In the late 1800s, seven sisters with musical talent and incredibly long hair made waves in the circus and on the stage. They made millions as performers and haircare product moguls, but their personal lives were plagued with eccentricity.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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was growing. Quite that long. I was always very envious of my cousin Missy, who had this like beautiful, beautiful long, long hair. When we were children, I learned much later than it was just a terror to to manage YE. I have very long here when I was quite young and my dad real. I belong here, a little girls, my mom kept threatening to cut it and he kept saying don't and she finally had had it and said fine, then you're responsible for taking care of her hair and to his credit, was his heart. He did my tears were soon that shampooed and brushed unlike dealt with my but then when I got older, I went through a hippie phase, leaking college and grew very long about you, know but length by now never manage anything like that However, on this genetically will not get that long. I shudder to think in homer long mine would get, although it's not terribly pretty like long here, always pretty, he related doesn't retain its like resiliency in its lustre of natural oxidation
Is it grows out, so the ends tend to be more Brit, but the people we are talking about today, crazy long, hair, we're talking about the Sutherland sisters. They were Sarah victory, Isabella, grace, Naomi DORA and Mary Sutherland, and these ladys were all really capable musicians. They all saying in play and played instruments, and they had a stage but their fame was really not about their music. So much that played a part, but really it was all about their incredible hair. So we're gonna talk about them today and we will start with sort of their early life with their parents and kind of how they became stay children, so they were born in the years that spanned from eighteen, forty, five and eighteen sixty five and their parents were merry and Fletcher Sutherland this family, how to Turkey,
arm and Cambria New York and while they maybe they got by, but they were definitely poor and the girls really did a lot of work on the farm, helping to take care of the turkeys year. You'll hear various lots of them kind of like barefoot and really ragged clothes kind of running around the Turkey are turning to care for things in, but they always have this incredible here from a very early age and while that was almost definitely do at least in some degree to genetics. their mother may have told a different story about it, because she was a big fan of ointments and she would treat. Girls, hair with this ointment- that she concocted that apparently smelled awful. Because she believed that it was giving them these longer strong, lustrous locks like the kind of stuff You would normally here in modern, add campaigns, but she was doing it with this really stinky ointment. The smell of this concoction was so bad that their classmates were always
using the girls. They would all hide whenever somebody came to the house rather than in Spain, or I'm talking about how bad their mothers, hair treatment, smelled, but they did all have very long black hair. Yes, however, the oil played a part or not. We who really now butts so there Fletcher Sutherland was really not a farmer by trade, he had inherited that Turkey farm property from his father, Colonel Andrey Sutherland, who was a man of some renowned. so from eighteen, thirty, nine Oda. Eighteen, forty five Fletcher work as a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church and after that he moved into politics. He kind of parlay visibility to speak in front of a crowd and eventually worked as a speaker during President James became
Eighteen fifty six campaign, but even more than politics, let Fletcher really focused on whence he left the ministry was. The girls had already included them in charge performance as singers from the time they were really young, basically toddlers, but he had really bigger dreams for them than singing during church services. Fletchers wife, Mary actually died of dropsy in eighteen, sixty seven and she was only forty three at the time and at this point, their youngest daughter, who was actually also named Mary, was still very small. Accounts vary, but you'll see Mary listed as either two or three years old. So still a toddler at this point and its at this point that Fletcher had all of his children at this point they had the seven daughters and they also had one son charm, who is born kind of in the middle of all the girls really step up there. Physical act, so he made the kids learn to play instruments as well as saying any started, taking them entourage around the county, and so they would make appearances in churches. They would be its multi
