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"The Beard Question", The Medical And Surgical Reporter, 1861

SiBurning

Contributor
THE BEARD QUESTION
THE MEDICAL AND SURGICAL REPORTER.
PHILADELPHIA, SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 1861.

The British American Journal, devoted to the advancement of the medical and physical sciences, etc., etc., published monthly at Montreal, opens the new year with a leader, in which it advocates smooth faces, and boldly climbing up the many-striped pole, unfolds the flag, upon which we behold the razor, the strap, the mug, and the brush in graceful emblematical proximity.

Our excellent cotemporary speaks of the "Medical And Surgical Reporter Of New York,"—of the "New York Reporter,"—of our "esteemed New York Cotemporary,"—all the time—good, honest soul—alluding to us! We have exchanged a considerable time with our anti-capillary friend, and might expect he would at least know our whereabouts. But never mind! We cannot expect our foreign friends to be posted as to the difference between Philadelphia and New York. On a small map they are sufficiently close together to excuse, if not warrant, a mistake. Beside, we feel highly flattered by this incidental proof of the cosmopolitan character of the Reporter, though, we must confess, we have not yet reached that generality of geographical knowledge apparent in the following sentence oh the British American Journal:

"We learn from the American Medical Times says the Journal, "that Prof. Torrey has made a donation to Columbia College, New York, of his large herbarium, etc., etc., containing specimens of the Flora of America, Europe, Asia, Cape of Good Hope, Australia, and many other places."

Among these " many other places," undoubtedly, is the Isle Jesus and Africa.

But, to return to the great question of BEARD OR NO BEARD, there can be no doubt that the growth of hair on the face, as well as on the head, has its physiological uses. If our cotemporary will only take up "Punch," that most faithful portrayer of English life, be will find the smoothly-shaven Englishman, wherever represented, in rain, snow, or storm, with a thick, checkered wrapper around, the neck, extending to the chin, cheeks, and covering the mouth completely; in fact, while he pays his barber to rid him of nature's useful ornament, he, at the same time, pays for artificial whiskers, moustachios, and beard, but which, after all, are but horrid, muffled apologies for what nature has provided.

Aside from this, however, a great deal of time is lost in this foolish practice of correcting nature. There can be no decent shave short of fifteen minutes, including all the pre- and post-liminaries. This makes nearly four days, or nine working days in a year, and supposing there are in the United States four millions of shaveable persons, and supposing them all to shave according to the advice of our cotemporary, the aggregate loss to the community would be thirty-six millions of working days, or 98,630 working years PER ANNUM, nearly enough to employ four thousand men for twenty-five years toward building a Pacific Railroad. Or, to bring the matter down to dollars and cents, calculating only a dollar a day as wages, the annual loss by shaving, not calculating soap, razors, and barber's profits, but simply the loss of time, would approach thirty-six millions of dollars, an amount sufficient, under an economic administration, to defray fully one-half of the annual expenses of our government.

But, aside from this enormous expense imposed upon the community that men may have smooth faces, and look like boys and women, there are physiological objections against shaving, to some of which we will call attention.

In the first place, it is well known that shaving stimulates the growth of hair most decidedly. In habitual shavers we generally see it grow at least a line in two days—one hundred and eighty-three lines in a year—fifteen inches. Few men's beards will grow to one-half this length in that time; consequently, whatever force of circulation, of innervation, of primary and secondary metamorphosis is necessary to produce that artificially stimulated growth, so much is the shaving individual abnormally and unnecessarily taxed in his heart, his blood, and his nerves. We have, of course, no data by which to calculate this loss positively. But that there is a loss, by this superimposed taxation upon the system, there can be no doubt. It is not, however, simply loss of the hair, but also the continual irritation of the skin by this process, which must necessarily react upon the system. If of 60,000 daily pulsations of the heart only one hundred pulsations are necessary to carry on the metamorphotic processes and supply the expenditure caused directly or indirectly by the unnaturally stimulated growth of beard, leaving 59,900 pulsations for all other growth and processes of nutrition, etc., it will give us 36,500 contractions of the heart in the year, or 1,095,000 in thirty years (a generation) of shaveable life—equivalent to eighteen days; in other words, the tax upon the system by shaving would shorten life eighteen days; this, multiplied by the figures of a shaving nation of thirty to forty millions, reckoning four millions of shaveable individuals, amounts to a loss of about 200,000 years during the period of thirty years, usually allowed for one generation; or 6,666 years per annum.

