SAKE DEAN MAHOMED (1759 – 1851) First Indian to Publish a Book, Own a Restaurant and Do “Shampooing” in England

In Entrepreneurs, Inventions, People from England on December 29, 2013 at 1:31 PM

Sometimes a person’s place is his destiny. Dean Mahomed hailed from India, and, although he

Sake Dean Mahomed

Sake Dean Mahomed

left his homeland at age 25, he used that culture, and some clever publicity, to create a life for himself in England.

Mahomed was born in Patna, Bihar, India. When he was only eleven years old, he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the East India Company Army, serving under British Captain Godfrey Baker. After 13 years of active duty, Mahomed followed Baker, who had become his close friend, when he returned to Ireland. Baker treated Mahomed as a son and paid for him to go to school where he primarily studied English language and literature.

Another student, Jane Daly, caught Mahomed’s eye. The same year his patron Baker died, Mahomed and Jane eloped. Mahomed most certainly had converted from Islam to Protestantism, but since Protestant / Catholic marriages were illegal, he posted a bond to insure the church would not be liable in the event their marriage was deemed illegal. Perhaps that helped the community accept their multi-cultural union (Indian and Irish) as well.

READ ALL ABOUT IT         Mahomed first received public recognition in his new homeland by publishing his autobiography titled The Travels of Dean Mahomed, a native in Patna in Bengal, Through Several Parts of India, While in the Service of the Honorable The East India Company. He was the first Indian to publish a book in English. Even though Britain had been in India for decades, Mahomed’s personal account was the first opportunity for Britons to glimpse life there from a native’s point of view.

After achieving some notoriety, Mahomed and his growing family moved to London in search of more lucrative opportunities. Instead of living among the merchants who traded with India, they settled in Portman Square, a hub for high society.  His first job was as an assistant in Sir Basil Cochrane’s vapor bath, similar to a steam bath today. Mahomed enhanced the bath with a practice that elaborated on “champi,” a derivative of the Hindi word champissage for a head massage.1 (Champi become anglicized as “shampooing.”) This treatment involved first lying in an herbal steam bath. When the patient was sweating, he was placed in a flannel tent with sleeves. The practitioner, who was outside the tent, put his arms through the sleeves to give an invigorating massage.

TRYING TO CURRY FAVOR WITH THE LOCALS      When he had enough money to start his own business, Mahomed decided to exploit his Indian background in a different way by opening a restaurant, the Hindoostane Coffee House, on the west side of London. As the first Indian owner of a curry house, he offered his customers an authentic Indian experience with

Plaque commemorating location of Hindoostane Coffee House

Plaque commemorating location of Hindoostane Coffee House

bamboo furniture, curry, and hookahs with real Chilm tobacco. He hoped the nabobs (Britons who had served in India and then returned to Britain) would miss the cuisine they learned to love and flock to his cafe. Unfortunately, an already established restaurant on the east side of town, and the Indian servants of the local aristocracy who cooked their native dishes for their employers, proved to be too much competition. Mahomed was forced to take on a partner, and then ended up declaring bankruptcy.

By now Mahomed was in his fifties. He moved his family to Brighton, and the only work he could find was as a manager in a bathhouse. He began reinventing himself as the “Inventor of the Indian Medicated Vapour Baths … by whom the Art of Shampooing was first introduced into England in 1784.” 2

RECREATING HIMSELF          Again cashing in on being Indian, Mahomed added the title Sake, a variation of sheik, to his name. In addition, to legitimize himself, he embellished his background to include medical training in India before he joined the army. To make this plausible Mahomed added ten years on to his age.

He started advertising his Indian oils and herbal treatments as a cure-all for various ailments. At first, the public and the medical community dismissed his claims as bogus, but he offered free treatment for patients who were not getting relief from diseases such as asthma, paralysis and rheumatism in other ways. Soon the lobby of his bathhouse displayed crutches and other paraphernalia of those he claimed to cure. He published the descriptions of his treatments and testimonials of his patients who claimed to be cured. From then on business was booming and he was known as Dr. Brighton.

