Now & Then: Barber Poles & Beauty Shops in Cañon City – 1901-2021

By Loretta (Stevens) Bailey

Now:  As long as humans have existed, hair grooming has been part of life.
But when did it change from a necessity to a form of expression by styling, culture, and identity? 
Well, we are going to journey back and explore hair styling by comparing what was going on in our town through the past 120 years.
Answers to the following burning
questions, I emphasize the word burning.

 Did the Romans dye their hair?  What were some of the “tools of trade”? Does RGRM&HC have some tools in their archives?
Why were Barber Poles red and white for many years in the past?
What is an Electric Massage? Where were some of the Beauty Shops and Barber Shops on Main Street?

Here is the earliest Beauty Shop advertised in the Canon City Daily Record

Canon City Record – November 1901

“Hair Dressing, Manicuring and Electric Massages.  All kinds of Toilet Articles at PARLORS 14 FIFTH ST.”

Now:  I recently took a stroll downtown on Main Street and checked out some of these addresses of yesteryear.
Ron Taylor, a fellow museum volunteer, found the following information in the old City Directories at the Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center.

Cañon City Directory *1923

Barber Shops

Fifth Street Barber Shop 112 S. 5th

Harris & Brasher 628 ½ Main Street

Nelson M.T. 419 Main Street

Sprinkle, Ben 619 ½  Main

Smith & Sons Canon Hotel

*Walts, J.P. 720 Main Street

Wyckoff, A.L 407 Main



                                                            Beauty Shops

Mallon, Mrs. D.E. 412 ½  Main Street

*Walts, J.P. 622 River Street (Royal Gorge Blv.)



*1925 Barber Shops

Canon Hotel 629 Main Street

Fifth Street Barber Shop 112 South 5th 

Fisher Barber Shop 430 Main Street

High School Barber Shop opposite High School East Main

Nelson’s Barber Shop 419 Main Street

Sprinkle Barber Shop 619 ½ Main Street

Walt’s Barber Shop 720 Main Street

Wyckoff’s Barber Shop 407 Main Street


Beauty Shops

Fournier, Mrs. Emily 515 College

Power Puff Beauty Shop 403 ½ Main Street

Rose Lon Beauty Shop 412 ½  Main Street

Wright’s Beauty Shop 118 South 5th




*1927 & *1928 Barber Shops

Canon Hotel 629 Main Street

Fifth Street Barber Shop 629 Main Street

Fisher’s Barber Shop 430 ½ Main Street

Harris Barber Shop 623 ½ Main Street

Nelson’s Barber Shops 419 Main Street

Sprinkle Barber Shop 619 ½ Main Street

Walt’s Barber Shop 720 Main Street

Wyckoff’s Barber Shop 407 Main Street


Beauty Shops


Fournier Mrs. Emily 515 College

Modern Beauty Shop 717 Main Street

Nelson’s Beauty Shop 419 Main Street

Power Puff Beauty Shop 403 ½ Main Street

Rose-Lon Beauty Shop 412 ½ Main Street



Now:  Back to those burning questions. 
What did they use to curl hair before electricity?

Then:  One of the tools that was used were Curling Tongs, which in the 1920’s they were sometimes called the Marcel Iron
These tongs were used to create waves and curls in women’s hair.  The tongs were heated on a gas burner and often times tested on a piece of 
paper prior to applying the heat to the woman’s hair.

François Marcel "marcelling" his wife's hair, 1922.
Edna Fearon (Liverpool, UK) models the Marcel Wave, circa 1930.

 Now: What is an Electric Massager? 

The intention was to roll the massager on any part of the body for relaxation and to smooth wrinkles.

I was about nine years old when I had first seen one of these Electric Massager.  It belonged to my great grandmother and she and my grandmother would use it to relax and smooth out wrinkles.

My dad got ahold of it and showed my four cousins, my brother and I (all about the same age) how to use it for a toy. He would hold the massager and we all got into circle while holding hands.  Dad would control the amount of voltage that would go through the circle.

The object of the game was how much voltage the kids could take before breaking the circle!  I have never used one since. We all lived to tell this story and my dad would get a good laugh.

Does the museum have some tools in their archives?
Here are some of what they have in their collection:

A small steel curling iron that rested on a hot surface to heat. 1995.005.048
Old Curling Iron. 1974.010.448
Two identical curling irons with wooden handles. 2016.009.483 a-b
A curling iron with two barrels. 2016.009.484

Now: How did the Barber Pole get the colors red and white?

Think about it today, we whine when getting a little nip and no blood.

Then: During medieval ages barbers were known as Barber Surgeons due to they used sharp instruments to give trims and shaves.  They were often called upon to do minor surgeries, dentistry and blood- letting. This service was done for the poor people who could not afford a physician.

The red and white stripes on the barber pole symbolized bloody- bandages. An instrument with same colors was given to the patient to grasp-on while being held down in the barber chair.  {C:} Photo of barber chair}

This procedure had to have been thoroughly ruthless to the point of being inhumane. Blood letting which involved cutting a vein and allowing much blood to drain. It was used for treatment from a sore throat to the plague. 

Now: Did the Romans dye their hair and what concoction did they use?
Then:  Some used henna, a plant-based reddish-brown dye. Others brewed-up a dye by using berries, vinegar or crushed nutshells.
(I bet that they used Walnuts for that coal-black dyed hair.)

Now: I would like to introduce three very talented local professionals in Cañon City Shawna Stevens, Sue Molitor and Brandon Smith.

At an early age of six-teen, Shawna Stevens knew she wanted to be a hairstylist.  She talked her mother into letting her enroll in the local beauty shop. At that time Tyler Beauty School was located on 2415 Fremont Drive.

Shawna picked-up her first pair of scissors and started her career in the world known as Beauty Shop Operators.  After some years of working in shops owned by other women, Shawna took the leap of faith and brought a shop of her own. Her customers followed her and new ones jumped on board.

Shawna became a successful hair stylist for a number of years, then she sold her shop.  Her customers she had established stayed with her.  After working for someone else she decided she needed to own her own salon again.

She hired a well-established in the business of hair grooming, Sue Moliter. Together the two women are working diligently to keep up with the growing business. As times change Shawna and Sue both agreed on one of the biggest improvements is the equipment and tools. Then the business has changed as the customers prefer more home styling. The stylists have become teachers and retail sellers of products, that are kept on hand, for their customers.

About eight years ago Brandon Smith thought he needed to change careers.  He did just that from the Colorado Department of Corrections to opening Phil’s Barber Shop in 2014. A one chair shop that was a tribute to his grandpa Phil, who was also a barber. A few years later Brandon could be found on 508 Main Street being proud Owner/Master Barber for PHIL’S, BARBER COMPANY.  He hopes his son, who is named Phil also, will continue the family tradition of highly skilled barbers.

The advancements of equipment, tools, services, hair-cuts, beard trims and products that are sold at the shop compared to shops in the 1920’s are enormous.  Modified services of hair-cuts for babies to seniors can be found at Brandon’s shop.

Congratulations to Brandon and his staff for being voted for consecutive years 2015-2018 by the Cañon City Daily Record “Best” Barber Shop of Community Readers.

We should all be grateful for dentists, doctors and surgeons and allow trained barbers and beauty operators to be the masters of their craft.

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