For anyone who has ever bought a real hair wig or had extensions, this story will really make your hair curl and you will be glad you weren’t living a century ago.
In October and November of 1905, a very unusual coroner’s case appeared in the British newspapers that caused alarm and even panic among the community. A Yorkshire man called John Deighton died from anthrax, still a very nasty disease to contact in our time and nearly always fatal in the pre-antiobiotic age.
But what was most worrying is that it was alleged he had contracted it through his job as a wool-comber in which he had opened bales of Chinese pigtails (or queues) imported into Britain for use in the wig trade. The coroner had ordered that a doctor examine the said pigtails, which he did, and came to the conclusion that although many unknown spores were present in the bales, none of them contained the bacillus associated with anthrax.
But the newspapers grabbed the story and it was repeated around the world with varying degrees of hysteria. This one comes from a New Zealand newspaper on PapersPast:
The Los Angeles Herald put a different spin on it altogether and the wool-sorter Deighton had morphed into a woman wearing artificial hair, with greater emphasis on the fact that pigtails were used for automobiling fringe nets.
DEATH IN THE PIGTAIL
Artificial Hair Made From Chinese Appanage Causes Woman's Demise
Special cable to The Herald
LONDON, Oct. 28. — A new warning note to women who go automobiling has been sounded at an inquest at Bradford on the body of a woman who died from anthrax, caused by wearing artificial hair made from a Chinese pigtail, and it came out in the evidence that Chinese pigtails were largely imported for the purpose of making, among other things, fringe nets for automobiling.
The coroner remarked that as the case in question showed how serious was the danger from the wearing of these fringe nets, all this hair ought to be bacteriologically examined, and that, in fact, this would be done now at the factory where the fatal case of anthrax had been caused, and an application would be made at the home office for an order requiring special precautions to be taken at all factories where artificial hair was made up.
IMPORT CHINESE HAIR FOR AMERICAN WOMEN'S RATS
Ton of Pigtails from Bandits Who Have Been Beheaded Brought to New York In Big Freighter Wray Castle
NEW YORK, June 22.—
A ton of Chinese hair for the "rats" of American women formed part of the cargo of the big freighter, Wray Castle, which has just arrived from the Orient. The hair came from the heads of Chinese bandits who had been beheaded and is valued at more than $5000.
Enough of this hair is on board the Wray Castle to provide thousands of American girls with the necessary "filling," and great care was taken on the freighter to keep it from exposure of any sort that might spoil it for the market in the United States.
Hardly had the consignment of the Chinese hair been brought to the American docks on Staten island before the British steamer Seneca arrived at quarantine with twenty-two cases of Chinese pigtails, which, according to Captain Grimes, were collected in Chinese cemeteries by a crafty American, who collected the gruesome souvenirs for profit in three months' plunder in Chinese burial grounds.
|See article The Day Book, December 10 1915, Chronicling America|
|Watch out ladies, if the furs don't get you, then the fringe nets or false hair will!!|
General articles on the history and demise of the Chinese pigtail, or queue.