Thursday, August 17, 2017  

Need a Doctor? A Guide to Choosing the Best Medicine

 Blockhead, big wig, and powder room; words as familiar today as they were three centuries ago. Few trades have contributed to contemporary jargon as the perukes or periwig makers of the 17th and 18th centuries. A gentleman’s wig was his crowning glory, a substantial monetary investment, and a symbol of social status. So much so that gentlemen, and occasionally ladies, would have their heads shaved in order to ensure a perfect fit.
If one was wealthy enough, a client would have a block of wood carved in the shape of one’s head so that the preferred wigmaker would have a custom-made form on hand to create or re-style his client’s wigs. At night, sans one’s own natural locks, a nightcap was worn to keep their pate warm. Aristocratic boys as young as seven and girls as young as ten might receive their first wigs.
The 18th century was considered the golden era of wigs and, at its height, dozens of wig shops catered to Virginia’s well-to-do in the Colonial capital. The cost of a wig was no small matter, representing a full month’s wages for many. For the price of one wig, a man could buy a half acre of land in town, a team of oxen, or a dozen pairs of shoes. Some wigs were so valuable it cost two to three years’ wages. Those who could afford them represented a very small percentage of Virginia’s population, but 18th century wigs were in such demand and so labor-intensive, numerous tradesmen labored from sunup to sundown, seven days a week, to keep their clients coifed to perfection.
Colonial Williamsburg’s Barber & Peruke Maker’s Shop on Duke of Gloucester Street represents that owned by Edward Charlton, a prominent perruquier, whose account books reveal he catered to some of Virginia’s most prominent leaders—Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and George Wythe. Within its walls, Master Wigmaker Betty Myers, Journeymen Wigmakers Regina Blizzard and Teresa Lyons, and Apprentice Debra Turpin ply this time-honored trade today.
As visitors file into the shop, Betty seamlessly slips into the moment, assuming the personification of Mary, an 18th century Irish lass with a quick tongue and sharp wit. Her talent to create a wig, while keeping up a running commentary of what life was like for 18th century wigmakers, barbers, and hairdressers, is a talent she’s been honing for more than three decades.
“The wigshop opened in 1950 to the public and has been servicing the entire foundation by supplying and taking care of every wig and hairpiece seen in the village,” Betty explains. “We currently have 600 wigs and 450 hair pieces in service or stored.”
Betty, who joined Colonial Williamsburg in 1981, was in a unique position of not having a journeyman or master of the trade to train under. “When I joined the shop, it was primarily an interpretative venue. We weren’t making wigs, merely demonstrating some fundamentals of wig making.” Betty was bothered by the fact there was very little wig making taking place, so under Gail Cawthorne’s leadership, who was a licensed beautician by trade, Betty began learning the craft. When Gail left not long after, Betty was suddenly on her own.
Using 18th century periodicals, portraits, and what research material she could find, Betty gradually recreated the trade. Later, she traveled to England and Scotland to validate her techniques, ensuring that her instructions to other wigmakers were indeed authentic. Since then, other trips to Germany and Denmark have helped to refine and reinforce the shop’s now well documented processes for making truly historical recreations.
Unlike her 18th century counterparts, who would have begun on the bottom rung of the peruke ladder by sweeping floors, apprentice Debra Turpin (now in her seventh year) has had the opportunity to vary her activities, develop hands-on skills as the needs of the foundation have arisen, and travel abroad with Betty to research wig making. In order to advance to journeyman, she must complete a reproduction wig, from start to finish, without assistance.
“When an 18th century gentleman would walk into our shop, the first thing we would do is sit down to discuss his needs,” Betty explains, slipping into her role as interpretive guide. “Is he a merchant or a physician perhaps? His position may require a particular style of wig. Once we determine the style of wig desired, we would select the type of hair to be used; yak hair from Tibet, horse hair from the Orient, goat hair from Turkey, or human hair that comes from young girls in northern Europe where, because of their diet and climate, they are bred for their hair, which is considered the most superior human hair.”
Once a client had selected a wig style and hair type, their head was shaved, and a patron could choose from a standard size blockhead or have one custom-made by a wood carver for his unique head size and shape. Most gentlemen would know their block size, very much the way we know our shoe size today. Once a blockhead was selected, a diagram or block plat would guide the wigmaker in the design, layout, and density of the wig, most likely dictated by the client’s pocketbook.
“Clearly one did not go about in public with a shaved or cropped head; that was reserved for folks of lesser means,” Betty continues. “A lingerie cap was worn over the bald pate until such time as the wig was ready.”
Each weft of hair is hand-woven on a tressing frame, sewn onto a caul, then curled, and pomaded. Pomade was used like mousse to stiffen the hair and facilitate styling. Consisting mainly of sheep’s lard mixed with botanical extracts, pomades came in pleasing scents such as orange blossom, lavender, bergamot, marchel, and bay rum.
“We have a volunteer, Karen Archer, making these pomades for us, using 18th century recipes, and they are quite lovely,” Betty points out. The fragrances are light and subtle, the texture reminiscent of fine lanolin.
Wigs worn during daytime were often matched to one’s own hair color. The fashion-conscious might own several wigs in a variety of colors. For formal or evening occasions, proper attire demanded white or powdered wigs. A powdered wig is not pristine white and the difference is obvious, but for those who did not possess a white wig, powdering with fine milled wheat, rice powder, or orris root was the obvious choice.
A bobbed wig with four to five rows of curls was most popular; a simple queue was often the choice for a gentleman with limited means. Curls were either smooth or frizzed, according to preference. Occasionally, ladies too wore full wigs, although most preferred their own locks supplemented with false curls or braids, entwined with pearls, ribbons and other adornments. On special occasions ladies wore elaborate wigs that often sported a theme, emulating the wigs flaunted by the French and English aristocracy. They were heavy affairs; weighted down with pomades, powders, and ornamentation.
As wigs and hairpieces became soiled or misshapen, peruke hairdressers would begin the laborious task of refurbishment: removing the gossamer hair netting, which helped keep curls in place; removing dozens of hair pins and adornments and padding that was used to provide pouf; before carefully hand washing every strand in fine castile soap from Spain. Once the wig was dry, it was restyled. Today, the foundation’s wigs are just as carefully cared for, albeit washed with commercial shampoos and conditioners.
If the wig shop represents the very best of 18th century peruke making, the John Coke building two doors down serves as its logistical hub. Here, wigs and hairpieces are stored, washed, and refurbished. Jessica Demarco, inventory clerk, maintains a computerized database tracking the whereabouts of each wig. A wipe board denotes short and long term work schedules, from individual interpreters to large productions. Four volunteers and two interns from the College of William and Mary provide assistance as needed.
In the basement, feathers, human hair, and polyfil are stored in a freezer, wigs in hat boxes, and hundreds of accessories in plastic bins. With the need for wigs and hairpieces on the rise, the wig shop cannot possibly meet demand with all handmade wigs. Currently, 65% of the wigs in service are synthetic; so well crafted it takes a keen eye to tell the difference.
By the time America won its independence, wigs had become less elaborate, albeit still in demand. Fashion continued to be heavily influenced by the fashions of European aristocrats. In 1795 Britain levied a tax on hair powder of one guinea per year, effectively spelling the beginning of the end of the powdered wig era.
Despite increasing demand within Colonial Williamsburg, “this trade is a dying art,” says Betty. “As far as we know, nowhere else in America are wigs being made of this design and caliber, using these techniques. The four of us are all that remains of a dying trade and that’s scary.”
As another tour group crowds into the shop, it’s obvious visitors find the art of wig making fascinating. Betty’s dedicated staff and volunteers are determined to keep this dying trade alive for the next generation. Who knows? As William Hutton once penned in his poem ‘The Wig’, “Clouds, days, and fashions rise and wane; and only set to rise again.”
Special thanks to Betty Myers and her knowledgeable staff, and to Joseph Straw of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.  

