It was built in the days when ‘Made In Britain’ still meant something. And having breezed through countless hairstyles since it was purchased in the Thirties, this blow-dryer is a tangible reminder of when things were built to last.
It remains in perfect working order and, according to its owner, retired insurance company director John Wilcox, it has never broken down or even needed a service.
The machine has no serial or model number but carries a metal plate stamped ‘Siemens Electric Lamps and Supplies Ltd. MADE IN ENGLAND Siemens 230-250V 2.2 AMP AC or DC.’
Though Siemens is a German firm, according to the engineering history website Grace’s Guide, it established Siemens Electric Lamps and Supplies Ltd in Britain in 1931 to manufacture domestic appliances such as this dryer.
The brown Bakelite item’s only concession to technological advances has been a new plug – and only then because its original round-pin type became obsolete.
Mr Wilcox, 83, from Paignton, Devon, recalls watching his mother Florrie use it at the family home in Birmingham, 70 years ago. Portraits of Florrie, spanning five decades, show her sporting a variety of hairstyles.
They progress from an unfettered look in her teens to a more structured cut.
Florrie died in 1988 and with no purchase receipt Mr Wilcox has never been able to establish precisely when it was bought.
But his wife Kay, 73, who is a hairstylist, says the portraits indicate when the machine arrived in the household.
‘Having an electric hairdryer in the Thirties was still a luxury for women,’ said Mrs Wilcox.
‘Having got hold of it you can be pretty sure she used it regularly. You can see in her later portraits how a dryer has been used to style and hold her hair in place.’
Weighing a hefty 2lb the dryer’s only controls are on/off and hot/cold. It came with a Bakelite carry-case – now slightly cracked – complete with a vanity mirror.
A spokesman for Guinness World Records said: ‘There is no category for the oldest working electric hairdryer. However, we would be very interested in establishing one if it could be proved when this machine was produced.’