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Barber Pole

Origin: America
Overall: 81 x 9 x 8in. (205.7 x 22.9cm)
Painted poplar (apparently est. by eye; there is no reference to microscopic analysis in the file)
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1964.706.1
A tall, painted, wooden, combination pole-and-post, divided into two parts roughly equal in length, a lower section that is nearly square in cross section and an upper section, round in cross section and forming a cone that tapers to the top. A gold-painted ball crowns the cone. Both sections are decorated with spiraling, alternatiing red and white stripes. The top of the lower section is champhered where it joins the upper; the adjoining base of the upper section is carved with two red-painted rings on either side of a white-painted ring to form a striped "collar." The upper third of the cone section is painted dark blue, over this field are white stars. The lower (post) section is set in a modern gray-painted base.

Artist unidentified.
Label:The tradition of barber poles being red and white extends as far back as the Middles Ages. At the time barbers engaged in not only hair cuttery but also bloodletting and other medical procedures. In England barbers and surgeons were part of the same guild until the mid-18th century. The red is said to have represented blood and the white bandages. By the 19th century, especially in America, barber poles might also include blue. The maker of this barber pole has used traditional colors but given the pole a decidedly patriotic flair with the addition of the white stars in the blue field.

Provenance:Purchased by Mary Allis on behalf of CWF at Parke-Bernet January 24, 1964 (the Freylinghusen sale). No prior history has been recorded.