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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

Sources:

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champi

2 http://www.movinghere.org.uk/galleries/roots/asian/tracingasianroots/dean_mahomed3.htm#

http://www.movinghere.org.uk/galleries/roots/asian/tracingasianroots/dean_mahomed.htm

http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft4h4nb20n&chunk.id=ch3&toc.depth=1&toc.id=ch3&brand=eschol

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/4290124.stm

http://www.menumagazine.co.uk/book/deanmahomed.html

http://www.black-history.org.uk/doctorbrighton.asp

http://mortiquarian.com/2011/09/09/a-life-too-full-to-fit-sake-dean-mahomet/

http://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/page_id__11174_path__0p117p158p.aspx

http://mentalfloss.com/article/53008/sheikh-shampoo

Mohamed, Dean, The Travels of Dean Mahomet. http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft4h4nb20n&chunk.id=ch2&toc.depth=1&toc.id=ch2&brand=eschol

 

Photo credits:

http://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/page_id__11174.aspx

https://www.google.com/search?q=Hindoostane+Coffee+House&client=firefox-a&hs=XcQ&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=Dm6_Up36DtjboASR14GYDQ&ved=0CEEQsAQ&biw=1147&bih=846

 

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MARY SEACOLE (1805 – 1881) Nurse and Businesswoman

In Biography, Crimean War, Entrepreneurs, Feminists, Florence Nightingale, History, Nurses, People, People from England, Trivia, Woman on August 16, 2010 at 10:37 AM

 

Mary Seacole in watercolor at about 45 years old

Mary Seacole believed that when someone wants to minister to the needs of others, she should be able to do so without interference.  So when she was headed to Crimea during the war to help Florence Nightingale nurse sick and wounded soldiers, she was determined not to let racism deter her from her mission. 

A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Mary Ann Grant’s father was a Scotch army officer. Her mother was a local healer who owned a boarding house and treated military officers and their families.  That didn’t seem to be a place for a child, so Seacole lived with an older lady and her grandchildren.  She often hung out with her mom, however, and played doctor with her dolls and the neighborhood pets. 

When her nanny died in her arms, Seacole moved back in with her mother and learned her Creole medicine techniques.  As her life unfolded, it’s evident that Seacole derived her greatest inspiration from that relationship.

Seacole remained single until she was 31 years old when she married Edwin Seacole, a Brit.  They opened a store in Black River, Jamaica, but after eight years of marriage they had to move back to Kingston for Edwin’s health.  He died one month after their return.  To compound Seacole’s grief, her mom died, and she assumed responsibility for the hotel, using work to cope with her loneliness.

Seacole’s stubbornness was one of her best and worst qualities.  In 1843 there was a devastating fire in Kingston which burned down Seacole’s house.  Defending it almost cost her her life because she didn’t leave until it was in flames.  She rebuilt and continued to live alone despite many potential suitors.  A cholera outbreak in 1850 gave her the opportunity to practice the healing skills she had learned.

FOLLOWING IN HER MOTHER’S FOOTSTEPS       Finally needing a change, Seacole went to Cruces, Panama to visit her brother.  Her experience had prepared her well to deal with the cholera epidemic that hit shortly after she arrived.  The only medically trained person who lived in the area was a dentist, so it was left to Seacole to diagnose and treat the afflicted.  She did save many patients, but the number who died was still devastating.  The most difficult death for her to deal with was an infant who died in her arms.  Seacole snuck to the gravesite of the baby before it was buried and conducted her own autopsy in order to learn more about the disease. 

Seacole opened a restaurant where the Americans loved to hang out and drink copious amounts of tea and coffee.  She took her brother’s advice to add a spoonful of salt after the sixth cup to curtail their intake.  After a while she got bored and decided to return to Kingston.

She bought a ticket on an American steamer, but because she was Creole she was told to get off the ship.  This was the first time she personally experienced blatant racism.   In order to keep the peace, the captain gave Seacole her money back, and she agreed to get disembark.  Two days later she traveled home on an English ship.

