Wm Jay Barker was listed in the New York City directories for over 100 years from 1847 until sometime in the mid-1950’s. During this time the business was listed with a wide range of classifications including hairdresser, barber, wigs, wigs and human hair, human hair merchant, patent meds and toilet goods. Many of the listings also included the name of the hair tonic that the business manufactured called “Hirsutus.” My daughter, who has a minor in Latin, tells me “Hirsutus” is a Latin adjective and can mean “hairy” or “shaggy”
Barker was first listed in the 1847 NYC Directory at 349 1/2 Broadway. The business remained on or near Broadway for almost 50 years utilizing many different addresses. In 1851 they were located at 459 Broadway and by 1857-58 they had moved to 565 Broadway. In the 1859-60 directory their address was listed as 622 Broadway where they remained through 1871. The 1867-68 NYC Directory included an expanded listing for the business.
In 1870 they opened a second location at 1275 Broadway. The opening of this location was announced in the June 22, 1870 edition of the New York Herald.
They maintained both addresses for just a year or so, dropping 622 Broadway in the 1871-72 Directory. In 1876-77 they moved again, this time to a location four doors off Broadway at 36 West 29th Street.
After leaving Broadway they were located at 112 Fulton Street (1895 to 1903); 106 6th Avenue (1903 to approx. 1930) and 1826 Park Avenue (approx. 1930 to the mid-1940’s). By 1948 they had moved to 160 East 127th Street where they remained listed through 1953. They were no longer listed in 1957.
The business was run by William Jay Barker until his death sometime prior to 1894 after which it appears that the business remained in the family. NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directories between 1901 and 1919 listed the business as “William Jay Barker (Mary Barker Fareira, only)” and a February 7, 1918 New York Times article, named his son, also William Jay Barker, as president of the company until his tragic death, at the time of the article, in a Connecticut house fire.
Management of the company after Mary Fareira’s death sometime in the 1920’s is not clear.
Company advertisements stated that their hair tonic “Hirsutus” dated back to the start of the business in 1847, however the first mention of it that I can find was in an April 12, 1869 advertisement in the New York Herald.
This advertisement from 1902 claims that dandruff, thin failing hair, baldness, scrub, scalp humors and itching scalp were all relieved with one application of “Barker’s Hirsutus.”
Another 1902 advertisement went further, stating:
Thousands of persons are today scratching their heads and saying they would give anything in the world if they could only get some kind of a remedy that would relieve or cure them of dandruff and other scalp diseases, a large number not knowing of a wonderful remedy which has been in existence over half a century, called Barker’s Hirsutus, which is a positive and well known cure used by the most fashionable people of the world, and if they would use it would never be troubled by these diseases.
Hirsutus is a vegetable preparation, free from grease and poisonous chemicals. Positively cures dandruff, failing hair and all scalp diseases. Grows hair on any bald head if directions are faithfully carried out.
Hisutus is indispensable to ladies and children. By its use they can keep the scalp free from scruff and dandruff, thereby creating a healthy condition of the scalp , and promoting a soft, pliant and luxurious growth of hair. This preparation costs more than most other remedies of this nature, but IT DOES MORE. Anyone troubled with scalp diseases, takes no chances in using HIRSUTUS. It positively does all that is claimed for it.
It’s not clear how long the Hirsutus hair tonic was actually on the market. NYC phone books included the word “Hirsutus” with company listings right up through the 1950’s but I don’t see it advertised or included in drug store listings after 1936.
As far as I can tell, none of the buildings occupied by the business still exist today.
The bottle I found is mouth blown (maybe 8 to 10 oz) with a tooled finish. It’s sun-purpled indicating the presence of manganese dioxide which was predominantly used as a decolorizing agent prior to 1920. It’s shape and embossing are similar to a labeled example recently advertised on e-bay that exhibits the 6th Avenue address utilized by the company between 1903 and 1930.