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Cincinnati Barber's Union records

 Collection
Identifier: US-86-15

Scope and Content

This collection contains the records of the Journeymen Barbers, Hairdressers, and Cosmetologists' International Union of America, Local 49 (Cincinnati, Ohio). The records include photographs from events and conferences, by-laws of Local 49 and other barbers' unions, convention and meeting minutes, and ephemera such as membership cards, plaques, and seals.

Dates

  • 1877-1983

Creator

Language of Materials

The records are in English

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

History of Cincinnati Barber's Union

The Cincinnati Barber's Union Local #49 was founded in 1896 to improve wages, hours, and working conditions for its members. Like other Cincinnati unions, Barbers' Union Local #49 fulfilled the social needs of its members. The barbers participated in Labor Day parades and union picnics. The union also assisted its members in times of individual stress through the establishment of sickness and death benefits. Like other unions, the Barber's Union sought the benefits of affiliation with local, state, and national unions. Local #49 has become affiliated with the following city and state federations: The Ohio Sate Association of Journeymen Barbers and Guilds, the Ohio Federation of Labor, the Cincinnati Central Labor Council, and the Cincinnati Union Label and Trades and Service Council. Local #49 was chartered by the Journeymen Barbers International Union.

In contrast with most workingmen at the turn of the century, barbers did not suffer greatly from the alienation of capital and labor. Shop owners generally worked along side workers. Owners did not earn a great deal more than their workers. In contrast with workers in other trades, barbers frequently became shop owners. The major problem facing barbers in the late 19th century was the ease with which one would become a barber.

Generally barbers served an apprenticeship, but no state laws regulated the quality or length or their training. The tools of barbering were simple and relatively inexpensive; therefore, only a small capital investment was required to open a shop. Thus, the barber's greatest problem was intense competition for patrons.

In order to secure a living wage, most barbers worked long hours seven days a week. In 1904, the Sunday closing law allowed barbers some relief from the long work week. However, low prices for barbering services continued to plague the trade.

The Barbers' Union sought to improve barber's wages by controlling the cost of barbers' services. The union issued price lists which shop owners were required to follow. The union established shop rules and by-laws to improve barbers' hours and working conditions. The union designated the hours of work and holiday closings. Local #49 attempted to limit the number of barbers in the city by specifying the number of apprentices shop owners could employ and the length of their training. Shop owners who failed to follow union guidelines might face a boycott or a strike. Union members who broke union laws could be fined, suspended, or blacklisted.

Barbers' Union Local #49 also hoped to improve living standards for barbers by state regulation of the industry. In 1933, the union supported the enactment of the Ohio law requiring the licensing of barbers. Union barbers sought government inspection of the sanitary conditions and practices of the state's barber shops. They encouraged state legislation establishing minimum age and educational standards for barbers. Through the enactment of such state laws, barbers hoped to reduce the number of barbers and, thereby, reduce competition in their trade. Reduced competition, they reasoned, would make their services more valuable, i.e. costly.

These efforts by Local #49 improved wages, hours, and working conditions for all Cincinnati barbers including shop owners. The relationship between union barber and shop owner was not always an antagonistic one. In fact, the Union's social and business activities sometimes included the operators. The fact that the international union accepted proprietors as union members indicates that workers and owners shared many goals. Perhaps the significance of the Barbers' Union Local #39 collection is that it illustrates that in some trades the goals of capital and labor need not be antagonistic, but they can be mutually beneficial.

Extent

1.25 Linear Feet

Overview

This collection contains the records of the Journeymen Barbers, Hairdressers, and Cosmetologists' International Union of America, Local 49 (Cincinnati, Ohio). The records include photographs from events and conferences, by-laws of Local 49 and other barbers' unions, convention and meeting minutes, and ephemera such as membership cards, plaques, and seals.

Statement of Arrangement

This collection is arranged into folders by material type.

Physical Location

Archives and Rare Books Library
Title
Guide to the Cincinnati Barber's Union records, 1877-1983
Status
Edited Full Draft
Author
Finding aid prepared by Archives and Rare Books staff
Date
2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding Aid Written In English

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Rare Books Library Repository

Contact:
8th Floor Blegen Library
2602 McMicken Circle
P.O. Box 210113
Cincinnati Ohio 45221-0113
513-556-1959