In 1815, Mahomed’s family expanded with three more sons, and he started working in the Battery House Baths. Soon after that, a son and daughter died.

THE BUSINESS OF HEALING      Mahomed wanted his own establishment, so in 1821 he and Jane opened Mohamed’s Baths near the waterfront. Ladies and gentlemen had their facilities on separate floors. Each floor had a reading room with various appropriate journals and a parlor for the clients while they waited for their treatments. Each floor had four bathing rooms had a marble bath with hot and cold water, and two of the bathing rooms were set up for the vapor, shampooing treatment. On the top floor there were five bedrooms for anyone who wanted to stay longer for more intense treatment. Two men and three women lived on the premises as bath attendants and servants.

This luxurious facility attracted an upper class clientele of aristocracy. Even Kings George IV and William IV patronized Mahomed’s Baths and benefited from the treatments. This led to Mahomed’s appointment as Shampooing Surgeon to the King, and he was giving a Royal Warrant so that he could officially promote himself as giving treatment to the royal family.

In addition to his work, Mahomed was very generous donor to local charities and the official Steward for the Annual Charity Ball. He was a colorful part of local society, especially when dressed in the costume modeled on the Mughal court dress, even at the horse races.

In the 1930s, however, competition started taking its toll. Although he was in his late 70s, Mahomed opened another bath back in London with his son. A few years later, his silent partner in Brighton died, and the establishment went up for auction. Mahomed did not have enough money to buy it himself, and the new owner hired Mahomed’s former employees and claimed to give identical treatments to those of the former owner. Mahomed tried to disassociate himself with the new owner through newspaper ads, and he and Jane continued to treat patients in their home.

Gradually Mahomed fell farther out of favor and became all but forgotten. He died at age 92, only two months after Jane passed away. Several of their sons followed in the family business but none ever developed the reputation their father had enjoyed.

QUESTION: How has your background or family heritage influenced your life?

© 2013 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved




Mohamed, Dean, The Travels of Dean Mahomet.


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MAY SUTTON BUNDY (1887 – 1975) First American to Win Wimbledon

In Female Athletes, Feminists, People from England, Sports, women on October 14, 2013 at 10:42 AM

When May Sutton was born in Plymouth, England she was already above average, weighing in at fifteen pounds. Her father,

May Sutton Bundy

May Sutton Bundy

Adolphus DeGrouchy Sutton, was a retired British navy captain, and he named his daughter, the youngest of seven, May, after his own yacht.

When Bundy was six, the Suttons transplanted themselves to Pasadena, California where they had a ten-acre orange grove. Bundy and her siblings, with the help of their neighbors, built their own tennis court by hauling clay from a local canyon. The court had a little slope, which required running uphill to make some shots.

It wasn’t common at that time to take tennis lessons, so the Sutton children learned to play on their own in England. Bundy used her older sister’s warped wood racquet for tennis, cricket and croquet. The Sutton sisters dressed in typical tennis attire, which included a pair of bloomers, two petticoats, a long undershirt, a white shirt, long white silk stockings, and a floppy hat.

A WINNING FORMULA         Bundy won her first tournament when she was twelve, beating her older sister Ethel. A year later she won the Pacific Southwest title for the first time against a 22 year old, and then went on to win it eight more times.

Because of Bundy’s size, what she lacked in speed and power she more than made up for with her strong forehand, accuracy and relentlessness.  As her sister Florence described her, “May’s strength as a tennis player lies principally in her unrelenting persistency. She never lets anybody beat her and discourages her opponent by always getting the ball back, no matter where you put it.”1

In 1904, at 17 years old, Bundy proved that her previous wins were more than just luck. She won the United States women’s title as the youngest women’s champion to date. The prize was a gold watch with a chain covered in topaz stones. Bundy held that record as long as she was alive, until Tracy Austin beat it in 1979 at 16 years and nine months old. The subsequent years add many more titles to her resume.