They would sing it fares and they owe me who is thirteen at the time that this really started rolling and she was fifth in birth. Order of the girls was the most talented singer, and so she really garnered some pretty great refuses to stand out of the family as the kind of started to bolster their image over the course of the years from eighteen the seventh eighteen, eighty, the turing territory of the family got bigger and bigger, and the girls changed as well. Mary, was no longer around down their hair, with really think he ointment, but their hair did continue to grow in their long walks became the trademark of their act during their performance. the young woman would unfurl their brains and reveal how long an incredible their hair, wise and eventually their hair, really started to eclipse their music. When people talked about their show, Charles actually stopped taking the state with the sisters, so they could start appearing as the seven wonders
And I found online and image of a hand bill from this time: advertising the supper with act in a kind of cracked me up and was wonderful and it read. Matchless incomparable seven southern sisters. Seven wonders of the world: seven long, haired, sisters, seven, so stirs seven. Rick, Ladys, seven accomplish musicians, seven refer then educated, Ladys, seven sisters all one family, seven model beauty and womanly grace seven Ladys with forty nine feet of hair seventh Harry Seven, It is with hair four inches thick. The Sutherland sisters entertained visitors with music afternoon and evening funniest handbill ever heard about seven sisters. Olive one family really makes me laugh because, like where else would seven sisters beef around like this borrowed from other families where they had the different sisters, you waited to each other. I don't love, that's gonna come up,
all of it or in a minute. But the thing that cracked re up the most is that they say: seven were eccentric, ladys and two lines later: seven refined and educated, it's just before they got wanted a catch. All anything that might attract the crowd got included in that one. A bill yeah so despite the fact that forty nine feet of hair was not entirely accurate, that mean that would mean all seven of them had here. That was seven feet long. The seven wonders really think off and in December of eighteen eighty, this sibling troop made its debut on Broadway the following year: Fletcher tickets, we on the road to travel through more of the United States, netteke numerous stops and the south clearly the international cotton exposition in Atlanta yeah. That's almost all When you read any of the accounts about the girls they talk about that, stop like it was a really important thing, and I I am a member
student, I dont know about the international cotton expo very much this kind of shameful since I live in Atlanta, but it always sounds like it was. This is a big engagement and so Tracy just mention that they didn't all have seven feet of here. Each see we're gonna talk about that, while the Ladys all had massive amounts of hair there, not really all equals in the here game, any more than they were equally gifted musically. We said earlier that Naomi was really the stand out singer, so the shortest hair belong to Sarah, who was the oldest girl. Her hair was only an easier quotes there there a yard long. So it was a little less than a meter on the other. End of the spectrum was her sister Victoria, who is second oldest, and she had
the longest hair, which was seven feet in length, which is about two point: one meters and that's from route to Tipp, but added up amongst all of them. It is believed that they had closer to thirty seven feet or eleven point three metres of hair, rather than forty nine, which had been fourteen point nine meter, so they all have. Their is three to four: was the shortest seven was the longest feet and then every one else, kind of fellow? middle at varying links. Kind of averaging around five to six, so others hair, obviously was very recognisable and those disasters could not go out in public without just being more and some of their admirers even went so far as to try to sneak in sniffle lack of their hair away. How I couldn't find any definitive accounts of whether any of them were successful.
