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Mathis, Nathaniel, 1946- (barber, motivational speaker)  Search this
Ruffins, Fath Davis  Search this
5.5 Cubic feet (18 boxes, 1 oversize folder)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Oral history
Washington (D.C.) -- Small business -- 20th century
bulk 1970-2004
Nathaniel Mathis is a Washington, D.C., hairstylist, inventor, motivational speaker, and entrepreneur. His papers document his business life and community involvement.
Scope and Contents:
The collection documents the work of a hairstylist, inventor, entrepreneur, and public figure whose career reflects significant changes in the African American community in the later 20th century. It is rich in visual imagery created by and for this community. Business papers, correspondence, publicity, photographs, awards and certificates documenting Mathis's work as a highly regarded barber and hairstylist in Washington, D.C., and as member of the D.C. Board of Barbering and Cosmetology are included. Business papers offer insight into the workings of a small privately-owned business. Numerous publicity items and photographs offer evidence of African American style and fashion in New York and Washington, D.C., from the late 1960s through today. Additional material documents Mathis's activities as a community activist, motivational speaker and distance runner. The collection also includes photographs, oral history interviews, and audio-visual materials.
The collection is arranged into ten series. Series 1: Biographical Information and Activities, 1946-2001, undated Series 2: Beauty Business Documents and Advertising, 1969-2002, undated Series 3: Publicity, 1963-2002 Series 4: Washington, D.C. Barbering and Cosmetology Boards, 1966-1997, undated Series 5: Correspondence, 1967-2002, undated Series 6: Awards and Certificates, 1969-2001, undated Series 7: Photographs, 1966-1989, undated Series 8: Video Materials, 1983-2002, undated Series 9: Audio Tapes, 1998-2004, undated Series 10: Memorabilia, 1992-1998, undated
Biographical / Historical:
"Nat Mathis (b. 1946) is a native Washingtonian. He is a man of many talents and measures his success in many ways: innovative hairstylist, entrepreneur, inventor, community activist, motivational speaker and distance runner. Mathis opened his first barber shop in 1969. He is the winner of many national and international hairstyling awards and competitions and was the first African American to win the International Hair Styling competition in Cairo, Egypt in 1981. Mathis was among the first African American hairstylists to embrace and popularize the Afro and, later, cornrows -- hairstyles which many view as expressions of black empowerment. Mathis himself seldom expresses a political ideology of hair, but by 1970, Nat was known among his many satisfied clients and peers as "the Bush Doctor" for his expertise in Afro style and maintenance. He has styled hair for many celebrities; made numerous television appearances; and has been a stylist for several productions at the Kennedy Center, and for two major motion pictures, including Nixon, for which he re-created period hairstyles. He is active in community affairs, gives motivational speeches throughout the Washington, D.C., area, and is particularly interested in mentoring young people. He currently operates a barber shop adjacent to his home in Capitol Heights, Maryland." *Biographical information provided by Nat Mathis's Official Website, "A Man of Many Talents." (accessed 02 August, 2006).
Separated Materials:
Mr. Mathis donated three of his patented barbering vests (See Accession # 1998.0114) to the Division of Home and Community Life (now Division of Cultural and Community Life).
Collection donated to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History by Nathaniel Mathis on April 9, 1998.
The copllection is open for research. Physical Access: Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves. Technical Access: Series 8, Video materials and Series 9, Audiotapes may not be used by researchers unless reference and viewing copies are made available.
Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution. Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: fees for commercial use. The Archives Center does not own rights to the patent, trademark or any related interest in the artifacts.
African American barbers  Search this
African American beauty operators  Search this
Barbers  Search this
Barbering  Search this
Barbershops -- Equipment and supplies -- 1970-2000 -- Washington (D.C)  Search this
Beauty culture  Search this
Hair  Search this
Hairdressing of African Americans -- 1970-2000 -- Washington (D.C.)  Search this
Inventors  Search this
Motivation -- Public speaking -- 1970-2000  Search this
Public speaking -- 1970-2000  Search this
Correspondence -- 1970-2000
Interviews -- 1980-2000
Interviews -- 2000-2010
Oral history -- 1990-2000
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- Silver gelatin -- 1950-2000
Nathaniel Mathis Collection of Barbering and Beauty Culture, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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Nathaniel Mathis Collection of Barbering and Beauty Culture
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History