Wow! A “Prof. Long’s Magnetic Comb” not only removed dandruff and stopped falling hair but cured headaches—or so it was claimed at the turn of the last century (see photo—author’s collection).
Prof. Long’s comb, made not of iron but an aluminum alloy (containing also zinc, copper, and nickel) was actually not even magnetic—except in the use of that word as a synonym for hypnotic or mesmeric (“Vintage” 2016).
Who was “Prof.” J.P. Long? He was apparently the same person of that name (of 1219 Washington, Street, St. Louis, MO) who wrote a testimonial blurb in 1898 promoting a book on “the secrets of “Hypnotism, Magnetic Healing and Personal Influence.” Long was obviously himself a novice practicing hypnotist, for he wrote: “I have treated eleven patients by your methods and permanently cured nine out of that number. The book is grand” (“Free!” 1898).
The healing comb was first marketed by the Magnetic Comb Company. Long apparently acquired that firm in 1911. The J.P. Long Sales Co. had offices in St. Louis, Missouri, and Pekin, Illinois (“J.P. Long” 2016; “Rare Antique” 2016).
To encourage “canvassers,” or door-to-door salespeople, Long’s firm offered a “Canvassing Outfit.” Containing a variety of six sample combs, priced from 10 to 75 cents for a total of $2.35, the outfit was priced at only $1.50 wholesale to the canvassers. They were promised that the sample case was so attractive it alone “sells the goods” (“Canvassing” 2016). Prof. Long also offered magnetic hair brushes.
The idea for such products may have originated with one Dr. George A. Scott, an Englishman who sold “electric hair brushes” in the U.S. in the 1880s. By “electric” Scott meant his brushes contained a magnetized iron rod in the handle, or some other location in other health items he sold (“Dr. Scott’s” 2016). The magnetism did nothing, of course, except to aid the power of suggestion. But Scott sold his items as cure-alls—for everything from constipation to paralysis.
According to Bizapedia.com, Long’s company opened for business July 28, 1911, and continued until it was “voluntarily dissolved” at the age of “105 years, 1 month” (“J.P. Long” 2016).
The Canvassing Outfit. 2016. Online at https://www.ebay.ca/itm/Vintage-J-P-Long-Sales-Co-St-Louis-MO-Advertising-Flyer-Canvassing-Business-/131891254000; accessed August 29, 2016.
Dr. Scott’s Quack Electric Devices. 2016. Online at https://www.americanartifacts.com/smma/scott/scott.htm; accessed August 29, 2016.
Free! The Most Wonderful Book of the Age. 1898. Ad in The Independent Forester, vol. 19, p. 359.
J.P. Long Sales Company. 2016. Online at www.bizapedia.com/mo/J-P-LONG-SALES-COMPANY.html; accessed August 29, 2016.
Rare Antique—Prof. Long’s Magnetic comb. 2016. Online at www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/antique-prof-longs-magnetic-comb-1084432847; accessed August 29, 2016.
Vintage J.P. Long. . . . 2016. Online at https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-J-P-Long-Sales-Co-Advertising-Flyer-Ladys-Dressing-Comb-Hair-Brush-142099032807? Accessed August 29, 2016.