DETOURS ON THE ROAD TO HER DREAMS           When she was 49 years old Seacole’s restless, adventuresome spirit took her to England, and she landed in London in 1854.  The Crimean War was young, and she wanted to contribute her talents.  She applied to the War Office to be a hospital nurse.  She was rejected and told to apply to the medical department.  That was also a dead end, so she changed her tack.  She craftily found out the address of the Secretary-at-War, went to his house and waited patiently to speak to him.  When he did deign to see her, the Secretary said there were no nursing positions available.  Finally, she applied to the managers of the Crimean Fund to do anything that would get her to the war zone.  Even that didn’t work.  The obvious racial prejudice with which she was treated made her even more determined.

Seacole had one more option.  She and Thomas Day, a relative of her husband, created a partnership, Seacole and Day.  They planned to open a store and hotel in the area near the military camps in Balaclava on the coast of the Crimea, a peninsula at the southern part of modern-day Ukraine.  

FULFILLING HER DESTINY                                         En route from England, Seacole’s ship had a layover in Scutari, Turkey for one night.  She needed a place to sleep and wanted to be of service as well.  Florence Nightingale worked at a hospital there.  Seacole had a letter of introduction from a friend in Kingston to give to Nightingale.  When she was finally ushered in to meet Nightingale, she was not exactly embraced as a colleague.  Nightingale suggested that the only available bed was next to the washerwoman.  Seacole and her roommate got along great and talked for hours.  The bed itself was less accommodating as it turned out to be a flea infested couch, and Seacole was eaten alive during the night. 

In Balaclava, Seacole and Day built the British Hotel which included an apartment for each of the partners, a general store and stables for the animals.  A war zone is a dangerous place even for civilians.  Thieves, led by the night watchman, stole 40 goats and seven sheep during one night, and dozens of horses, mules, pigs and chickens over time.  The rats were huge and one attacked a cook while she was sleeping.  But none of this deterred the proprietress from her purpose: to serve the British army.

“Mother Seacole” was not shy about going to the front lines if necessary to tend to wounded soldiers.  The allied army planned to attack the Russians  at Cathcart’s Hill.  Seacole made sandwiches, packed up food, drink and medical supplies and on horseback led a caravan of two pack mules up the hill to the camp three and a half miles away.  She cared for their physical needs in as many ways as possible.  Since water was in short supply, she had to wash her hands in sherry. When bullets whizzed by overhead, Seacole hugged the ground until she got the “all clear.”  Once when she was protecting herself, she dislocated her thumb, which she never bothered to set.   

Seacole didn’t discriminate when it came to helping the needy.  In addition to British soldiers, she helped French, Sardinians and even some Russians into ambulances so they could get proper medical treatment.  One Russian thanked her by taking off his ring and giving it to her as he was being lifted into the vehicle.

LIFE AFTER WAR                                                             It was both a positive and negative thing when the Crimean War ended in February 1856.  The area was evacuated so fast, that Seacole and Day lost all their business virtually overnight. Russians raided the British Hotel which made Seacole furious.  In a desperate act, she smashed the crates of wine, wasting it instead of letting the enemy enjoy their booty. 

Upon returning to England Seacole and Day were forced to declare bankruptcy, and the war finally took its toll on Seacole’s health.  Several prominent people contributed to funds to help Seacole and her partner become solvent.  She wrote her autobiography describing her adventures and raised enough money to get out of debt.  During the final years of her life she worked in London as a masseuse and confidant to members of the royal family.  Seacole died in 1881 with an estate of over £2,500.

QUESTION:  Have you ever been discriminated against?  How did you handle the situation?

©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

Sources:

Seacole, Mary.  The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands. http://www.gutenberg.org/ catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=588279

http://www.maryseacole.com/maryseacole/pages/aboutmary.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:March_to_Sevastopol_1854.png

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Seacole

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimean_War

JOSEPHINE COCHRANE (1839-1913) Invented the Dishwasher

In American History, Biography, Entrepreneurs, Feminists, Inventions, Millionaires, People, Trivia, Victorian Women, women on April 20, 2010 at 9:03 AM

Josephine Cochrane

Josephine Cochrane believed that if you want something done right you better do it yourself.  But when it came time to doing the dishes, she really didn’t want to, so she invented a machine to wash them for her.

Cochrane’s early childhood is not known.  After her mother died and her sister moved out, she lived with her father, John Garis, in Ohio and Indiana.   He worked as a supervisor in mills and as a hydraulic engineer, perhaps instilling in Cochrane an instinctive knack for the mechanical.  She attended a private high school, but when it burned down, Garis sent his daughter off to live with her sister in Shelbyville, Illinois. 

