vintage perming machine
The vintage permanent wave machine which was donated by a salon in Bramley
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Leeds Museums and Galleries object of the week- vintage 1930s perming machine

It may be a hair-raising sight to behold today, but back in 1930s Leeds, this vintage perming machine would have been very much top of the range.

Known at the time as a permanent wave machine, the bizarre looking contraption was used in a hair salon in Bramley and was collected by Leeds Museums and Galleries in 1978.

The machine’s design is very similar to a machine made by Icall in 1934, which was fitted with Bakelite heaters and a timer which compensated for the type of hair and other factors.

It was on wheels designed to avoid picking up hair from the salon floor and, when operated, involved curling the hair around the tubular heaters which were then held up vertically above the head to avoid touching the scalp.

The fashion for permed hair was influenced by Hollywood film stars of the day and saw many middle class women get their hair set once a week, having a new perm done every three months.

The machine, currently housed at the Leeds Discovery Centre, was a long way from the first permanent wave system invented by Karl Nessler in 1905. He used a mixture of cow urine and water and tried out the system on his wife, accidentally burning all her hair off during early experiments.

Councillor Brain Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries said:

“This vintage machine gives a fun insight into some of the many unusual beauty products and routines of the past.

“While some of these exhibits may look bizarre to us today, this exhibition also makes you wonder how many of the things we use today may look just as quirky to the museum-goers of the future.”

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