In doing this, though, now there were certainly accounts of lake people having offered some of them, what were at the time huge sums of money to cut off all their hair so that they could have it. I think at one point, someone offer Victoria twenty five hundred dollars to cut our heritage, down, but all of this admiration and excitement that they were getting in generating started to attract a completely different sort of attention, and that was the eyes of agents, people that promoted vaudeville and put together acts for vaudeville as well as circus entrepreneurs, and so the seven wonders actually became an act for the W W coals colossal shows in eighteen, eighty two which they did for a little while, but then by eighteen, eighty four. They had actually moved away from that company into Barnum Baileys greatest show on earth and their act with Barnum Bailey. The Ladys who, with this point, ranged in ages from eighteen to thirty six war, all white and they perform a series of songs,
they left the hair down in this grand finale. That would draw gasps from the crowd, and, what's really interesting, is that they were build as a sideshow act. They were What normally you'll even see them sometimes listed in lists of lake famous freaks, but their reform it says, were really perceived as being much more refined than most other circus acts. The ladys themselves were refines at least publicly. They would tell tasteful stories they would sink church and people who normally viewed the circus as an entertainment for the lower classes started to be drawn to attended by these Lovely Sutherland women's. They were very successful and we're gonna talk a little bit more about each of them. After a brief word from a sponsor this episode of stuffy myth in history
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was carrying her Bible with her Victoria thing met, so soprano parts and she's generally described as the magpie of the sisters. She was the most obsessed with their clothing and she was a big fan of having it pensive bottles to where you, because she had the longest hair. She was kind of scan of elevated to a certain revered status of people kind of indulge her in her love of clothes. worrying Isabel other third sister was a tenor and she's, actually you're staying Tracy events and earlier like, of course they are all of the same family, but there have always been rumours that she wasn't actually Miriam Fletchers daughter because she really did not resemble the rest of the family. Aside from the fact that she had long hair and there's been some speculation that she was
cousin or even adopted from outside the family. There is a solid substantiation for those theories. There is some kind of hints like I was looking through a census record in it lists her place of birth is slightly different from the other girls, but it's like in the next county, so it's possible that she do you know it was just a records thing. A lot of people have theorize that she was actually the daughter of Fletcher sister, but we don't know for certain grace with an alto, and maybe the most talkative of the group he's the one who took on the role of negotiator, both in business and in family arguments. She also had group she's, the one apart from her sisters, role of negotiator, brown or black hair, sister Naomi is always described, is just really good. Humour
we mentioned earlier. She had the most praise. Voice of the group with a rich base is sort of always labelled as like the sweetheart. Dora was another alto and is routinely described as the most beautiful of all of them. She is also really personable and she used, for wit and her charm, to great advantage. Her brains, would also led her to being a strong businesswoman as the family fortunes got bigger thanks to all their musical stuff year, then marry the youngest, It was also an outer like DORA. She was not, however, particularly gifted musically, and she was apparently a little bit difficult to deal with issues prone to tantrums is believed. She actually had some sort of mental illness, although this was nature of it is not really clear. Allegedly, there were some doctors that theorize that her long hair actually contributed to her mental health issues in some way, either by just adding pressure to her head or causing her too
her head. Oddly, it's not really it's always one of those doctors think this is really no scientific basis for if these rivers servant. That sounds like hokum to me as well. Also some preachers that thought that her hair was somehow causing problems. It's a little fun it's one of those things you always read. It is like the throwaway line in any description of Mary, like Mary Handsome, and the problems were not show up at some doctors think her hair was too heavy for her head, like that, I've never want seem any sort of medical literature, therewith substantiated claim. We were in the earliest days of evidence based medicine point there. Cisely Haider, easy D want to pause at this moment and have a quick word from one of our sponsors. This episode of stuff, you missed in history, glasses, brought you buy Norton three
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other money making scheme behind the scenes as early as eighteen. Eighty two he was investigating the possibility of developing a branded hair tonic that would capitalize on the popularity of his daughters and their hair. He concocted this tonic, which was allegedly based on his wife marries formula which he sent you a chemist for analysis and endorsement, and here that he got was quite get in. Here is quite Cincinnati, Ohio March eighteen. Eighty for having made a chemical analysis of the hair grower prepared by the seven long haired sisters. I hereby certified I found it free from all injurious substances that is beyond question the best preparation, here ever made in my cheerfully endorse it. They are deaf envy chemist in this review, its vs actually sort of her
yes because, later on, according to an entry in the drug periodical, the pharmaceutical era, which was published in eighteen, ninety three, so almost ten years after this was going on, they had had another group trainer replicate this formula and they determine that to do so. You just needed seven ounces of bay, rum, nine, ounces of distilled water of Witch Hazel, a drop of salt, a drop of five percent solution of hydrochloric acid and main as needed. So nothing especially magical was going on here. I like it that less than I go that seems like it might be great if you're here was really oily bit for everyone else. Re! That's given that stripper. Ok, cause history. So weird as all this was happening, the girls Father was having some
call they getting with new venture off the ground, at least until Harry Bailey from the Parliament Bailey Circus family offered his help with the business. While the chemist was reviewing with tonic, that Fletcher had sent over Harry, who was dating Naomi Sutherland at that point, started the settlement Sisters Corporation and he applied for a trade mark or seven Sutherland sisters, hair grower, and so once the proper paper work with. Wild and the chemist had endorse this product. They hear grower, really started. Selling and Harry was very good and kind of pr and pushing this product, and so the Sutherland Sisters Corporation hold about ninety thousand dollars for the product in their first year. So as eighteen, eighty four came to a close. They were starting to make a lot of money from this venture. The following year in eighteen, eighty five Naomi married, her suitor and business Associates Harry Bailey, so they also call this product here, fertilizer and just a few years into the
festival, hair for business venture Fletcher Sutherland died. This is unfair timber, sixth, eighteen, eighty eight and Obituary ever New York Times, Red Fletcher Sutherland, the Father of the seven Sutherland sisters, died at his country home near Lock, Port New York. Yesterday of paralysis, he was seventy three years of age. He was a preventive Methodist minister at one time, but he left the pulpit as soon as his daughters took to the state.