It’s Sunday afternoon and you have an earache. Should you go to the emergency room? What about an urgent care clinic? Should you wait it out and try to see your doctor on Monday? Illness and injury can come without warning and when you’re hurt or not feeling well, you want to feel better as soon as possible.
To receive the best possible care, you want to be at the right place at the right time. Riverside Medical Group providers have worked together to develop a system to ensure your healthcare needs are met, regardless of the time of day or the severity of your illness.
Primary Care
Unless it’s a life threatening situation, start with your primary care provider, often referred to as a PCP. Primary care providers are often physicians, but can also be a nurse practitioner (NP) or physician’s assistant (PA). They offer comprehensive care for you and your family: diagnosing and treating common medical conditions, helping you manage chronic illnesses, 
and providing preventative care. They can also refer you to a physician specialist should you need one.
Urgent Care
Sometimes your primary care provider may not be available when a minor health condition occurs, such as minor sprains, strains, cuts or illnesses like flu. In those cases, urgent care is a great option since an appointment is not necessary.
It’s important to keep in mind that an urgent care facility should not replace a primary care provider. At Riverside Urgent Care, the staff assists patients that do not have a PCP in finding one near them.
It’s important to have a primary care doctor to follow-up with after the urgent care visit. Many of the problems we diagnose require a doctor who can address the long-term needs of the patient, noted Riverside Urgent Care’s Director of Medicine in Tappahannock.
Unlike emergency rooms which are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, urgent care clinics are not always open, but do have flexible, extended hours that can accommodate most schedules.
In an effort to make urgent care 
even more convenient, Riverside Urgent Care in both Tappahannock and Hayes now offers a free service called InQuicker, which allows users to avoid their waiting rooms. Patients can go online, select an available check-in time for the same 
day, and wait in the comfort of their 
own home—a great benefit when you’re 
not feeling well.
Like urgent care, InQuicker is intended only for those with non-life threatening medical conditions. It’s 
a convenient way for people to access care for minor issues. If you’re experiencing life threatening symptoms, you should always call 911 or go directly to the nearest emergency room.
Emergency Care
Emergency rooms are set up to focus on medical emergencies, not routine health concerns. So if you visit the emergency room for that earache, you may experience a long wait if patients with more serious conditions come in. This is where you should go directly or call 911 if you experience life threatening symptoms such as:
n Severe abdominal pain
n Chest pain
n Difficulty breathing
n Dizziness
Disorientation or not being able to think clearly
n Sudden change in vision or speech
Sudden numbness, especially on one side of the body
In addition to being staffed by board-trained physicians and specialty trained nurses, the emergency rooms at Riverside are supported by a wide variety of on-call specialists should you need one.
Still not sure where to go for that earache? You can also call Riverside Nurse, a free service of Riverside Health System, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A registered nurse will answer your symptom-based questions and, if needed, refer you to the right place for treatment.