John G. Higgins was a prominent Tennessee businessman. He is recognized as the inventor of the Eureka straightening comb. The life story of Higgins was written by his two granddaughters, Josephine Dorsey Wheeler and Evelyn Dorsey Polk.
Higgins was nicknamed by family and friends “Captain Jack.” He worked most of his life as a barber. However, his wealth came from being the owner of eleven barber shops. During his work, he noticed that most black women wore their hair natural or combed in the simplest form possible. He knew how difficult it could be to get a comb through natural hair if not properly maintained. He designed a metal comb that would lengthen the hair strands by straightening them, making it easier for black natural hair to be combed in different styles.
The comb was a huge success and a factory was built to manufacture it. The factory was located behind the family home. Higgins business continues until 1950. His granddaughter, Polk, explains in the book that the business closed due to the fact the straightening comb was moving toward an electricity-based product.
A shrewd businessman learned of Higgins invention and began pressuring him to sell his invention. His family didn’t know how much the pressure was causing stress in Higgins’ life until one day, he walked into a room while his granddaughter Josephine was sitting and cut his own throat with a razor. Higgins died from his injuries.
After Higgins death, his wife Jennie, who was also an entrepreneur and beautician opened numerous beauty shops and was one of the first African Americans to provide services to whites in Chattanooga.
Eureka: He Invented It! The Eureka Straightening Comb
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