Thursday, June 17, 2010

Seven Sutherland sisters

When you tally it up, the world-famous Sutherland sisters (1st image, with their brother Charles) had more than 36' of hair:
This gave them a place on P.T. Barnum's stage and in advertisements for the hair products their father developed - including shampoo, hair grower, dandruff remedy, and scalp cleaner (3rd image) - based on a foul-smelling concoction their mother had used on them as children in rural New York. On stage for Barnum, they sang and danced before dramatically letting down their "Niagara of curls" to thunderous applause. During their years of stage performances and their decades of entrepreneurship, they had their misfortunes (early deaths, mental illness, failed marriages, bad investments) and after their retirement from show business they had their eccentricities (elaborate pet funerals, gold-shod carriage horses, and bodies allowed to lie in state in their home for weeks on end). Their continued endorsement of one of the bestselling beauty products of the turn of the century made them millionaires, but the money didn't last. The Sutherland sisters were precursors of the women's movement, but the popularity of shorter hairstyles for women ended the success of their hair tonics. The surviving sisters spent their later years in their hometown in a mansion that burned to the ground after their deaths.

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