This week on Fashion Friday’s with Joanna I’m going to introduce you to Madame Nobia A. Franklin, a Texas beautician and entrepreneur who became a Black History figure. She made it her mission to market her products towards Black women of all shades, but her life began long before her mission took hold.
Nobia A. Franklin was born in Cuero, Texas in 1892. Her life before becoming an entrepreneur remains a mystery. It is rumored that her father was Ira Franklin, but the identity of her mother remains unknown. It is said that Nobia was known at a young age for being engrossed in hair. She experimented with different hair products and styles on friends and neighbors in the rural cotton farmland. Nobia got engaged to W.L McCoy and they were married on June 7, 1907. Her husband was precinct chairman for the Fifth Ward’s Black and Tan Republican Party. Even after marrying her husband,Nobia made the decision to keep her maiden name. Not long after getting married, Nobia had her first child, Abbie, whom she passed her maiden name onto. Sometime in the 1910s, she and her family moved from their rural community to nearby San Antonio, Texas.
ROAD TO SUCCESS
In the years after moving to San Antonio, Madame Nobia owned a hair salon and she sold her hair products door-to-door. To some, it may not have been a huge success to have a thriving at-home-salon, but Madame Nobia worked hard to gain a loyal clientele. Along with styling hair she found ways to develop specific cosmetics for her clients. It’s said that she sold self-manufactured hair tonics, creams, oils, bleaching agents, straightening combs, shampoos, powders, rouges, and lipsticks.
It’s important to note that in the 1900s Black beauticians and investors were really starting to experiment with chemicals and creams that would modify textured hair in different ways. Black Afro-centric hair care and cosmetics was becoming a multimillion-dollar arena. This gave way for a young Nobia to be successful. She marketed her products to attract new residents which allowed her to expand her fledgling operations.
In 1916, she opened a beauty shop in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1917, she moved to Houston where she opened The Franklin School of Beauty Culture and a manufacturing plant for her hair products. She also offered women a chance to own their own businesses. In 1927, Nobia and her daughter, Abbie, became business partners and they formed the N.A Franklin Association of Beauty Culture to institutionalize her product line among nascent sales agents. The association trained women in hair styling and management techniques.
The Franklin Beauty School
END OF THE ROAD
In the early 1930s, Nobia signed over her business to her daughter and her son-in-law, James H. Jemison. It is said that she proceeded to give up her business because she was battling with health issues and it seems as though her health was only declining. In 1934, Madame Nobia A. Franklin unfortunately passed away in Chicago. Her family honored her by burying her in her small hometown of Cuero. After Nobia’s death, Abbie and James Jemison relocated the business to Houston. The Franklin Beauty School grew to become the largest in the South by World War II. Thousands of graduates opened salons to serve hundreds of thousands of African American women. She is written down in history as a very successful Black woman who followed her dreams and was able to provide what we all want to leave behind - a legacy.
Madame N.A Franklin advertisement from 1921
Link to The Franklin Beauty Institute: