A Nit Comb

You never know what will turn up next. Nit combs wouldn’t be everyone’s first choice for a museum item, but they are useful little tools – if you have nits. And of course, they form a small part of history – particularly with regard to attitudes.

It all depends on when you lived as to what you think of nits and crawlers in the hair. People of a certain age will recall the nit nurse visiting schools and the sense of utter shame for those on whom nits or lice were discovered. The same people might also recall that when their own children were at school it was not uncommon for the letter to come home saying a case of nits/lice had been found and please check your child’s hair. And sometimes you found the wee beasts. Nobody made much fuss about it. You used the appropriate chemical hair wash and raked out the eggs or egg cases with the nit comb.

We can imagine, that in the 1930s or 40s when this nit comb was made, then crawlers or their eggs were deemed disgraceful and regarded as a sign of uncleanliness – which is entirely wrong.

A nit comb from the 1930s or 40s at Market Lavington Museum

A nit comb from the 1930s or 40s at Market Lavington Museum

This comb, clearly well used, was found during renovations at the former Volunteer Arms pub in 1992. The small gaps between the tines allowed hair to pass through, but any items stuck on the hair would be dragged out by the comb. This one is made of bone and we can only wonder whether it was dropped by accident or in horror at the discovery of nits.

We do not know, of course, who lost the comb.

Nit combs are still available today. A very similar looking plastic item can be purchased for 50p or less.

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