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Beauty Blog

Aly Phant's Black Elephants Blog

Profile: Lyda D. Newman

Black Elephants

Who is Lyda D. Newman?


While very little is known about this woman, her invention is used on a daily basis all over the world. She was born in Ohio around 1885 but later moved to New York City. She received U.S. patent 614,355 for her invention in November 15, 1898.

So what is this invention? It is none other than the common plastic hair brush. While she did not invent the hair brush, she made significant improvements for improved hygiene and use. Be sure to thank her next time you grab your favorite brush.

Have a blessed weekend!

Profile: Madame Sarah Spencer Washington

Black Elephants

Who is Madame Sarah Spencer Washington?

Sarah was born June 6, 1889 in Beckley, Virginia. After her studies at Norfolk Mission College and Columbia University, she began working as a dressmaker. When her mother fell ill, they moved to Atlantic City to live closer to the ocean.


In 1913, she opened a beauty shop in Atlantic City and began developing her own beauty products and beauty systems. She received patents for her hair straightening methods, pressing oils, and scalp creams. In 1919, she founded the Apex News and Hair Company. By the 1930s, her portfolio included Apex Beauty Products Company, Apex Publishing Company, Apex Laboratories, Apex Drug Company, and Apex Beauty College.

She expanded her beauty colleges to 11 in the US and a couple overseas graduating over 4,000 students each year. She had over 45,000 agents selling her products which included cosmetics and perfumes.

What was her secret to success? How was she able to convince so many people to become cosmetologists and work for her? She sold them the dream of learning a depression-proof business. And it worked! Her vast network of agents had jobs and made money during the Great Depression.

Madame Washington didn't stop there. She continued her support of African American communities by running a nursing home called Apex Rest, giving away carloads of coal during the Great Depression, awarding scholarships to black students all over the country, and donating to a number of charities.

Before her death in 1953, she joined the self-made millionaires club and was awarded a medallion for her achievements at the 1939 World's Fair in New York.

Have a blessed week and a Happy Presidents Day!

Profile: Marjorie Stewart Joyner

Black Elephants

Who is Marjorie Stewart Joyner?

Marjorie Stewart Joyner was born October 24, 1896 in Monterey, Virginia. In 1912, she moved to Chicago to study cosmetology at A. B. Molar Beauty School becoming the its first African American graduate. She later married and opened her own salon.


Joyner was later introduced to Madame C. J. Walker who hired her as a national advisor to oversee 200 of Walker's beauty schools. A few years later, Joyner became the first African American to receive a U. S. patent (or at least the first related to the beauty industry) for her permanent wave machine.

This revolutionary device allowed the client to have their hair straightened or curled quickly while keeping the just-got-my-hair-done hairstyle lasting days rather than hours. The machine was used by both black and white salons. The patent legally belonged to the Walker company and so too were its profits.

While she continued her work for Walker, she also accomplished much as a civil rights leader. She organized the annual Bud Billiken Parade for Chicago's African American community, founded the United Beauty School Owners and Teachers Association, and fundraised for the Bethune-Cookman College.

Have a blessed weekend and a Happy Valentines!