Leeds nostalgia: Which shop did vintage perming machine come from?

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It may be a hair-raising sight to behold but back in 1930s Leeds, this vintage perming machine would have been very much top of the range.

Known at the time as a permanent wave machine, the contraption was used in a hair salon in Bramley and was collected by Kirkstall’s Abbey House Museum in 1978.

The machine’s design is similar to one made by Icall in 1934, which was fitted with Bakelite heaters and a timer which compensated for the type of hair and other factors.


It was on wheels designed to avoid picking up hair from the salon floor and, when operated, involved curling the hair around the tubular heaters which were then held up vertically above the head to avoid touching the scalp.

The fashion for permed hair was influenced by Hollywood film stars of the day.

The machine was a long way from the first permanent wave system invented by Karl Nessler in 1905. He used a mixture of cow urine and water and tried out the system on his wife, accidentally burning all her hair off during early experiments.

The machine is part of Abbey House’s How Do I Look? Exhibition, which runs until December 31.

Councillor Brain Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries, said: “This exhibition also makes you wonder how many of the things we use today may look quirky to museum-goers of the future.”

If you know which salon the machine came from, please contact staff at the Abbey House on 0113 3784084 or email them at: Abbey.House@leeds.gov.uk.