Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Antimacassar

There was a time when traveling had a little class about it and one of those small details of class was the passenger seat you had on a train, plane or ship had a headrest cover or antimacassar on it.  They were there to protect the upholstery but I always thought they were there to protect your head from acquiring whatever creatures the previous occupant had in their hair, assuming they were changed often.

Above is a detail of a Pennsylvania Railroad antimacassar

The antimacassar came about due to the popularity of macassar oil, a hair oil that has been used since the late 1700s.  The cover or antimacassar was used to prevent the chair from ruin by the oil staining it.  It was named macassar oil because it supposedly had ingredients obtained from Makassar in the Dutch East Indies.    The oil became popular when Alexander Rowland, a barber in London made his own hair oil preparation and around 1792 begin selling it as Rowland’s Macassar oil.  He had the trademark registered to him, as “Macassar oil.”  It was used by men and women, and It is still sold today. 

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