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Back Comb

TitleBack Comb
Object NameBack Comb
Manufactured ByUnited Comb and Novelty
DescriptionGolden brown Back Comb has a circle cut-out at center and scalloped pattern; five teeth or prongs. Fancy high back combs were popular between 1850 and 1920 when hairstyles were usually swept up and held in place with a combination of hairpins and decorated combs. Due to changing women’s hair styles combs such as this were going out of fashion in the 1920s.
Date Manufactured1923-1930
MaterialCellulose Nitrate
Manufacturing ProcessHair combs were made from celluloid sheets cut with a blanking press into comb-shaped blanks that were then worked and shaped by machine and hand to make finished products. The cut piece was thinned in the area of the teeth. Teeth were cut by hand or with a small circular saw. Trimming of the teeth was done with a triangular file and a widening tool. Templates were used to create complex openwork design, which were then cut and carved by hand. Rough edges were smoothed and the product polished using a rotating cloth polishing disc. The curved shape was achieved by softening the comb by steam heat or immersion in hot water after which the comb was placed on a curved wood or metal mold until it cooled. The curving process was often work for skilled women. Cellulose nitrate could be colored or patterned to imitate many materials. United Comb & Novelty Company was founded by Eugene L. Tourigny in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1919. For more on combs see: K. Lauer & J. Robinson, Celluloid, 1999, 66-83.
Number of Objects1
Accession Number2010.025.14
DonorGift of National Plastics Center. Originally Gift of Evelyn B. Hachey.
Broad SubjectClothing, Jewelry and Accessories
SubjectsHair combs
For More InformationPlease address inquires to the Public Services Librarian, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library (e-mail:, tel. 315-443-2697).
RightsPublication of images from the Special Collections Research Center is subject to approval and fees may be charged for such use. Publication includes the following media: print, electronic/digital, videotape, film, or microfilm. Permission to use images must be obtained in advance and in writing from the Special Collections Research Center by writing to or going to . These fees are separate from any which might be assigned/assessed by the copyright holder.
staff notesNegligible Sweating


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