And it's interesting because in some biographies that you look at or accounts of, this Fletcher is often characterized as kind of a skunk lake. They talk about how he is perfectly willing to exploit his children for money, how you know he was this very pushy state father. So if that were the case, you might think that once he had died, the Ladys might have pull back from their life in the spotlight or these multiple tendrils of businesses that were starting to happen, but in fact that was not the case at all. With fletchers passing the subtle and sisters inherited part of the company he had with him
Bailey and the cosmetics. Fine afterward expanded considerably. They added a scalp cleansers, as well as the Sutherland Sisters branded comb. Hair color was also offered in eight different shades, but they also branched out of offerings of hair products and started selling face scream as well. You they offered some other of skin and fatal products. They just criminal became bigger and bigger and bigger, and the Sutherland Sisters brand really employ incredibly effective strategy to market all these products, so traded on the ladys image that they had kind of established at this point of being refined and elegant these products for price fairly high for the time so things that range from between fifty cents to dollar. Fifty that was substantial in the late eighteen, hundreds and early nineteen hundreds and what this not least, that their target audience was theoretically wealthy,
babies, but then the price point was just at that level, where this made the cosmetics line incredibly desirable for less wealthy women, so they would spend probably more than they really should have in terms of budgets so that they can also have these products, and so, in short, this approach. Worked like a charm. It turned out that the women had incredible business sense. They came up with brilliant tag lines for their products and they spend their time away from performing bolstering them nice business by modeling their products, because business was really booming. The company was also expanding into new territories and they
and offices all over the United States and Canada in Cuba and at the company's peak they had a sales force of more than twenty eight thousand dealers, for this is a huge company. At this point, the sisters were making millions from their products, and this was one of the most successful cosmetics companies in North Amerika. So they continued to expand outside of just offering hair and facial goods. They then started selling Sutherland sisters memorabilia to create an entirely new revenue stream. So one of the things that they have was lake trading cards. featured each of the sisters, and you know these cute little poses and at one point, Victoria did sell a single strand of her hair for twenty five dollars and a jeweler had bought it so that he can hang a diamond from the end of it in his shop window at this point they had a lot of money, and so they decided to build a new home back and Cambria where they had lived as children, so they built a
we really massive manner in which how's the whole family, as well as provide the home office, where their retail business, they spared no expense in the construction and once everybody moved and even the servants and the pets live lives that a lot of other citizens in that area really could hardly imagine this shit in their new mansion also marks a significant shift in the Ladys lives because they started I'm progressively more and more eccentric. here, they had always kind of been label this eccentric partially. I imagine because there they were just an unusual group for all of these women with all of this hair and but they really started to kind of live that life of wealthy captains of industry like completely full of over indulgences. They would throw lavish events. These big parties for the neighborhoods and surrounding community, which always ended with spectacular fireworks and the party
that they got into. According to the rumours that were swirling at a time only got wilder when the guests actually went home, so gossip started to spread around Cambria and the Niagara falls area that the family was indeed very heavy drinking. Even some drug use, even some partner swapping and there was even witchcraft- mentions about what might be going on at the mansion with centric family when no one else was there, but they will have all the extravagant celebration of their wealth. There was tragedy, Naomi die Suddenly in eighteen, ninety three, which really wasn't long after they had moved into the house, this left Harry and her three children behind, and she was only thirty nine years old at the time
the show had to go on, though the sisters were still working for the circus when they were making regular appearances, so they hired a replacement sister after additions or held. The job went to a woman with nine feet, which is about two point: seven meters of hair. Her name was Anna. Louise Roberts. There are lots of really sort of disturbing stories about how the family dealt with death. Apparently they kept Naomi there in the house for quite some time. While. They were allegedly gonna, build her mausoleum, but something were not entirely sure what went wrong with that in the mausoleum never got built, and eventually they had to just very her in an unmarked grave. The little bit were any working to hear some more crazy how they deal with the passing of others. The next major event, however, in the Sutherland Life, only added to the rumours and speculations about them. It arrived in the form of a young man named Frederick Castlemaine, and he was from a wealthy,
