The Gentlemen’s Beautifier: 1878

padded dandy


A French Doctor Rendering Homely Men Pretty

Middle-Aged Gallants and Gray-Beards Rejuvenated.

[New York Mercury.]

A Mercury reporter, the other day, in walking down Grand street, noticed a man who, with a mysterious air, showed small hand-bills to gentlemen, who laughed at him and passed on. He asked to see one of the hand-bills. It was shown him, and the reporter read as follows:

“DR. RACIER, No. __ Grand street, Gentlemen’s Beautifier.”

“Gentlemen’s Beautifier?” asked the reporter. “That is a cosmetic?” “Oh, no, sir,” said the bill-distributor, “the Doctor is a gentlemen’s beautifier. Want to see him? He lives close by.” He took the reporter to a small frame building, on the upper floor of which he rang the bell. “Hand your bill to the Doctor,” he said to the reporter, and walked off. The reporter was received by a portly gentleman of forty, who asked him for his bill, took it from him, and ushered him into a nicely-furnished parlor.


“I understand,” said the reporter, “that you are a ‘gentlemen’s beautifier.’ What do you mean by that?” “Oh, that is very simple,” replied the Doctor, “I profess to possess the faculty of making homely men prepossessing.”

“But even if you do, is there a demand for such services?” “Most certainly, sir. Men are vainer than women. Look at the old fellows that walk the streets of New York with their cheeks painted.”

“But how do you proceed to beautify homely men, Doctor!” “Understand that I am no humbug. I have studied my profession in Paris, where forty of my colleagues are now doing a prosperous business in this line. Of course I cannot make a six-feet long skeleton look in the least attractive, nor make a pot-bellied four footer, with saber [bow] legs, even bearable. But fortunately nature does not create many such anomalous personages. Give me a man who has been endowed with symmetrical limbs, and, no matter how uninviting his face may look, I will certainly make him look presentable. The face is the principle thing, of course, and in regard to that every thing depends upon the complexion.”

“Ah, you are an enameler of the face, then?” asked the reporter. The almost sorrowful reply was: “No, sir. I am aware you refer to that Mme. Rachel, of London. She is a humbug, and I am glad she is now in prison. I do not


I know nothing about them. I believe I would not be bold enough to say anything to a lady about her looks. I have only to deal with me. I was going to say that everything depended on the complexion, the whiskers, the hair, and the teeth. Put a man before me, and at a glance, I will tell him what would improve his appearance. Some men have all their teeth at an advanced age, and still their mouths look repulsive. Why? Because their teeth are either too small or too large. They have to be removed. That can be done here without any pain, and the best-fitting artificial teeth can be substituted for them at low rates. The hair may be gray in an old man, but may make him look ridiculous. It must be dyed. How? I will tell him. Some men, however, look splendid in their gray hair. As for the whiskers, they must be of precisely the same color as the hair. Some men must wear them long; others must wear only mustaches, awhile others, finally, no beard at all. Now I come to the complexion. This is the most


In order to prove this to you, let me show you’re an experiment. I suppose I am a man of average good looks. Now I looked frightfully ugly, because when I was thirty years old I had blonde hair and a dark complexion. How did I remedy that? I used a certain preparation, which cannot be removed from the skin except by the application of another preparation, which I possess, and of which I have the sole secret. Let me prove this to you.”

“The doctor took a small vial, from which he poured a few drops upon a sponge. After rubbing it a minute or so, his skin assumed a dusky complexion, and upon exhibiting his countenance, the doctor looked almost repulsive. He laughed upon perceiving the reporter’s surprise, and, wiping his face with another sponge, upon which he had poured a few drops from another vial, he restored his face


“Doctor,” asked the reporter, “who are your customers?”

“O, I have only wealthy and responsible ones. Old bachelors fond of female society, men above the middle age who want to marry young girls, and the like. There are a great many of them here in New York. I only deal with wealthy persons, for my charges are from $125 to $200, the increased price depending from $125 to $200, the increased price depending upon the wadding and


Needed for concealing deformities of the back and nether limbs. Besides, before treating any person, I exact from him a sort of bond in which he acknowledges that he has paid the sum in question of his free accord, and that he has solicited me to perform the services to be rendered.”

Thanking the “Gentlemen’s Beautifier,” the reporter bowed himself out.

The Cincinnati [OH] Daily Enquirer 5 July 1878: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has previously related the trials and tribulations of women who wished to be beautified here, here, and here. It only seemed appropriate to give the gentlemen their due. Mrs Daffodil is full of admiration for the good Doctor’s business sense: demanding a bond and a testimonial of non-coercion in the pursuit of manly beauty undoubtedly minimised his legal bills. Despite his aesthetic opinion that a pale complexion was essential to the appeal of the aging gallant, Dr Racier’s receipt for turning the complexion dusky would be much in demand in to-day’s world of spray-on tans.

To be Relentlessly Informative, “Mme. Rachel, of London” was a lady’s beautifier and enameller of the complexions of the rich and titled. She charged fabulous sums for often poisonous cosmetic treatments and was tried and sent to prison as a “humbug.” Of her, more at a later date.

And finally, Mrs Daffodil cannot resist a little joke at the expense of the gentlemen:

They were talking of the vanity of women, and one of the few ladies present undertook a defense.

“Of course,” she continued, “I admit that all women are vain. The men are not. But, by the way,” she suddenly broke off, “the necktie of the handsomest man in the room is up under his ear.”

She had worked it. Every man present put his hand up to his neck.

London Tid-bits, 1901

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



2 thoughts on “The Gentlemen’s Beautifier: 1878

  1. Pingback: The Gentlemen’s Beautifier: 1878 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses | First Night History

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