. Walker: A Brief Biographical Essay ©
by A’Lelia Bundles - http://www.madamcjwalker.com/

On Her Own Ground The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker
By A'LELIA BUNDLES http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/b/bundles-ground.html

Wikipedia -  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomade

The Gentlemen’s Gazette - http://www.gentlemansgazette.com/pomade-guide-test-murrays-georgia-brown-royal-crown/
Photo Credit - A'Lelia Bundles/Madam Walker Family Archives

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