we ever. He was apparently DORA suitor. But then, where, along the line, something happened very quickly and shocked everyone, and he married her son, isabella, but MRS Scandalous, for the obvious sudden romantic interests change again, this kind of fuel, those rumours of partner, swapping that had already been happening, but I'll because Isabella was more than a decade older than her new husbands in terms of odd behaviour, Castlemaine really fit right in he was a man given two extremes that he had kind of a drug problem. He likes to suit his gun from the front porch and in addition to these foibles he also, created more a tragedy for the Ladys when he committed suicide while he was travelling with them during one of their tours. Yeah
Someone mentioned that he had overdosed on opium, but I was not able to get hard evidence on that's so that some kind of open to question mark of weight was that of suicide, or was that an accidental overdose? It's usually mentioned as a suicide, but we don't know a hundred percent for certain, but just as with Naomi. Instead of burying this young groom, the sisters first put him in a glass enclosure in the house so that they could see him and sing to him. day. He had not been involved at this point, and this went on for a little less than two weeks before these authorities stepped in, because the neighbors were complaining about the horrible odor that was starting to come from the property and Frederick was finally laid to rest in a very precis mausoleum that they had built for him, which still stands today and it houses not only castle means remains, but also
well of the sisters as well, and all of the women seemed really really heartbroken at the loss of Frederick, but especially, of course, Isabella, and she warned him very deeply for two full years their upheaval and loss followed close behind the last Mister Castlemaine Victoria We got married in eighteen. Ninety eight at the age of fifty and her new husband was only nineteen, so the marriage caused a huge rift between Victoria and the rest of the family. She the groom, we're not welcome in the family home and she had her sisters were strain right up until her own birth, in nineteen o too, yeah. So there things are really starting to fall apart. At this point, Isabella did remarry. After her two years of mourning again too much younger man, there seems to be a theme with the Ladys named Alonzo Swain, and at this point she was forty six and he was thirty. But this marriage did not seem to be an issue with the rest of her sisters and set off any sort of our
Amidst the way victorious did like they ve done when they owe me died, they found a replacement for Victoria printing was Anna Hany and she had six feet of hair. She was hired so that citizens can continue their appearances, but at that point the days were numbered where the group in nineteen o seven, they concluded their work with parliament, Bailey and Mary who, as we mentioned earlier, has had always had some mental illness. That really is it properly documented, grew much worse after victorious death than she was allegedly making threats against her sisters at some point at some points when she was perfectly upset and their way of handling this, send her to her room and locked the door. She was kind of just shut away, Isabella died in nineteen fourteen and then the eldest sister Sarah died in nineteen nineteen and unfortunately
There was also some social change happening that was kind of spelling the end, because by that time the trend of Ladys cutting their hair in short, Bob's, was on an upswing and that basically spelled doom for a hare care. feel business aimed at keeping very long, tresses, tidy and strong in an effort to come another moneymaking opportunity. Sisters, Mary and grace travelled to California. They were hoping to sell their story to a motion picture studio and didn't work out, but to make matters worse, or a died. While they were traveling, she was killed in a car accident, Thirdly, her remains were never claimed because grace than marry were too short on funds to do it yet
boy. You know the money was running out and the two remaining sisters who were unable to sustain anything even vaguely resembling the lifestyle that they had known in their Hey day when they were spending money really Willy nilly, because it seemed like it was, there was never an end to it. They had to abandon their mansion and nineteen thirty one and unfortunately, it burned to the ground seven years later on January, twenty fourth, nineteen, thirty eight and one of the the real tragedies here is that it took most of the family records with it. So when I say a lot of thing, there are things that are substantiated. Probably there was some paperwork in that house that could have helped eliminate things, but it is gone and Mary actually died. The year after the house burn. She at that point had been committed to an asylum.
