Sunday, February 1, 2009

Annie Malone, Millionairess & Hot Comb Inventor!

BLACK HISTORY Beauty . Passion . Life
Annie Minerva Turnbo Pope Malone
(August 9, 1869 - May 10, 1957)

By Stacha Grande

Why Annie Malone Shines?
  • Multi-Millionaire in the 1920's
  • 1st US Patented Hot Comb 
  • Philanthropist:  Howard University, St. Louis Colored Orphans Home
  • Entrepreneur:  PORO Beauty Treatment System Products, PORO College, Finance Company 
  • Annie Malone's Legacy Shines Brightly!
(A 1930's version,
Annie Minerva Turnbo Pope Malone, daughter of former slaves, raised in Metropolis, IL, with her eleven siblings.  When her parents died she moved upstate to Peoria with her eldest sister, in 1890.  There, Annie took an interest in hair textures and spent ten years studying hair textures, her love of chemistry and concoctions to improve the goose fat and heavy oils used to straighten thick, tight curls.  These oily products caused damage to the scalp and hair.

In 1900 Annie introduced the US 1st patented hot comb (it precedes the comb upgrades by Walter Sammons, Madame CJ Walker, and Walker's employee Majorie Joyner including French Coiffeur Francois Marcel Grateau's versions).  Throughout the early 1900's Annie grew her brand PORO, a line of non-damaging hair straightening products, hair growers, conditioners, and skin disease reliefs.  PORO, a West African name which means society and culture of physical and spiritual growth and order.  

Her business was solid;  sales and marketing.  Blacks and women were denied distribution, Annie used an alternative strategy, chosing door-to-door / B2B sales, while empowering others to create their own fortunes for that time.  Malone employed over 150 employees.  Within a few years PORO was distributed nationally. She used visionary marketing strategies that are still used today;  press releases, advertisements, and use of women who were hired to both sell products and lend testimony to their efficacy, Agents or Brand Ambassadors of sorts. One of these women was Madame CJ Walker.

By the 1920's Malone was a Multi-Millionaire with an estimated worth of $14 Million, she and Walker were the first women of any race to become self-made millionaires.  Malone and Walker were beauty rivals for many years, as Walker learned beauty working for PORO.  They both started from nothing and literally build amassed fortunes.  Annie expanded her empire by opening PORO College in 1917 in St. Louis, MO.  The first educational institution in America dedicated to Black Cosmetology.  A strict curriculum of persona and poise training for men and women was taught there as well.

PORO Diploma from 1922 (by
In 1926, PORO college reported graduating some 75,000 agents Internationally & Caribbean

Malone was a generous philanthropist donating large funds to different causes including record donations to Howard University and Orphan Homes.  In 1922 Annie Malone gave a financial gift for the construction of a new building to the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home, she went on to become President of the home.  Her generosity was endless,  at one point she was reported to have been supporting two full-time students in every Black land-grant college (land granted by the government under the Morrill Act to establish schools) in the nation.

In 1930, the first full year of the depression, Annie now in her 60's moved her headquarters to Chicago.  She suffered financially from the divorce of her second husband, and two lawsuits; a liability claim from an employee and a another suite from a St. Louis newspaper.  The publicity crippled her business reputation and in 1943 the IRS placed a lien on her business. Though she fought it for 8 years, she lost PORO to the government and other creditors took control of her business.

The St. Louis Colored Orphans home was renamed in 1946 to the Annie Malone Children and Family Services Center.  It is still thriving today on Annie Malone Drive in St. Louis, MO.  An annual parade in her name keeps her spirit alive.  Annie Malone passed away after a stroke in 1957 in Chicago.  Her fortune said to have been depleted to $100,000, but her legacy as a beauty professional, entrepreneur, and philanthropist keep her light shining brighter than ever!

Her story is one of vision, business and racial perseverance, feminist power, millionairess, and philanthropic empress. Her plight blazed trails for Carol's Daughter's, Lisa Price and beauty cosmetics mogul IMAN to name a few.  

Shine hails the 1st US Patented HOT COMB Queen and female $Millionaire in the US.



Anonymous said...

A Millionaire, Female, and inventor - so impressive for that time, hell, for today! The fortitude she had to have to accomplish so much with so much to fight against, is an amazing testament to our people! A great Black History Beauty story...Kudos!

KS Media Photography said...

Dope! I didnt know that. I was always told that CJ Walker was the first to patent it. Great article.

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