BEATING THE BRITISH        The year after her record-setting win in America, Bundy crossed the pond to play in Wimbledon, the first American to compete in the historic tournament.  She wore the requisite white skirt with stockings and hard-soled shoes topped by a long-sleeved white blouse. For the occasion she had a large bow in her hair. She was not a dainty lady, weighing a muscular 160 pounds.

May Sutton playing at Wimbledon

May Sutton playing at Wimbledon

If the British had any resentment over an American participating in the      tournament, she did nothing but make matters worse. First, her skirt was short enough to expose her ankles. Second, she shocked all in attendance by rolling up her sleeves to her elbows during play. Third, she had the unmitigated gall to win the women’s championship, beating England’s beloved Dorothea Chambers. One newspaper reported that Bundy’s win was so upsetting that the future King George V cried in the royal box. The following year Bundy lost to Chambers, but in 1907, Bundy regained the championship title.

In 1908, Bundy was recognized for her talent and appreciated for her victories in England in a singular way. She was selected to be the Queen of the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, and she was the first sports celebrity to receive that honor. She carried a pink parasol as she rode along the parade route, accompanied by her sister Florence as one of the princesses.

A LOVE MATCH        Bundy often said she would not marry a man who could not beat her in tennis. Thomas Clark Bundy, a multiple national doubles and singles champion, proved to be suitable, and Bundy was 25 when they married. Mr. Bundy’s focus had shifted from sports to real estate, and he was responsible for developing 2000 acres in the San Fernando Valley and La Brea – Wilshire area. Bundy Drive is named after him.

The Bundys had four children, but being a wife and mother didn’t distract Bundy from tennis. A few months after the birth of her second child, she won a Long Beach charity event after being down one set against a much younger opponent who was the national champion. Later that year, Bundy won the Southern California title for the eighth time.

In 1920, Thomas Bundy paid $1,000 for five and a half acres to develop the Los Angeles Tennis Club. Bundy taught lessons at the club and often played against celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, Charlie Chaplin and Clark Gable. The Bundys also had a private tennis court at their home in Santa Monica, California, the first court ever to be painted green.

Bundy turned pro in 1930 at age 42. Eight years later she was named one of America’s most influential feminists along with actress Norma Shearer and pilot Amelia Earhart. While her professional life was thriving, there was chaos in her private life. After a long separation, the Bundys divorced in 1940.

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER        Bundy never stopped playing tennis. In 1968 she played doubles with her daughter, Dorothy Cheney, who was the first American woman to win the Australian Championships. Bundy was 80 years old, and her daughter was 51. Both ladies wore stylish white, floppy hats on the court.

In what was dubbed as the “Age vs. Youth” tournament in 1973, Bundy faced opponents who were about half her age, and she dominated them to be called the “most durable athlete of the century.” Two years later, at age 88, Bundy played, and won, her last match, a few months before her death.

In describing her own success, she said, “Of course I play to win. That is the only way one can improve and draw the other party out to their best game. … I think that one half of ability to play tennis is confidence bordering on recklessness, and the other half is accuracy. Speed has far less to do with the game than accuracy in placing, for it is in the latter that the higher-class game is won or lost. A few good strokes will meet all emergencies of the game and make one just as hard to beat as if he had fancy pick-ups and foxy cuts.”1   Bundy was given the ultimate recognition for her achievement by being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association Hall of Fame.

QUESTION: What are your best qualities that help you succeed?

© 2013 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved




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MOE BERG (1902 – 1972) Baseball Player & Spy

In Cold War, Espionage, Sports on September 15, 2011 at 12:22 PM

Moe Berg

Moe Berg became famous for what he did, but it was his charisma and storytelling that endeared him to his friends.  Below the surface he was very private, however, and the mystery that surrounded him facilitated a career change from being a public figure as a major league baseball player to the anonymity of being a spy.

