logo - Join me in the 1900s mid C20th
The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Curling tongs for curling hair
at home, early-mid 20th century

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My mother's family's original early 1900s curling tongs remained in the family, so that I have been able to photograph them.

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Curling tongs

Old metal curling tongs for curling hair

Old metal curling tongs from my mother's effects.

These old curling tongs were all metal with two prongs. One prong was a solid cylinder and the other was an open shell such that the two fitted together when the tongs were closed.


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Heating the curling tongs

The tongs had to be heated by any method available - in a gas ring or on the hob of a kitchen range. Being metal, they could get very hot and there was a skill to lifting them away from the heat at a suitable temperature. All too often, this temperature was misjudged: too cool a tong and the hair didn't curl and too hot a tong burnt the hair. Burnt hair could not be unburnt and had to grow out, so it was a risky business to use curling tongs. There was no way that they could be thermostatically controlled.

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Using the curling tongs

These curling tongs could be used in two main ways.

To make a tight curl or ringlet, the end of a length of hair was gripped between the prongs of the hot tongs. Then then the tongs were rotated over and over so that the hair wound round them. After a few seconds, the tongs were opened and hey presto!

To make home-made Marcel Waves, hair was pinched into waves using fingers and a comb and the peak of each wave was crimped between the prongs of the hot tongs. This set the peaks and hence also set the waves.

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.