And grace lived until nineteen forty six, but she was completely destitute when she died and was buried in a potter's field. So while the Sutherland Sisters had a really wild ride and this really intense success for a while in the end, it really kind of all fell apart and they were just as poor, if not more so than they have been when they started on a Turkey farm wow. So I dont know if there's a good life lesson in their of not to laugh at tragedy. But you know I don't
it's one of those things we see it happen all the time in in modern era, where performers become really really popular and they make a lot of money and then you here later that their completely broken, they are amassing can't pull their lives together, and this is not a new thing. It turns out. This is already happening over time. The Alsace solicitor mail, for I feel this is from our listener. Gina in it is about our army. He a gentle Ischia pursued and I am not being the whole thing that wanted to share some of her insights about artemisius work. She majored and painting in our history in college and really liked whisky, since she has some good insights and since I really like,
points he made about the culture she was painting in the time in which he lived. But there are a few things I think could be added in first that Judith Holofernes itself was a common subject matter among painters at the time. Secondly, that Artemisius painting is rather more accurate in its depiction of the physical aspects like blood spatter, while many artists or the time presented, anatomically correct figures, they stylized more groups of details. Her depiction is more like real life than illustration or allegory. For me, this is where her experiences played a role in her work. She lived through real things and the women she painted work props to tell a story. They were people with a history and life all their own. This is what makes her work so moving.
the nation of great skill, great insight and attention to detail, and then she tough little bit Bout caravan GEO. But then I also really liked her her postscript on this. When she does, I really enjoyed the letter to Galileo. Speaking of that plot points in the autumn, easier, gentlest gear pursued. It inspired me to look at more about the scientific and political events at the time and think about them in connection with painting. I'm kind of blown away by how much was going on Galileo's telescope observations, Kepler love planetary motion, early american colonies and even the Dutch EAST India Company. I really have never thought about the broader context in which the baroque artist lived or even that ITALY had just come out of a war with a rough and around
nation and was mostly controlled by Spain. So thanks for the happy hours of research, I two of those moments of insight where you realize how connected these huge world events are with things that were talking about and to each other that kind of get, I think, compartmentalize the lot when we learn about history and talk about it, and some of that is just kind of information. Management like ours paint the full picture, but it's really nice when the puzzled comes together. So that was our lovely letter from Vienna. Thank you to those insights. If you like to rate less, you should do so tat history pockets and has to works dot com. You can connect with this on Facebook and Facebook com, Slash missed in history, tat, mister history. On twitter,
listen history that tumblr com and it pit restart, comes lash. Mr history, we're gonna have here pictures from this. One you could also vice of mist in history goodies at missed in history that spreadsheet com. If you like to research a little bit about where we talk about things, you could work here and say how that works. If you type Sutherland sisters who lets you tv, the Aurelia envy you will get from article called Captain famous female side show frequently are mentioned in it. Do you like to visit us online? You can do that at least in history. The conference showed out our five over episode, episode and other goodies. We hope you do. We look forward to seeing you in
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