Bernard Berg was lured to the land of opportunity around the turn of the 20th century.  He ran a laundry, and while he ironed shirts taught himself to read English, French and German in addition to the Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian he already knew.  He took night classes at the New York College of Pharmacy and moved his family to Newark, New Jersey to open his own pharmacy.  Bernard and Rose had three children.  Sam became a doctor, and Ethel was a lovely lady.  Morris (Moe) had his father’s intelligence and curiosity, but not his ambition.  For all his fame, his career choices made him a big disappointment to his dad.

When Moe was three and a half he insisted on going to school like his older siblings. He was an excellent student, and the only negative comment he received on an early report card said that he sang off key.  Berg’s hobby was baseball, and he played street ball with the neighbor kids until he could be on a real team in high school.

Berg was voted the “Brightest Boy” in the class at Barringer High School, a private school where he was virtually the only Jew.  He didn’t experience much anti-Semitism, but when Berg was recruited to play third base on the Roseville Methodist Episcopal Church team, he used the pseudonym Runt Wolfe and found it easy to pretend being somebody else.

After two semesters at NYU, Berg was accepted to Princeton where he played short stop.  His arm and quick agility made up for being a mediocre hitter.  He inherited his father’s facility for languages and studied Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Sanskrit, graduating magna cum laude.  Off the diamond he tutored his teammates, and to confuse their opponents Berg and the second baseman yelled strategy in Latin.

TURNING A HOBBY INTO A CAREER          After graduation, Berg was offered a teaching post at Princeton but opted to play for the Brooklyn Robins (later the Dodgers).  He got a $5,000 signing bonus for joining the team.  After the first season he studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, taking history, linguistics and literature classes in French and Italian.

One reason Berg was able to accomplish so much was that he was basically a loner.  He socialized but maintained an aura of mystery by not sharing personal information with friends.  He hated accountability and disappeared frequently so that friends and colleagues rarely knew where he was.

When he returned from Paris, Berg was traded to the Minneapolis Millers, an American Association team, and then the Reading Keystones in Pennsylvania.  He had already established a double identity for himself, and after the 1925 season he started planning for his post-baseball life by enrolling in Columbia Law School.  He was traded to the Chicago White Sox and skipped spring training so he could finish classes.  That did not endear him to the coaches, but when Berg’s professor discovered that he was the Berg who played baseball at Princeton, he arranged classes so Berg’s schedule could accommodate both his job and his studies.

Good thing, because during the 1927 season Berg pulled his team out of a dire situation.  Within two weeks, the White Sox lost three catchers to injury.  Even though he hadn’t played behind the plate since the sandlot days, Berg volunteered for the position.  In his first game as the starting catcher, the White Sox beat the Yankees, and Babe Ruth was hitless.  He played catcher for the rest of his career.

A REAL SINGULAR SENSATION          In his whole academic career, Berg failed only one course, evidence.  That prevented him from graduating from law school with his class.  He was able to retake the course, and received his degree in February 1930.  He passed the New York bar that spring and headed right off to spring training.

Moe Berg Baseball Card

In early April, Berg injured his knee but was back in the lineup in May, although he only played 20 games all season.  In the fall he joined the Wall Street law firm of Satterlee and Canfield, a job that justified his education and appeased his father but wasn’t as fun.  He only worked during the off season and lasted there just a few years.  In 1931 Berg was picked up the by Cleveland Indians, but bronchial pneumonia kept him in the dugout most of the season.  The Indians released him in January 1932, and he went to spring training for the Washington Senators.

Being “the brainiest guy in baseball” opened up the opportunity for him to be a guest panelist on the radio quiz show “Information Please.”  That seeming contradiction in his personality was only one of the quirks that distinguished Berg.  He was eccentric about his wardrobe and always dressed in a black suit and tie.  Every morning he took the first of three daily baths, picked up newspapers from several major cities plus some in French, Spanish and Italian, and read as many as he could during breakfast at a local diner.  He was adamant about reading every paper he bought regardless of how out of date, and piles of them covered every flat surface in his apartment or hotel room.  Until he had read it, a newspaper was “alive,” and no one else was allowed to touch it.  Once he read it, it became “dead,” and he would dispose of it.  If anyone, for any reason, touched one if the “alive” journals, Berg considered it dead and refused to read it. 

