Karl Ludwig Nessler (2 May
1872 in Todtnau, Germany -
22 January 1951 in Harrington Park, New Jersey, USA) was the inventor of the permanent wave.
Nessler was the son of a shoemaker from Todtnau, a small town
located high in the Black
Forest, just beneath the Feldberg.
Turn of the century advertisement for
Nessler's permanent wave machine.
He got the idea for the perm early in his
youth. He began an apprenticeship which he dropped. He worked in Basle and Milan in different
jobs, learned Italian and French and finally moved to Geneva; there he
worked again as a barber and hairdresser and finished his
Adapting to the French-speaking environment,
he called himself Charles Nessler
. Later, he moved to
Paris, where he tested his first perm on a certain
Katharina Laible from Ulm.
In 1902, another invention, artificial eyebrows, was patented in
the United Kingdom. He moved to London and married Katharina
Laible. His attempts to convince his English colleagues to use his
invention failed, but his electric permanent wave machine was
patented in London in 1909., . In 1912, some improvements of his
apparatus were patented again. In 1914, he patented a last
improvement before the outbreak of the war.
When the First World War
he was interned and his assets confiscated as alien property. In
1915, he fled to the United States where he learned that counterfeited
copies of his invention were
already being sold. In April 1919, his improved Hair
was filed at the US Patent
. He was already an American citizen. The holder of the
patent was his Nestle Patent Holding Co. Inc. He developed a
do-it-yourself kit for perms and opened a chain of hair saloons.
his chain had 500 employees, with branches in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Palm
Beach and Philadelphia.
The annual advertising budget was
He amassed considerable wealth. During the hyperinflation
in 1920s Germany, he donated
the respectable sum of 20'000 Mark
to the impoverished people of his hometown, but lost almost
everything on Black Friday
1929. His attempts to regain his losses were hindered by the
breakout of the Second World War
and never really succeeded.
On 22 January 1951, Karl Nessler died in Harrington Park, New
- A New or Improved Method of and Means for the Manufacture of
Artificial Eyebrows, Eyelashes and the like. British patent
GB000190218723A, submitted August 26, 1902, approved November 6,
1902. US-Patent US000001450259A 1921.
- A New or Improved Process of Waving Natural Hair on the Head.
British patent GB000190902931A, submitted February 6, 1909,
approved February 2, 1910
- Improvements in Apparatus for use in Waving Natural Hair on the
Head. British patent GB000190920597A, submitted February 6, 1909,
approved February 3, 1910.
- Improvements in Hair Curlers. British patent GB000191223357A ,
submitted October 12, 1912, approved June 26, 1913.
- Improvements in or connected with the Waving of Natural Hair on
the Head. British patent GB000191408117A , submitted March 31,
1914, approved June 24, 1915.
- US-Patent US000001400370A: Hair-waving apparatus. submitted
April 16, 1918, approved December 13, 1921