Seven Sutherland Sisters

The Seven Sutherland Sisters was a singing group which included the seven daughters of Fletcher and Mary Sutherland of Lockport, New York.[1] They appeared with Barnum and Bailey's from the early 1880s to the early 1900s.[2] Their distinguishing feature was their long hair; publicity about the length and texture of their hair enabled the Sutherlands to create a successful line of patent medicine hair and scalp care products.[3]

The Seven Sutherland Sisters pose for a publicity photo. When appearing with Barnum & Bailey’s, their photos were usually arranged so that their hair touched the floor.

FamilyEdit

 
Grace Sutherland, about 1890.

The Seven Sutherland Sisters was a family act from Niagara County, New York that performed worldwide to great acclaim.[4] Daughters of Fletcher (1816-1888) and Mary (Brink) Sutherland (1824-1867), they started doing concerts with a brother in the early 1880s, and three years later the sisters were traveling with Barnum and Bailey's "Greatest Show on Earth."[4]

The children of Fletcher and Mary Sutherland included:[5]

  • Sarah (1845-1919)[6]
  • Victoria (1849-1902)[6]
  • Isabella (1852-1914)[6]
  • Grace (1854-1946)[6]
  • Naomi (1858-1893)[6]
  • Dora (1860-1926)[6] [7]
  • Mary (1862-1939)[6]

Fletcher and Mary Sutherland were buried at Glenwood Cemetery in Lockport, as were most of the sisters.[6]

CareerEdit

 
1900 Seven Sutherland Sisters newspaper advertisement

With fans fascinated by their hair, which reached a collective length of over 37 feet, Fletcher Sutherland went on to create a patent medicine, "The Seven Sutherland Sisters Hair Grower", which was mostly witch hazel and bay rum, along with traces of hydrochloric acid, salt, and magnesium.[3][8][9] The tonic quickly became a best seller, and the line of Sutherland Sisters hair products expanded to include a scalp cleanser, brushes and combs, and "Hair Colorators."[3] In addition to wholesaling their products to retail stores, they also made public appearances at retail outlets, and maintained several outlets of their own -- "parlors" where customers could consult with a salesperson and make purchases -- including one in New York City.[4] When Naomi died in 1893, the Sutherlands auditioned for a replacement, and hired Anna Louise Roberts to join their act.[6] Roberts made headlines in 1927 when she was over 60 and her husband and she became destitute as the result of a house fire.[10]

The Sutherlands resided in a mansion they built in Warrens Corners, New York, which burned down in 1938.[11][12] Even though hairstyles changed over time, and the short hair of the Flappers became fashionable in the 1920s,[6] the Seven Sutherland Sisters hair care products were successful for years after their singing act ended; print ads for them appeared in newspapers until the mid-1920s.[13]

Published accounts indicate that the sisters did not save or invest wisely, and some of them later became destitute.[6] When the last living sister, Grace, died in 1946 at age 92, she was buried in an unmarked grave.[6]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Cason, Rikki (April 3, 2016). "Good Hair Day: History Center Celebrates Seven Sutherland Sisters". Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. Lockport, NY.
  2. ^ Fadely, Don. "Seven Sutherland Sisters Hair Grower". hairraisingstories.com/. Colorado Springs, CO: Don Fadely. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "Seven Sutherland Sisters Hair Grower".
  4. ^ a b c The Sutherland Sisters
  5. ^ Hix, Lisa (September 6, 2013). "Untangling the Tale of the Seven Sutherland Sisters and their 37 Feet of Hair". Collectors Weekly. San Francisco, CA.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Untangling the Tale of the Seven Sutherland Sisters and their 37 Feet of Hair".
  7. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/1926/12/16/archives/dora-sutherland-killed-one-of-seven-wellknown-sisters-hit-by-an.html
  8. ^ "Good Hair Day".
  9. ^ Patzer, Mirella (September 3, 2014). "True Life Rapunzels! The Sutherland Sisters and their 37 feet of hair!". Historyandwomen.com/. Cochrane, Alberta, Canada: History and Women.
  10. ^ "Aged Couple Left Destitute By Fire". Scranton Republican. Scranton, PA. January 28, 1927. p. 4 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ Merrill, Arch (November 12, 1961). "Our Patent Medicine Kings and Their Elixirs". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, NY. p. 15D – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ Merrill, Arch (June 22, 1952). "Hair Tonic Built it: Showpiece of the Countryside was the Seven Sisters' Mansion". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, NY. p. 2C – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ Luckey, Platt & Co. (October 29, 1925). "Print Advertisement: Today's Shopping News". Poughkeepsie Eagle-News. Poughkeepsie, NY. p. 4 – via Newspapers.com.

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