A NEW EXPERIENCE          In 1932 and 1934 Berg was a part of delegations that went to Japan to coach college teams there.  He was so captivated with the Japanese lifestyle that he slept on a tatami mat and traded his dark suit for a kimono, and he learned enough Japanese to be conversant.

During his second trip, Berg did something that opened up another career option later.  He didn’t show up for the final exhibition game, claiming afterward to have been sick.  Instead he donned his kimono, bought flowers and went to the hospital to visit the daughter of the US ambassador who had just given birth.  Speaking Japanese, he got her room number, walked past her fifth-floor room, threw the flowers in the trash and took the elevator up to the seventh floor where he climbed some stairs to the bell tower.  He reached into his kimono, pulled out a movie camera and documented military installations, shipyards, and industrial complexes around Tokyo.

While he was gone, Berg was released from Cleveland, but the Boston Red Sox added him to their roster.  He spent more time in the bullpen telling stories of his travels than behind the plate.  He spent a few more seasons in a Red Sox jersey, but his days as a player were numbered.  In 1940, the Sox put him on the coaching staff for $7,500 a year.

GOOD ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK          Becoming a coach was essentially being put out to pasture, and Berg was ready for something more challenging.  As World War II escalated, the thrill of getting the clandestine footage in Tokyo nudged him toward more international opportunities.  In January 1942, he retired from baseball and accepted an assignment from the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA) to go to Latin America and monitor the overall health and fitness in the region for $22.22 a day.

His trip was delayed, but Berg was able to keep busy.  William Donovan, head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), agreed to let Berg deliver an address directly to the Japanese people via short wave radio.  Speaking in Japanese, Berg reminded them of the mutual friendship they had shared with America, especially through the common love of baseball.  He encouraged them to denounce the political leadership that was leading them into committing national suicide.

Berg also took advantage of the postponement to find an audience for the film he shot in Tokyo.  He screened it for key members of the intelligence community.  The reaction to the footage was mixed, and the radio address had no real impact on the war, but both efforts proved Berg could handle clandestine work.

When he finally went to Latin America, his primary mission became to improve life for the US servicemen stationed there, something he thought was important.  But he wanted more, so he made contacts, poked around and got some intelligence on the Nazis in Brazil.  Washington liked his effort and tapped Berg for the OSS.  While he waited for that appointment to come through, he was distracted by the first woman who was more than just arm candy.

Estella Huni was a tall brunette who played and taught piano.  Like Berg, she was a voracious reader and spoke Italian, German and French.  She introduced Berg to music, and he taught her about baseball.  They lived together in New York, something respectable people didn’t do, and Berg’s father was so disapproving that he refused to meet his son’s girlfriend.

In early 1943 Berg officially joined the OSS for $3,800 a year.  He learned all the skills a spy would need at training camp and passed his final by entering a heavily guarded American defense plant and stealing classified information.  On May 4, 1944, Berg headed for Europe with $2000 in travel allowance, a .45 pistol and his black suits.  His assignment was to find out which German and Italian scientists were working on an atomic bomb, and his primary person of interest was German scientist Werner Heisenberg, considered to be the greatest theoretical physicist in the world.

GOING UNDERCOVER          Berg went wherever he wanted to go whenever he wanted and didn’t respond to orders to keep in touch with the OSS office.  He maintained his established daily routine and translated any documents he acquired into English.  He made contacts, and Paul Scherrer, the head of the physics department at a university in Zurich, Switzerland, led Berg to Heisenberg.  Scherrer and Heisenberg were friends and colleagues before the war.  Scherrer invited Heisenberg to Switzerland to give a lecture at the university, and attending would be Berg’s riskiest assignment.

