English-born Alphonse Duteil was a dealer in human hair work. In 1872, his store on Fourth Street in Louisville, Kentucky advertised a “large assortment of Wigs, Braids, Curls, and the latest styles of Chignons,” both on hand and made to order. Accordingly, Duteil was in the market not just for hair, usually imported from Europe, but for all the accessories necessary to make it look stylish. Writing to a New York supplier, Duteil asked to be shipped 10 pounds of hair pins, 2 dozen boxes of blond powder, and 5 pounds of watch springs (sewed into wigs for a secure fit). But women weren’t his only customers; Duteil also included an order for a foundation for a man’s wig, “same color as sample enclosed. I do not want it to have any less grey,” he wrote, probably on orders from his client, but “would prefer it with more grey hair.”
On the reverse of Duteil’s letterhead was a mini-directory of some of his fellow Louisville merchants, including brewers, piano makers, grocers, tobacconists, coppersmiths and wrought iron dealers, a snapshot of the city’s busy and varied commercial life late in the 19th century.
Alphonse Duteil’s letter is part of the collections of WKU’s Special Collections Library. Click here for a finding aid. For other collections relating to Kentucky businesses, search TopScholar and KenCat.