It might, however, be objected that this superimposed taxation upon the system does not really shorten life, but only necessitates the ingestion of more material to supply the waste. Granting this, for argument's sake, it only throws the loss back upon the supply of material,—and any one can readily compute it for himself.

We have thus far spoken of the practice of shaving only as it affects the community, and in its general, economical, and physiological bearings. But there are other, more special, considerations against this practice, and in favor of the natural growth of beard.

The continual daily use of the razor in denuding, exposing, and irritating the skin of the cheeks, and lower maxillary and upper cervical regions, deadens the sensibility of the cutaneous nerves, and, in this way, by lessening their power of exciting reflex action, destroys that vivacity of the countenance and play of features, which is natural to man as an emotional being. It has been well said that there is more expression in a beard than in a smooth face. Contrast the vivid play of features and expressive vivacity in a full-bearded German or Frenchman, with the cold, stolid, paste-board look of a daily-shaving Englishman, when under the same emotional influences; or observe the quick, healthy blush of the cheeks, apparent even through the beard of an Italian or Spaniard, when under the same circumstances the dullness of partial paralysis overhangs the victim of the barbarous custom, and his very emotions only betray themselves in grimaces.

The fact will be apparent to all who choose to inquire into the subject, and to none more than to those who daily torture themselves with the razor, that the process of shaving produces temporary or partial anaesthesia of the cutaneous sensitive nerves. When you feel your cheeks and chin with the hand, after every vestige of manliness in the face has been hacked out almost by the root, do you not feel as if the cheek did not belong to yourself but that you were feeling over some old parchment? And is not the anaesthesia produced such that you do not even feel that your face has been cut until your fingers are besmeared with blood? Are we not justified, then, in asking, why should man thus waste time in a practice which spoils his manly looks, dulls the expression of his features and makes them grimaces, while it permanently destroys the sensitiveness of the cutaneous nerves involved?

But, beside this, the natural growth of hair on the cheeks, lips, around and under the chin, serves as a protection to important parts underneath. The vocal apparatus, we all know, is very readily affected by sudden changes of temperature, by too rapid evaporation of the perspiration, or by a continuous draft of air around the parts, in the same way as toothache, rheumatism of the neck, or shoulders, and tonsillitis often arise from the same causes. The injurious effect of the removal of this protection, even in midsummer, is observed, in nine cases out of ten, in the huskiness and hoarseness of the voice, when your friend has "caught cold" after having shaved off nature's "comforter."

The objection that women have no beard, and the conclusion often drawn from this fact, that it cannot be intended by Nature for protection, has been shown by Dr. Hunt to be superficial and fully explained by anatomical considerations. The larynx and trachea in the female are deeper seated, and a more abundant layer of adipose tissue offers a protection analogous to the beard in the male, while it is a very curious fact in the comparative physiology of individuals, that naturally fat men, as a general rule, have less beard, and vice versa. Look at the sophomores of a college, and pick out the "fat boys" of the class, and you will find that their leaner companions of the same age are far in advance regarding capillary development.

Another reason sometimes urged, and one which our Montreal cotemporary adduces to show that beard is not important as a physiological means of protection against cold, is that it is the distinguishing feature only of the male part of the Caucasian race, and as it is not found among the Esquimaux, the Laplanders, the Kamschatdales, the Tartars, and other races inhabiting the Arctic regions, that therefore this argument must fall to the ground. It seems to us quite to the contrary. The injurious effects of cold are not manifested where the temperature, though very low, retains a more or less uniformity throughout the year. It is the extreme changes, and more than this the sudden changes in the temperature, with their accompanying changes in the hygrometric state of the atmosphere, that affect the health in various ways. Hence it is that the Caucasian race, inhabiting countries where the heat of *** summer sometimes vies with, the tropics, and the cold of the winter with that of Siberia, and where the meteorological changes are characterized by suddenness as well as extremes, and a race, which is itinerant, emigrating, colonizing, active, par excellence, should have been supplied by Nature with a protection which other races do not need, because they are not subject to the same influences. It is not as a colorifacient that the beard is claimed as a protective against cold, as our cotemporary assumes, but as a natural equalizer of heat and cold in the sudden changes of temperature. And, hence, we claim that there is no country in which the plea for beard is more timely than here, where these influences are intensified; where movement, action, exposure, form our very life-element: where, to-day, we get into cars, muffled up in overcoats and shawls, to land, in a few days, where linen coats and straw hats are quite comfortable.