Berg had studied physics, and he was briefed on what to listen for during the lecture.  If he heard anything that indicated the Germans were on the verge of using an atomic bomb, Berg was ordered to kill Heisenberg on the spot.

Doing something like this was the reason Berg joined the OSS.  On December 18, 1944, forty-two year old Berg dressed as a university student.  In his pockets he had two things he hoped he wouldn’t have to use: a pistol to kill Heisenberg if necessary, and a potassium cyanide capsule to kill himself.  He sat in the front row, and as he scanned the room, he realized that there were Nazi soldiers posted in various locations to keep an eye on Heisenberg.  Berg took notes as Heisenberg expounded on theoretical physics, the content and language a little over Berg’s head.

Berg didn’t hear anything in the lecture that warranted him to take action.  In talking with Scherrer afterward they agreed that Heisenberg was a German who was anti-Nazi.  Berg’s approach shifted, and he wanted to bring Heisenberg to America to work.  Scherrer thought that was a good idea and invited Berg to attend a dinner in Heisenberg’s honor where the scientist inadvertently confirmed the Allies wishful thinking.  When someone baited him with the comment that he really had to admit the Germans were losing the war, Heisenberg admitted that was true.  It was through Berg that the United States became confident that the Germans were not close to being able to detonate an atomic bomb.

The Heisenberg assignment was the highlight of Berg’s espionage career.  After the war there wasn’t much for him to do.  Berg resigned from the OSS in 1945 and became bored and restless.  He was nominated for the Medal of Freedom, but he respectfully rejected the award, although he never explained why.  It was hard to find something as interesting as being paid to roam the globe on secret missions for his country.  

During the Cold War he was sent to Europe on a couple of assignments for the CIA to find out how far along the Soviet Union was to having atomic weapons.  He got through a Russian checkpoint into Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) by holding up a paper with a big red star on it.  It was a piece of stationery from the Texaco oil company.  He loved being back in the field, but he refused to be accountable for his time or keep records of his expenses.  Berg hated bureaucracy, and that attitude wasn’t very compatible with government work.  In 1954 his contract expired and his security clearance was revoked.

Berg ran into financial trouble when a company he had invested in went bankrupt.  Adding in some unpaid personal taxes, the IRS claimed he owed over $12,000.  Not willing to be beholden to anyone and with no income, Berg ignored the notice, refused to make payments and even refused to declare bankruptcy.  Finally he made an offer to pay $1,500, and because Berg was a national hero, the IRS accepted.  He had to borrow the money from a friend.

LIVING LIFE ON HIS TERMS          During the latter part of his life, Berg depended completely on friends.  He never married, and technically he lived with his brother and then his sister in Newark, but he was really a vagabond staying with friends wherever he happened to land.  He carried his toothbrush and a list of phone numbers, and made friends with train conductors so he could ride for free.  People loved having him around, and he was a very entertaining raconteur.  He took advantage of their hospitality and often stayed for weeks.  He spent hours reading, and it was not unusual to see him at the ballpark watching a game.

Berg was not without his own problems.  In 1963 he started dressing very sloppily, and due to a large umbilical hernia, he no longer looked or acted like an athlete.  He refused to have it treated until four years later when he met a pediatric surgeon at a World Series game and came to trust him enough to do the surgery.  He also suffered from sundowner’s syndrome where he got disoriented when he woke up in the middle of the night and fell trying to find his way.

In May 1972 Berg was staying at his sister’s house when he fell out of bed at night and hit the night stand.  After four days he finally consented to go to the hospital and was diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurism.  On May 29 he asked the nurse, “How are the Mets doing today?” and then died before he could hear the answer.

QUESTION:  What contradictions do you have in your personality that make you seem like two different people?  How does that impact your life?

©2011 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved


Dawidoff, Nicholas, The Catcher Was a Spy; The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg.  New York: Pantheon Books, 1994.

Kaufman, Louis; Fitzgerald, Barbara; Sewell, Tom, Moe Berg, Athlete, Scholar, Spy.  Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1974.