We Love Permanent Wave Machines!

There's something fasinating about those old permanent wave machines from the early 1900's to the early 1950's. Is it the odorous perm chemicals the beauty salons used? The patience that the customer needed for the felt rubber pads, spacers, rods, solution, end papers, and clamps to be put into her hair? It could be many or all of those things. One thing is for sure, we don't see too many antique perm machines around, or even in use!

We feel that these vintage perm machines deserve another chance in this generation, so we made a couple perm videos that feature an old Gabrieleen permanent wave machine - Katherine's Permanent Wave Machine Perm on DVDTruKenna's Permanent Wave Machine Perm on VOD.

You'll find many photos of women, children, and a man underneath the perm machine on our Pinterest page. You'll even find an Empress Perm Machine instruction manual there.

If you're still curious about this whole concept and want to see more perms with permanent wave machines, click on the titles below -- these videos all have a woman getting her hair permed by a permanent wave machine.

woman gets electrocuted by homemade perm machine In Theatre of Blood, Miss Chloe Moon, played by Coral Browne, comes in for a hair appointment. After sitting her in a chair, the "stylist" has her soak her feet in water, has her hair set in curlers, and rolls over a HAIR DRYER with wires, and attaches those wires to her rollers. She is then electrocuted. Many people mistake this hair dryer setup for a perm machine, but it is not. It could be called a homemade perm machine at best. (Please don't try this at home). This video, which was made in 1973, is available on DVD.
gets her permed with perm machine at a beauty salon In Three on a Match, Joan Blondell plays Mary Keaton, who is caped and sitting under a perm machine, with her hair all in clamps and rods. Although this scene is about a minute and a half long, it shows the perm machine and the 1930's beauty salon quite beautifully. This video, which was made in 1932, is available on DVD.
gets a perm at a beauty salon In Libeled Lady, Jean Harlow plays Gladys Benton, who is caped and sitting under a perm machine, with her hair all in clamps and rods. The scene is brief and it ends with Gladys yelling, "Get me out of here!" This video, which was made in 1936, is available on DVD.
Oliva getting her hair permed under the perm machine In the episode of The Waltons television show, Corabeth, the beauty operator, gives Oliva a curly perm with the permanent wave machine. Watch as steam rises from her head. Her head is full of spacers, rods, etc, and afterwards, it's full of curls. (Katherine highly recommends this episode). This episode is entitled, "The Rebellion" and was first aired 12/23/1976. You'll find this episode on the fifth season DVD.
Ethel getting her hair permed under the perm machine In the #14 episode of the Green Acres television show, Lisa starts her own beauty salon, and the hairstylist gives one woman a perm with the perm machine. This episode is entitled, "What Happened in Scraton?" and was first aired 12/22/1965. You'll find this episode on the first season DVD.
boy's mother sitting under perm machine You'll love the show I Love Lucy even more after this episode. In "The Amature Hour," Lucy babysits two boys while their mother visits the beauty salon for a perm. The mother is shown with the clamps, spacers, and rods in her hair. This episode first aired 01/14/1952. And you can find it on DVD in season 1, vol. 4.

Do you want to learn more about perm machines? Here are a few of our favorite links:
Majorie Joyner, inventor of the perm machine
A story of a woman's first permanent
Inventors of other perm creations
A hair dressor's story of using a perm machine
A beauty operator's perm machine story

Perm machine trivia: Who were some of the companies that produced permanent wave machines?

  • American Beauty Products, Chicago, Illinois, USA - Carelton
  • Bonat
  • B.E. Sanders, Inc., Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
  • Duart
  • E. Fredricks Inc., New York, New York, USA
  • Eugene Ltd. of New York, New York, USA
  • Gabrieleen Company of Chicago, Illinois, USA - Silver Queen, Model 88
  • Helene Curtiss - Empress A
  • Nestle
  • Realistic
  • Rilling, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA - Deluxe Model C
  • Thermique W.G. Shelton of St. Louis, Missouri, USA
  • Walker
  • Wella, Germany

Do you want to see a 3D photograph of a permanent wave machine?
Photospherix created one HERE

Permanent Wave Machine Price Guide
Have a perm machine that you would like to know the value of? Figure out how much it's worth here: Perm Machine Price Guide.

There have been several books written about permanent wave machines, including detailed instructions and/or photos. The following titles may be found by asking your library to do an "interlibrary loan" or by clicking on the underlined titles.

The Essentials of Permanent Waving: A Practical Handbook for the Permanent Wave Operator by E.L. Smith, Nora M. McNamara, and Sallyneill W. Braden. Published in 1932 by Adair Publishing Company, Los Angeles, California.

Getting a Permanent Wave by Ann Steward. Published in 1927 by Paine Publishing Company, Dayton, Ohio.

Inventing Beauty: A History of the Innovations that Have Made Us Beautiful by Teresa Riordan. Published in 2004 by Broadway.

Practice and Science of Standard Barbering by S.C. Thorpe. Published in 1958 by Milady Pub. Corp.

Profitable Permanent Waving for Professional Beauticians by Norman G. Hiller. Published in 1948 by Norman Hillier Associates, New York.

Text Book for Permanent Waving by Charles Nessler. Published in 1922 by C. Nestle Co.

Do you wish to visit a museum that has a perm machine on display? Below are some museums that you can visit, to see these wonderful inventions.

Sunnyside Museum at 704 S 4th Street, Sunnyside, WA 98944, USA phone: 509-837-6010

Herzstein Memorial Museum at 22 South 2nd St., Clayton, NM 88415, USA phone: 575 374-2977

Independence Heritage Museum at 112 South 3rd St., Independence, Oregon 97351, USA phone: 503-838-4989

Polk County Museum at 201 W. Locust St., Bolivar, Missouri, USA phone: 417-326-6850

Albany Regional Museum at 136 Lyon St. S., Albany, Oregon, USA phone: 541-967-7122

Western Mining and Railroad Museum at 296 South Main, Helper, Utah 84526 phone: 435-472-3009

Beauty Bubble Hair and Beauty Museum and Salon in Wonder Valley, California, USA phone: 760-361-5617

Wella Museum at Berliner Allee 65, 64274 Darmstadt, Germany Tel: 06151-342190

Children's Museum of Indianapolis at 3000 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208, USA phone: 317-334-3322

Halton Region Museum at RR3 (Kelso Conservation Area), Milton Ontario Canada L9T 2X7 phone: 866-442-5866 extension 7935

Rogers Historical Museaum at 301 W. Chestnut, Rogers, Arkansas, 72756, USA phone: 479-621-1117

Maybe by now your curiosity has risen enough where you want to see what the fuss is all about and you wish to get a perm from a permanent wave machine yourself. You are in luck! The following salons have a perm machine; some machines are functional, and others aren't, but you can still sit under one to get a sense of how it was for the ladies back then.

Beauty Bubble Hair and Beauty Museum and Salon in Wonder Valley, California, USA phone: 760-361-5617
Mad-Max Hairstyling in München, Germany phone: +49 89 169731
Red Hill Salon in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada phone: 604-266-8872

If there's anything you feel that we should add, please contact us with that information. Thank you!