Curling tongs

Our curator recalls that when he was a kid, back in the 1950s, he visited jumble sales and there were always hair curling tongs. This was obviously the time when such items were seen as unwanted and old fashioned and they were discarded. Peggy Gye, a generation older than our present curator, probably bought some to preserve them. At any rate, we now have several pairs of curling tongs in the museum. Here is one pair – actually found in a shed at Meadow Cottage on Church Street, by Peggy’s brother, Tony.

19th century curling tongs found at Meadow Cottage and now at Market Lavington Museum

19th century curling tongs found at Meadow Cottage and now at Market Lavington Museum

These tongs are believed to be late 19th century and are made of steel. The overall length of these tongs is 27.5 cm – about 11 inches.

How do they work? The following extract comes from .

The tongs are two hinged pieces of iron, formed into handles at one end with narrow cylindrical blades at the other. The tongs were heated up over a flame and then sections of hair were curled around them. Each section of hair was folded first into a length of paper, called a curl-paper, to prevent the hair from scorching. In spite of this there are many tales of burnt and scorched hair as the heat of the tongs is hard to control and many women must have damaged their hair through this process.

Curling tongs can still be purchased, but these days they are electrically heated and, no doubt, have a thermostat to prevent frizzled and scorched hair. Mind you, it seems the must have items these days are hair straighteners. Oh, the perversity of fashion!

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