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Mustachios makyth the man: the rise and decline of Sir Henry’s moustache

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By | From the Collections

The advent of the men’s health campaign Movember 2013, inspires a consideration of the rise, development and decline of Sir Henry Wellcome’s moustache-action over several decades.

As a young man in the USA we can see, c. 1880, his wispy early specimens, combined, in one instance, with a rather regrettable beard, which he clearly soon abandoned to concentrate on cultivating particularly resplendent foliage on his upper lip.

Images of Henry Wellcome

Sir Henry Wellcome in the 1880s. Wellcome Image nos. M0008026, M0007847, M0007858

The 1890s were the heyday of a Wellcome ‘tache so luxuriant that it became a signature feature in the cartoons by Fred Reynolds:

Images of Henry Wellcome

Sir Henry Wellcome in the 1890s. Wellcome Image nos. L0029098, V0006201

A new restraint became perceptible as the twentieth century dawned, although the moustache formed a noticeable element on the plaster cast taken in 1902. And a discreet moustache continued to adorn Sir Henry well into the 1920s:

Images of Henry Wellcome

Sir Henry Wellcome in the 20th century. Wellcome Image nos. M0013052, L0044077, L0012218

but had disappeared entirely by the 1930s, if the Simone bronze bust is any indication.

Bronze bust of Henry Wellcome

Sir Henry Wellcome. Bronze bust by G.F. Edgardo Simone, 1930. WI no. V0018435

Author: Dr Lesley Hall, senior archivist at the Wellcome Library


Lesley Hall

Lesley Hall

Lesley Hall, FRHistS, PhD, DipAA, has been an archivist at the Wellcome since 1979. She has published extensively on the history of sexuality and gender in Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries, given many talks and conference presentations, and featured on radio and television. Further details can be found at her website.

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