ACCCI 2001 Convention

Learning can be fun and full of surprises discovered Jen Cruse at the 2001 Convention of the Antique Comb Collector's Club International.

Victorian haircombs

The 5th Biennial Convention of the Antique Comb Collectors' Club International took place in Grand Rapids, Michigan on the last weekend of April. An animated group of some 35 members gathered together to exchange comb lore, combs and a good deal of education on comb history, geography, material identification and conservation.

The guest speaker, Mike Woshner, author of India-Rubber and Gutta-Percha in the Civil War Era, described the history and uses of ebonite (vulcanite/hard rubber) and gutta percha. He discussed the practicality of these materials for comb-making and agreed that it was unlikely that combs were ever made from gutta percha despite the many misleading 19th century American advertisements stating otherwise. Apart from the fact that no combs in this material have ever been identified - unlike those made of vulcanite - it is probable that the confusion arises from advertisements produced by one of the earliest comb makers, "The India Rubber Comb Company, New York: Sole Manufacturers of Goodyear's India Rubber & Gutta Percha Combs", in business from 1856 to 1898. All combs made by this company were marked "I.R.C.Co. - Goodyear 1851" with a patent date 6 May 1851.

Cathy Forgey, a benefactor to two local families in East Sumba, Indonesia, described the traditional culture of these people, and their beautifully carved large tortoiseshell combs. The proceeds from the sales of all the artifacts she brought from the islands will be given to those who struggle to survive the recent conflicts there.

Other presentations included discussions on: the unsolved mystery surrounding the late 18th/early 19th century American-Indian figurative folding combs made from horn, stained to simulate tortoiseshell; ancient Eskimo combs from St. Lawrence Island; and late 20th century abstract-art designed combs, in the form of African rake combs (all museum-quality pieces), presented by the sculptor himself, Mauel Gomez.

Collections were displayed, competitions were organised, comb sales between members were brisk, with bargains for everyone. The auction of donated combs (each member donating at least one comb), together with a unique abstract comb carved especially for the occasion by Gomez, realised over $1,000 for club funds. The convention ended with a panel of 4 knowledgeable "combers" who managed to hold their own when challenged by questions from the floor.

Jen Cruse is the European coordinator for Antique Comb Collector's Club International

To purchase India-Rubber and Gutta-Percha in the Civil War Era by Mike Woshner, you can contact

The Voigt House Victorian Museum located in the historic district.
A restored 1908 Prairie style Frank Lloyd Wright design, the Meyer May House, near downtown.

For more information on these and other attractions in Grand Rapids, Michigan, contact the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau