The tragic story of American Rapunzel: how the fate of the Sutherland sisters developed

The tragic story of American Rapunzel: how the fate of the Sutherland sisters developed

Categories: History | North America

In the days before movies, people had fun in other ways. For example, we went to the circus to admire those who were born different from others: Siamese twins or those born with extra limbs. The Sutherland sisters were perfectly healthy girls. And they stood out with their long, mermaid-like hair.

The tragic story of American Rapunzel: how the fate of the Sutherland sisters developed

The tragic story of American Rapunzel: how the fate of the Sutherland sisters developed

There were seven of them. Seven sisters, daughters of a poor farmer: Sarah, Victoria, Isabella, Grace, Naomi, Mary and Dora. Biographer Brandon Stickney called them the sexiest artists in the United States. But they did not win over the audience with depraved dances — everyone came to admire their hair. The sisters ' curls reached to their ankles and covered them like cloaks.

The sisters and their only brother were born between 1851 and 1865 in Cumbria. In an attempt to lift the family out of poverty, the father decided to teach his daughters to sing so that they could earn money by performing.

The tragic story of American Rapunzel: how the fate of the Sutherland sisters developed

So they joined the famous Barnum and Bailey circus company, where they were called "the seven most charming wonders of the world". And indeed, the sisters quickly began to gather crowds of spectators, but the audience was not interested in the singing talent of the girls.

They were shocked by the hair. Stickney wrote: 

It was rumored that their mother, Mary, who had died in 1867, just a few years after the birth of their youngest daughter, had smeared their hair with foul-smelling lapping. It was as if this magic potion was the one that stimulated the incredible growth.

The tragic story of American Rapunzel: how the fate of the Sutherland sisters developed

Of course, Mr. Sutherland could not miss this opportunity, and as soon as the rumors got stronger, the magic tonic "Seven Sutherland Sisters"appeared on the market. The pharmaceutical magazine The Pharmaceutical Era analyzed the composition of this tonic and posted on its pages the results: 56% diluted witch hazel extract, 44% bay water, a little salt, magnesia and hydrochloric acid. The label read: 

A bottle of this elixir cost from 50 cents to $ 1.5, which in the XIX century was equal to the daily or even weekly salary of the middle class. Thanks to good advertising, the Sutherlands sold 2.5 million bottles and earned $ 3 million.

The tragic story of American Rapunzel: how the fate of the Sutherland sisters developed

Soon the Sutherlands became so famous that their photos were published in the most famous magazines of the time: Cosmopolitan, The New Yorker, The New York Times and Time.

By 1888, when the father of the family died, the Sutherland sisters had built themselves a luxurious mansion in their hometown. The house had 14 rooms, cold and hot water (an exceptional luxury at that time!), parquet floors and chandeliers.

The problems started around 1920. Fashion was merciless to the Sutherland family, and the latest trend was bob haircuts. The Sutherland Empire was bursting at the seams.

The sisters were too used to living on a grand scale and could not quickly change their rules. They continued to spend money thoughtlessly until the budget ran out completely.

There was still hope of a successful marriage. But due to the fact that the girls spent too much time on business, they never learned to communicate with men. Only three of them were married.

In addition to all the troubles, their house burned down in 1938, and all the symbols of their former glory disappeared under the rubble.

Keywords: North america | History | Family | Hair | 19th century | Sisters | Rapunzel

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