After high school graduation, Cochrane’s life took a traditional turn.  At age 19 she married 27 year old William Cochran.  In 1857, after a disappointing four years trying to strike it rich in the California Gold Rush, he returned home to Shelbyville and made his mark and fortune in the dry goods business along with other investment opportunities.  No doubt the comfortable life he could offer his bride was one thing she was attracted to. 

In spite of her young age and the societal norm at the time, Cochrane was guided by her independent nature and personal confidence.  She assumed her husband’s name but preferred spelling it with an “e” on the end, a point of contention with his family. 

The Cochrans had a busy social life, and in 1870 when they moved into what could be considered a mansion, they had the perfect house for entertaining.  They threw dinner parties using heirloom china allegedly dating from the 1600s.  After one event, the servants did the washing up and carelessly chipped some of the dishes.  Cochrane discovered this the next morning while she was putting the dishes away.  She was furious and refused to let the servants handled the china any more. 

She may have regretted her decision, but she didn’t give in.  The morning after every subsequent dinner party she begrudgingly endured dishpan hands wondering why someone hadn’t invented a machine that could clean dirty dishes.  This was, after all, the late 19th century, and if someone could invent a machine to sew clothes and cut grass, then how hard could it be? 1 

One such morning while she was up to her elbows in soap suds, she had an epiphany.  Why not invent a dish washing machine herself?  Consumed with the idea, she immediately went into the library to think it through, forgetting she was holding a cup in her hand.  Within half an hour Cochrane had the basic concept for the first mechanical dishwasher.  Just like she had been doing by hand, it held the dishes securely (in a rack) while the pressure of spraying water cleaned them off.

William Cochran was a rising star in the Democratic Party, but too much alcohol led to a violent temper and illness.  While Cochrane was busy with the details of her invention, William went away for a rest. Unfortunately, he didn’t get well, and he died two weeks later in 1883.  

While the Cochrans appeared to be successful socialites to their friends, all was not well at home.  Her husband left Cochrane with a mound of debt and only $1,535.59.  Now, developing the dishwasher was not only for convenience, it was for survival.

Her creation had wire compartments for plates, cups and saucers.  They were put inside a wheel that lay flat inside a copper boiler.  A motor turned the wheel pumping hot soapy water from the bottom of the boiler over the dishes.  Cochrane showed her design to a few men for their input which ended up being a frustrating experience.  “I couldn’t get men to do the things I wanted in my way until they had tried and failed in their own,” she said.  “And that was costly for me. They knew I knew nothing, academically, about mechanics, and they insisted on having their own way with my invention until they convinced themselves my way was the better, no matter how I had arrived at it.” 2   Finally she got help with the construction from mechanic George Butters and received her first patent on the Garis-Cochran Dish-Washing Machine December 28, 1886. 

Cochrane’s first customers were not the housewives she thought she was helping. They didn’t want to spend the money on something they didn’t really need, so she turned to hotels.  After selling a dishwashing machine to the Palmer House hotel in Chicago, she had one recommendation.  Then she did one of the hardest things she’d ever done: she made a cold call to the Sherman House hotel in Chicago, waiting in the ladies’ parlor to speak with the manager.  “You asked me what was the hardest part of getting into business,” she once told a reporter. “…I think, crossing the great lobby of the Sherman House alone. You cannot imagine what it was like in those days … for a woman to cross a hotel lobby alone. I had never been anywhere without my husband or father —the lobby seemed a mile wide. I thought I should faint at every step, but I didn’t—and I got an $800 order as my reward.”2

In 1893 Cochrane convinced restaurants at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago to use her invention, and it was an exhibit in Machinery Hall.  That success led to her opening her own factory in an abandoned schoolhouse.  Her customers extended to hospitals and colleges for whom the sanitizing effects of the hot water rinse were important.  Homemakers finally started using it, too.

In 1912, at 73 years old, Cochran was still personally selling her machines.  She died in 1913.  In 1916, her company was bought out by Hobart which became KitchenAid and is now Whirlpool Corporation.  Cochrane is considered the founder.

 QUESTION:  Which modern convenience do you think it would be impossible to live without?

                       ©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

 Sources:

 1 http://www.enchantedlearning.com/inventors/1800a.shtml

 2http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/it/1999/2/1999_2_54.shtml

  http://www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/256.html