I love town directories. Like phone books just before there were telephones, these alphabetical listings of folks living within just the city are treasure troves of historic info.
Just one distinct ad in the 1880 Salem Town Listing caught my eye just lately. In sophisticated script with floral embellishments Mrs. J.W. Weatherford marketed herself as: “Manufacturer of HAIR Jewelry of each fashion and wide variety. Middle Road, bet. Professional and Entrance, Salem, OR.”
Whilst present-day Google Searches of the expression “Hair Jewelry” could possibly provide up the most up-to-date choices in hair extras — barrettes, headbands, and many others., the products marketed right here by Mrs. Weatherford is much more very likely the Victorian fad of building jewelry out of human hair.
Although the use of human hair in individual adornment is found in a ton of intervals of heritage, it actually arrived into its have in the course of the Victorian period and typically was similar to mourning customs of the time – a memento to try to remember a beloved just one. Audio a minor … Halloweenesque? You’re not by itself. Just a few decades following Mrs. Weatherford advertised her shop, hair jewelry had long gone out of vogue wholly – to the issue the place one Oregon Statesman newspaper editor had to remind their readers what the trend was all about. Writing in 1907 they documented:
Fifty yrs ago, it was the trend for women to have numerous article content of jewelry created from their very own hair or that of her close friends. These ornaments have been mounted in gold, potentially with the addition of pearls as a even more ornamentation. Usually there ended up involved in the set a necklace, a breastpin, and earrings. In one particular set which has been brought out of a jewel box after lengthy confinement there the necklace is produced of hair finely woven in a extended circular strand, just after which it is divided to imitate beads by narrow gold filets. A gold ball is positioned specifically in the heart, from which rely [sic] two bells made of hair with small gold clappers. The breastpin is the form of a bouble [sic] bowknot with a gold ornament in the heart, and two bell-formed sections dangling from them. The earrings are bells. In its working day such a set price tag about $100 for producing. It was an artwork in alone, the weaving and plaiting of hair into ornaments. Now there are scarcely to be identified any staff who are acquainted with the art.
It was not just jewelry. Hair was gathered and applied in attractive artwork, far too. The Willamette Heritage Centre has a gorgeous hair wreath in its collections produced by Margaret Conser McCoy. It will be on screen at the museum’s orientation middle via the conclude of Oct, too. In scenario you have to have a visible instance of the artform.
But, back to Mrs. Weatherford.
It was abnormal for a married girl to individual a business enterprise in the 1880s — a time when the condition constitution, to its credit rating, authorized married ladies to individual house independently of their husbands, but also expected a notarized declaration type in purchase to physical exercise that appropriate. When the advertisement evidently displays she was functioning a business enterprise, her profession in the census that similar year was stated as “Keeping Dwelling.” I started out questioning a bit much more about what could have prompted Mrs. Weatherford’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Mrs. J.W. Weatherford was born Rebecca Ellen Robinson in Missouri in about 1843. As a young girl she travelled with her parents and more mature sister to Oregon where the family settled in the Hillsboro area. She was married to James W. Weatherford in Portland in 1863. J.W. Weatherford worked with his father as druggist in his family’s store on Entrance Avenue in Portland. The few would have a son, Frederick, and two daughters, Ina and Pearl. Sometime following 1870, the relatives relocated to Salem, the place J.W. opened up a 2nd spot of the loved ones store — specializing in “Drugs! Oils! Paints!” on the west aspect of Professional Street among Ferry and Point out.
The 1880 Town Listing gives comprehensive business descriptions for both equally of the Weatherfords. J.W. was described as “Earnest in his company, genial in his fashion, and warm in his friendships, it is not any marvel that he has created hosts of close friends, and secured just about the monopoly of the drug business right here.”
Of Rebecca the listing stated: “We have witnessed specimens of hair jewellery the handiwork of Mrs. J. Weatherford of this city, which for magnificence, neatness and artistic skill, will assess favorable with anything at all designed anywhere. It will be a enjoyment no question to quite a few to know that in Salem they can have hair function performed, and done at fair charges, and in the very finest style.“
Combine these descriptions with the census report demonstrating them employing a servant housekeeper and a newspaper article describing designs for a grand new home and one may possibly get a rosy image of domestic bliss. But that wasn’t the whole tale, as a number of documents uncovered via the help of people at the Oregon Condition Archives and the Marion County Archives would soon establish.
J.W. Weatherford sold out of the family business enterprise in 1881. A number of lawsuits from Weatherford seem in the Marion County Circuit Court docket information in May well of 1883 with a area service provider and a neighborhood Masonic lodge demanding money. That exact month J.W. sells a lot in downtown Salem he owns to Rebecca for a greenback, absolutely free from all encumbrances besides a $2,000 property finance loan on the house and various judgements amounting to about $400, in addition legal service fees.
Rebecca submitted for divorce in July 1883. In her complaint she alleged her spouse had neglected to deliver for her and her kids for two decades and “with exceptional exceptions …(rendered) her really unsatisfied and her lifetime burdensome.”
Handwritten notes of testimony to a courtroom appointed referee give a couple of much more information. In addition to failing to supply for the family, Weatherford had evidently long gone so considerably as to forbid his wife credit score at a number of outlets close to town and published a newspaper recognize to all retailers in the town that he would not spend any of his wife’s expenditures.
Rebecca reported that he experienced repeatedly occur residence intoxicated, “making it incredibly uncomfortable for myself and loved ones.” When questioned where by her partner was, she replied: “I do not know, when I previous heard from him he was in San Francisco. He hardly ever writes to me.”
Although it is obvious that J.W. Weatherford was served with a summons, he did not appear right before the court docket and the divorce was granted in October, as was entire custody of the youngsters to Rebecca. Her possession of property (at what is now the northwest corner of Business and Center Streets) totally free from declare of her partner was also verified. Significantly less than a week following the court granted the divorce, Rebecca bought her large amount and acquired a different much less expensive just one at the northeast corner of Union and Liberty Streets, presumably to assist apparent some of the financial debt. Despite the fact that there is definitely no way to know for absolutely sure when dollars and marital difficulties started out for the family members, it is at minimum plausible to consider that the hair jewelry business enterprise may well have been a way for Rebecca to support herself and her spouse and children.
Rebecca and her daughters would transfer to Portland and Arlington, Oregon, prior to settling in the Seattle area. It is appealing to note that the 1889 Polk’s Listing for Seattle lists Rebecca as “widow of J.W. Weatherford,” even although she would predecease her ex-husband. This minimal detail gives a little bit of perception into how she might have felt about the divorce and the stigma it carried in the culture in which she was living. She did eventually remarry. Rebecca died of most cancers in 1892 and is buried in the Salem Pioneer Cemetery.
J.W. would die a yr afterwards of coronary heart failure in the h2o closet of his Portland places of work. It appears that right after his divorce he attended the Willamette University Professional medical University (at the time in Portland) and graduated as an allopath in 1890. His last resting put is at the Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland.
Kylie Pine is curator at the Willamette Heritage Middle, a 5-acre museum in Salem devoted to connecting generations by preserving and deciphering the record of the Mid-Willamette Valley. She can be reached at 503-585-7012 or [email protected].