The Curling Wand: A Detailed History


The curling wand or curling iron is one of the most commonly used appliances for convenient, at-home hairstyling. While the present generation might believe that most of such styling tools and appliances are modern inventions, in reality; they are simply modifications made to devices which made their debut centuries ago.

Indeed, since many centuries, men and women alike have been known to be obsessed with curly hair. In fact, it was a common habit for men to use tongs heated in fire for curling the hair on their heads as well as their beards! These methods were rather unrefined and many times, such crude techniques ended up burning and damaging hair.

The history of the curling wand can be traced back to the year 1866 when an American born British citizen by the name Hiram Maxim first obtained the patent for the device. Also, two Frenchmen, Maurice Lentheric and Marcel Grateau could be accredited with first using the concept of applying heated tongs for curling hair, by early 1900. Hair curled in this manner also came to be known as Marcel curls or waves. The device invented by Grateau was called Marcel tongs.

The advantage of the Marcel tongs over its predecessors was that it gave longer lasting, and deeper curls. The fact whether the Marcel iron was a modification of Maxim’s device or an original creation is lost in history; so one cannot say for sure who the inventor of the curling wand is.

In 1906, a German hair dresser by the name Charles L. Nessler used borax paste and hot irons to curl hair using eight hour long procedures! This was improved upon in 1914, by Eugene Sutter who used 20 heaters to reduce this curling time considerably.

By 1920 a Parisian beautician Rambaud claimed to have perfected a system for curling hair, but a more significant invention came in 1945 when a French chemist by the name EugeneSchueller of L’Oreal laboratories used rods of varying diameters to control the depth and quantity of curls. By 1960, L’Oreal had also developed its polymer hairspray to hold the curls in place.


Additionally, Sarah Breedlove Walker, an African-American lady in Indianapolis, Indiana, claimed to have created and perfected a method for hair straightening using hot combs that were loosely based on hair-curling devices available in the past.

The modern electric curling wand may even be attributed to Rene Lelievre and Roger Lemoine who, in 1959, used electricity to heat up the barrels of the wands.

Thus, it is evident that many people have put in their efforts in creating a device for curling hair. The modern curling wand can be considered a product of all these efforts. The history of the device maybe vague and ambiguous but one thing is clear: the modern curling wand has indeed come a long way from the original methods of curling hair.

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