The only argument which our Montreal colleague advances in favor of shaving, is cleanliness. Can a man not be clean without shaving? And is not, in many cases, the smoothly-shaven face but a shining surface—a polished boot, with a dirty stocking inside? Does it follow, because a man shaves every morning, that he keeps the rest of his body clean? Or, is it not often the case, that the latter is neglected at the expense of the razor? Or, are we to consider beard, hair, intrinsically unclean? Then, the sooner we shave our heads the better, and we suggest that our excellent cotemporary begin by immediately adopting the practice of our Japanese colleagues.

Much more might be said on this question, which is by no means an unimportant one. It has its economic, social, and physiological bearings; there is an aesthetic side to it as well as a domestic, and—shall we say poetical? Can you see a child, all joy in playing with the beard of its grandfather, whitened by the snow of life's winter, without contrasting the scene with one where a smooth, old parchment face, with leathery wrinkles, offers to the little curly-headed urchin not the hair-breadth of a chance to steal himself into the old man's affection, and to pull the bell-ropes which might awaken the sounds of memory's pleasant dreams?

So much for beard!
 
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thanks for posting this, it was a good read :thumbup1:

"fat boys" in the class cracked me up....


p.S- I plan to continue to torture my face daily
 

ackvil

Moderator
Great post, Steve.

My favorite line: "The continual daily use of the razor in denuding, exposing, and irritating the skin of the cheeks, and lower maxillary and upper cervical regions, deadens the sensibility of the cutaneous nerves, and, in this way, by lessening their power of exciting reflex action, destroys that vivacity of the countenance and play of features, which is natural to man as an emotional being."

If I grow a beard I know one consequence: my lovely wife will no longer stroke my BBS face and say my face feels great.

My step son has a beard and his mother looks at him and says he looks like he should be under a bridge panhandling! :crying:
 

franz

Moderator Emeritus
Between deadening my nerves and facial expressions, shortening my lifespan, this pesky sore throat, and the untold economic losses of this practice writ large, I don't think I'll be shaving much anymore. Thanks for the heads up, Steve.

The Medical and Surgical Reporter said:
When you feel your cheeks and chin with the hand, after every vestige of manliness in the face has been hacked out almost by the root, do you not feel as if the cheek did not belong to yourself but that you were feeling over some old parchment?
Does the earnest application of "After-Shave Balm," manfully applied, not quench our fiery cheeks? And, now that it dries, has it not shattered the cruel illusion of parchment festooning the jaw?

Yea, even now as I speak this mockery fades from view; to be swept aside by the triumphant likeness of an infant's hindquarters.....
 
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THE BEARD QUESTION
THE MEDICAL AND SURGICAL REPORTER.
PHILADELPHIA, SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 1861.
[...]
Aside from this, however, a great deal of time is lost in this foolish practice of correcting nature. There can be no decent shave short of fifteen minutes, including all the pre- and post-liminaries. This makes nearly four days, or nine working days in a year...
And that's without counting time spent on shaving forums.
 
Hmmmmm. I know a ten minute shave is possible. Fifteen is still a reasonable approximation of the time it takes me to get the job done. Assuming I don't shave, say, two days a month (which is about right for me) that is about 85 hours a year spent at the sink looking in the mirror trying not to draw my own blood.

That is the equivalent of 8.5 to 10.5 work days.

That impressed me. I had not thought of it that way. My old Fusion shave in the shower was probably all of 5 minutes or less.

But I'm having more fun, and don't have any intention of hurrying myself up. :thumbup1:
 
THE BEARD QUESTION
THE MEDICAL AND SURGICAL REPORTER.
PHILADELPHIA, SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 1861.

Aside from this, however, a great deal of time is lost in this foolish practice of correcting nature. There can be no decent shave short of fifteen minutes, including all the pre- and post-liminaries. This makes nearly four days, or nine working days in a year, and supposing there are in the United States four millions of shaveable persons, and supposing them all to shave according to the advice of our cotemporary, the aggregate loss to the community would be thirty-six millions of working days, or 98,630 working years PER ANNUM, nearly enough to employ four thousand men for twenty-five years toward building a Pacific Railroad. Or, to bring the matter down to dollars and cents, calculating only a dollar a day as wages, the annual loss by shaving, not calculating soap, razors, and barber's profits, but simply the loss of time, would approach thirty-six millions of dollars, an amount sufficient, under an economic administration, to defray fully one-half of the annual expenses of our government.
Sounds like a communist plot to me... "Since you can now work 9 more day in a year, you can compensate for the tax increase we are going to impose on you!"

Or, in other words: Fight communism, shave your face!
 
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