Category: Fashion & Beauty
Published on Sunday, 15 September 2013 00:00
Seven sisters were crowned “America's first celebrity models” in the 19th century for their long and luscious flowing Rapunzel locks.
Sarah, Victoria, Isabella, Grace, Naomi, Mary and Dora are known collectively as the Sutherland Sisters. Each and every single one of them flaunted impressive floor-sweeping manes totaling to a combined length of 11 meters.
The Sutherland sisters and their brother, Charles were born between 1851 and 1865 in the rural farming community of Cambria, New York. In a desperate attempt to pull their family out of poverty, their father, Reverend Fletcher Sutherland encouraged them to go into show business as singers.
After they joined the famous circus, Barnum & Bailey, they were publicized to be “the seven most pleasing wonders of the world”. Soon, they quickly realized that it was their lovely manes that captivated the audience rather than their vocal cords.
Biographer, Stickney recorded that; “Though their shows, consisting of church music, parlor songs and drawing-room ballads, received rave reviews, it was ultimately the girls' hair that seemed the biggest draw.”
Rumor has it that mother, Mary, applied an “offensive-smelling” ointment on their hair when the girls were growing up to facilitate their hair growth.
Revered Sutherland saw the opportunity to cash in on the public's fascination with the Sutherland Sisters' hair. He set to work on developing and producing a special “miracle” hair tonic to be sold with the Sutherland family name as its branding.
The hair tonic consisted of 56 percent witch-hazel water, 44 percent bay rum, a pinch of salt, magnesia, and hydrochloric acid. It came in a glass bottle with a label that read: “To our patrons: The enclosed preparation is manufactured and used by ourselves and we recommend it as the best in the world.”
The sisters were used as living proof that the tonic is effective, though Reverend Sutherland was the one who appeared in most of the advertising.
“The preacher's title fostered a label of pious honesty to accompany their claims,” Stickney revealed.
Reverend Sutherland sure is a sly old dog.
The hair products were sold from 50 cents to $1.50, which is considered quite expensive back then in the 1880s, as it could be a day to a week's salary respectively.
The Sutherlands sold over 2.5 million bottles of their hair products by 1980, only four years after production began. The sales raked in more than $3 million in income. The Sutherlands' dream of breaking out of poverty was realized in such a short matter of time thanks to their exceptional marketing tactics and advertising.
The Sutherland Sisters were elevated to celebrity status after the soaring success of their beauty products and occasionally graced the front page of big-scale newspapers and magazines.
Five years after their father's death which occurred in 1888, the Sutherland Sisters had a opulent mansion constructed in their humble hometown of Cambria. The massive house featured 14 rooms, hot and cold running water (a sign of extreme wealth back then), beds specially imported from Europe, hardwood flooring, grand chandeliers and an attic room for their cook and maids. The Sutherlands continued living in extravagant luxury but none of them bore any offspring to carry on the business and family legacy. Their fortune died along with them.
In modern day, their discontinued beauty products are found to frequently pop up in auctions.