01 May 2013

From Wigs To Windows

Ever wonder why those 18th century wigs went out of fashion?

Here's a good little story...

George III (wikipedia)

The fashion in the day for men was horsehair (or goat) wigs,
which tended to be scratchy and bug infested

They were powdered with finely ground starch
scented with orange flower, lavender or orris root

When the government started to tax wigs to help fund
the American War of Independence,
men started to ditch the wigs
and just powder their own hair by the 1780s

In 1795, the government taxed the powder,
and out went the wig and powder fashion all together

Meanwhile, another interesting tax sprang up
which you still see evidence of in England 
and other European countries today

The Window Tax

Introduced by King William III in 1696,
this unpopular tax was seen as taxing 'light and air'

The thought was 
the bigger the house, the more windows it would have,
thus the more tax the occupants would pay

A house with fewer than twenty windows could escape the window tax

This tax was easy to access from the street by tax collectors
so occupants started to brick up their windows

Although the window tax was repealed in 1851
under Queen Victoria,
you still see evidence of it today

The horsehair wigs,
not so much

- photo by me -
Source: Wikipedia 1, 2


ann said...

Really quite interesting. I know that houses here were once taxed by the size of closets; thus small closets to none.

Iota said...

Very interesting.

They find a tax for EVERYTHING, don't they?

LindyLou Mac said...

I remember learning about the 'window tax ' in history lessons at school.

Magali@TheLittleWhiteHouse said...

We had the same kind of tax in France at some point in history!

Noelle the dreamer said...

Great post Laura and interesting facts about the wig/powder taxes. The window tax was a familiar one as I learned of its purpose in school (such windows are still found in large households as you mentioned but it is interesting to see Magali remembers it also in France. That part I did not know).
Happy Spring!

Jeanie said...

That's a fascinating story! I love how you share so many wonderful things about England!

Anna-Marie Field said...

Hi There,Interesting post!!!Thank goodness the window tax is gone!!!If my house was in the UK we'd be broke!!!Don't have a big house but have lots of large window!!!Because of the heat here,we have large window,opposite each other for the thru flow,under varandas!!! And the wig tax...well, I think we all agree on that one!!!

Ana Isabel Navarro said...

What an interesting history!
I could never imagine the question about the window tax!
See you soon!

dawn said...

My girls love looking at all the painted windows when we visit grandpa. An abundance of them on Olney High Street. Again, thankfully not so true with the wigs.

Wendy said...

Very interesting post, learned a few things I didn't know...and unbelievable about the window tax.

Alison said...

I knew about the window tax, but the wig and powder tax is new to me. I think that may be one of the few times government actually did the population a favour. LOL!