Decades before the SS Republic’s final voyage, Edward Phalon was already a household name, having captivated the public with his popular hair formulas. The New York hairdresser and wigmaker introduced a number of his products in the early 1840s, including Phalon’s Magic Hair Dye No. 1 and No. 2. They were available to the public in any number of Phalon’s Broadway Street establishments including his elegant Franklin House, a richly embellished bathing and hair-cutting emporium with elaborately painted walls and Italian marble flooring, and “sumptuous” interior furnishings of rosewood and crimson velvet.
Around 1858, Phalon was joined by son Henry and the company became known as Phalon & Son’s Perfumery. The family business continued to offer an extensive line of perfumes, hair restoratives as well as its famous hair dyes, which remained on the market until at least 1885.
The excavation of the Republic yielded forty-four small vials of Phalon’s Magic Hair Dye No. 1 and No. 2, their original contents no longer intact. The ingredients in these little rectangular bottles may have been a two-step hair-dye process, or perhaps two different hair color treatments—the results of which one can only speculate.