By Linda Dillman
Ed Jeffers’ dream of creating a museum dedicated to the barber profession remains alive with the opening of the National Barber Museum and Hall of Fame on May 5.
The multi-room museum, comprised of static displays, recreated vintage barbershop settings, a library and a gift shop, is located at 135 Franklin St. in Canal Winchester next to the Columbus Metropolitan Library branch at the rear of the Canal Winchester school district’s administrative building.
While the museum has been informally open for a few weeks, the official celebration hallmarks the end of a journey that began with a December fire in 2014 that damaged Jeffers’ collection, which was originally housed on the second floor above the Wigwam Restaurant on Canal Winchester’s South High Street.
“When they packed up the museum and stored things off-site, there were 864 lots of items,” said Museum Executive Director and Curator Mike Ippoliti. “Some lots contained one item, like a chair or display cabinet. Other lots contained hundreds of items. Seven, 27-foot truckloads were needed to pack everything out for cleaning and storage.”
The four-year long process of finding a new home for the collection, with artifacts dating back hundreds of years, ended with a $1-a-year agreement with the school district, untold volunteer hours, private donations and support from the Wood Foundation.
“Bill Yaple headed up the renovations with a group of volunteers,” said Ippoliti, “and it took almost two years to (commercially) clean everything in the collection itself. The museum that Ed created went from one big room and a couple of smaller ones to six rooms that are now easily accessible.”
Workers readied the half dozen former classrooms by gutting interiors, installing new ceilings and electrical connections, painting and reconfiguring the rooms to house multiple collections— including 2,000 shaving mugs, shaving brushes of all shapes and sizes, curious equipment, colorful barber poles, ornate bar backs, and luxurious barber chairs.
“Dr. Phillips donated wood, which was milled down from rough barn siding to make frames and shelving for the museum. And even though everything was in storage, I kept getting donations from people for the collection,” said Ippoliti, who recently received an 8 x 4 foot mural from a donor in California.
“I received one box containing an instrument from a woman whose dad owned a barber shop in New Orleans,” said Ippoliti. “In between customers, he would play the mandolin and his wife played the clarinet. It’s stories like these that fill the museum.”
Barbershop poles twirl in lighted red, white and blue splendor facing hand carved bar backs that served patrons in need of a haircut or a shave over 100 years ago.
A “whimsical room” houses the gift shop and Jeffers’ collection of barber-related knick-knacks and ceramic houses, along with a complete local barbershop donated by Gale Whaley’s family.
Whaley was born and raised in Lithopolis and opened his shop in the early 1930s where he worked until he retired in the 1980s.
“We now have the capability of running shows and presentations on a large screen television,” said Ippoliti regarding the welcome center, which showcases a reception area flanked by a pair of full-scale barbershop displays.
Some of the more curious artifacts in the museum include blood-letting tools, used by barbers to help cure disease, and hair clippings from President Dwight Eisenhower and General Douglas McArthur.
“We had a sneak preview a few weeks ago. The museum is now open by appointment,” Ippoliti said, “and we’ve already had some classes come through on a tour.
The May 5 event opens to the public at 1 p.m. with a short program in the Oley Speaks Auditorium, 100 Washington St., followed by a ribbon-cutting at the museum. For information, call 614-837-8400 or 614-833-1846 or visit www.nationalbarbermuseum.org. The museum is operated by the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society.