The Mighty Moustaches of the Early Scientific American Archives [Slide Show]

The moustache was a controversial facial adornment in the early days of Scientific American, but the magazine contained some spectacular specimens nonetheless
moustaches, Movember, Scientific American Archives, Men's Grooming, prostate cancer, testicular cancer

Scientific American

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Every October the deluge of pink, from NFL players' gloves to yogurt lids, is hard to ignore. All of these items aim to raise awareness or money for breast cancer research. But what about the fellows? Some men do get breast cancer, but it is primarily a women's health issue. So a few years ago, a group of gents decided to celebrate "Movember," a month (following October) in which they would grow spectacular moustaches to help raise money for prostate and testicular cancer research. The moustache can be a divisive issue today, but the controversy is not new.

The early Scientific American archives reveal surprising vitriol against the moustache. The first mention came in March 1848: "Moustaches are recommended as a new object for taxation—a license to wear them at five dollars per annum would produce a fine taxation." A few months later, in January 1849, an article added, "After all that has been said against the moustache, we would not condemn a man as a confirmed villian [sic] because he wears a long black or red whisk between his nose and mouth. It's a sorry sight, we know, but we would rather pity the wearer or give him a passing kick, than to go so far as to advise a refusal to him of a trifling loan to buy a glass of beer. They are very useful to sop up gravy or butter at the dinner table."

»View a slide show of moustaches and moustache-related inventions from the Scientific American archives.

In July 1849 yet another writer was none too pleased by the grooming choice. "The moustache, though of foreign origin, became naturalized among us during the Mexican war, and since then almost every one who trod the territory of the Montezumas, if it were only in the capacity of a mule-driver, delights to sport his bushy moustache. Even militia captains and corporals, who never crossed the Gulf, prodigiously affect this facial ornament. There are some men who defend the moustache upon principle, discomfitting [sic] all their opponents by the overwhelming argument, 'nature placed the moustache where it is for the purpose of being worn,'—excellent argument, and it would be well for all the moustachees [sic] to carry out the principle a little farther, such as to houses and clothes etc, nature did not produce them any more than a razor to clean a man's chin." Worse, according to an 1850 issue, medical students' moustaches "are useful in pointing out the vainest, idlest and most conceited in the class."

By 1853 the article "Sanatory view of the beard and moustache" took a softer tone, describing some pluses and minuses of facial hair. Since then, moustaches and moustache-related inventions have graced the pages of many issues—and even the faces of some of the editors and contributors. 

»View a slide show of moustaches and moustache-related inventions from the Scientific American archives.

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