Bristol, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
24 July 1890
A NOTED WIGMAKER TELLS HOW DISGUISES ARE EFFECTED
Mr. Charles H. Fox, the celebrated wigmaker of Covent garden, has recently explained that he is constantly in the habit of disguising persons for purposes quite unknown to him. Being of opinion that a few more details about his "unholy art" would not be without interest, we dispatched a representative to see Mr. Fox, who went to business at once:
"You would be astonished," he began, "to know the number of people who come here to be disguised. It has grown into a part of our regular business. Men of all classes come - gentlemen, detectives, amateur detectives, and I do not doubt that I have disguised on many occasions some of the greatest criminals of the day. Of course it is none of my business to inquire into the purposes for which these disguises are assumed, though sometimes I am told. The people who come generally have some tale to tell on the first occasion, but I take these tales with a grain or two of salt. A large number of private detectives and even Scotland Yard men come to me, and as I know their business I ask no questions. That they disguise themselves is perfectly legitimate. However, as I was saying, sometimes I am told afterward what the disguise was wanted for.
"Why, I have a customer at the present time who comes in sometimes two or three times a week. He is made up as a middle aged man and goes out of the shop so completely disguised that none of his friends know him. I don't know what his object is. He seldom stays away more than two or three hours, then comes back, resumes his natural dress and appearance and I hear no more of him till he comes again to be disguised. I fancy it is a case of 'cherchez la femme' but, of course, it is no business of mine."
"Do you ever have ladies to disguise?"
"No. In fact, I think I may say never. You see the art of making up comes natural to almost all women. I think it is born in them. They all understand how to beautify themselves. And if they want to disguise themselves they prefer to trust to their own ingenuity. A change of dress, a veil, an alteration in the mode of doing the hair, a pair of spectacles and there you are; detection is almost impossible."
"Now, Mr. Fox, how do you set about disguising a person?"
"Oh, it is very easy. We change the expression of the face by deepening shadows, alter the shape of the eyebrows by touching with a trifle of color, put a little hair on with spirit gum, change the fashion of the hair on the head, and sometimes throw into prominence the bones and muscles of the neck. Making up for the street is totally different from making up for the stage. For daylight use we must employ as little paint as possible. A piece of burnt paper produces a lovely and most delicate color which we use for deepening shadows, and it is imperceptible to the naked eye of the ordinary observer.
"I can produce the appearance of a chin which has not been shaved for three or four days in a very simple manner. The face is first toned to the required shade; then covered with a thin layer of spirit gum; then a quantity of finely chopped hair is then dabbed on to the chin and cheeks when the gum is nearly dry. Of course the things to be avoided are to leave the gum shiny and to have the hair dabbed on in patches. Practice makes perfect and an adept hand never makes these blunders.
"Crepe hair may be used for whiskers or beard in an absolutely undetectable manner if carefully put on and trimmed afterward.
But I prefer, instead of using wigs or false hair, to alter the dressing of a man's own hirsute appendages. Thus, indeed, by showing your upper lip. just altering the set of your eyebrows a little and by deepening the shadows on your face and neck a little you would find your face completely altered. But there is one important thing in effecting a disguise which you must not forget. It is not alone the head and the face which must be altered. The attire, the dress, must undergo just as complete a change. A turned down collar, a different suit of clothes, boots and hat, and even the pocket handkerchief needs to be different from that you usually carry. Why, do you know that the very manner of carrying a handkerchief in the pocket has been sufficient before now to detect a person through a clever disguise?"
"How long does it take you to effect one of your startling disguises?"
"From ten minutes to half an hour, according to the character to be assumed and the amount of work required. This also regulates the cost, which is from half a guinea upward. In ten minutes, for half a guinea, I will disguise you so completely that neither your own mother, your wife nor the editor of your paper would know you. As I have said, I prefer not to use wigs - of course their use increases the cost - and I always demand a deposit if I loan them. Yes, sometimes I get suspicious characters; then I notify Bow Street.
"During the Jack the Ripper scare I must have had hundreds of customers. At last it got such a big thing, and I took such an interest in the affair, I sent across to Bow Street, and several of my customers were shadowed. One was followed to Mentone and another to New York. They all professed to be amateur detectives, but I fancy some were anything but that, and I even dare to say that the gentleman himself may have passed through my hands more than once. It is quite a common thing for large publicans, who own a number of houses, to disguise themselves and visit their various places to watch and see if there is any shady business going on with their responsible representatives, but I think the majority of my customers are jealous husbands who think it necessary to keep a sharp eye on their wives."