Who were the first barbers?

There have been barbers since very ancient times—so long ago, in fact, that we can't possibly know who the first barbers were. The first records of barbers in history go back to ancient Egypt. Later on, in ancient Greece and Rome, barbershops were favorite meeting places where men discussed affairs of the day.

Everybody knows what the barber's pole looks like. Those red-and-white stripes have something to do with work that barbers did in olden days. In an­cient times, doctors didn't want to have anything to do with surgery. So it was the barbers who performed surgery on patients. They did bloodletting (letting a patient bleed so that the "bad blood" or "sick blood" would leave the body). They treated wounds, and some of them even extracted teeth.

The barber's pole of red-and-white stripes goes back to those days. The red stands for blood, and the white for bandages.

In England, the barbers were chartered as a guild as far back as 1462. In 1540, their guild was merged with the guild of surgeons. But about this time, the king of England forbade the barbers who cut hair and gave shaves to prac­tice surgery.

In the next two hundred years, the work of the barber was separated more and more from that of the surgeon, and in time all they were allowed to do was give haircuts.

By the way, the word "barber" comes from the Latin word "Barba," which meant "beard." So their work of trimming beards may have been more important than cutting hair.