The Albert B. Sabin Digitization Project: The Evolution of Facial Hair

By Mary Kroeger Vuyk, Sabin Project Student Assistant

[Sabin Archivist’s Note: This week features the first blog post on the Sabin project from Mary Kroeger Vuyk, one of our new student assistants. Mary is pursuing a Master of Library Science degree from Clarion University. Previously she has worked in the Winkler Center as an intern, processing the UC Public Relations Collection. She will be blogging on different Sabin-related topics as we work on the project. Please give Mary a warm welcome by reading her posts! -SB]

While rearranging several photos albums as part of the Albert B. Sabin digitization project, I ran across the Certificate of Citizenship for a very young Albert Sabin. This certificate reveals that the 23 year old Albert Sabin gained United States Citizenship on April 15, 1930.[1] While the certificate shows other important information about Dr. Sabin, such his height, weight, address, and marital status at the time of naturalization, a photo on the certificate also reveals another interesting detail – Albert Sabin was into facial hair. But, as I continued to look through the photos, I realized that as Dr. Sabin changed, so did his whiskers.

The photo of Dr. Sabin at 23 years old shows a dark and more slender moustache than found in later photos. His moustache at this age reminds me of those see on members of a barbershop quartet. Known as the English moustache, it is narrow and begins at the middle of the upper lip. The whiskers are long, pulled to the side, and are slightly curled at the ends. To achieve this look, Sabin would have to have used moustache wax.

By the 1950’s, Sabin’s facial hair began to change. Gone was the dark brown, full moustache with curled edges. Instead, Dr. Sabin chose a much more traditional look for his slightly graying moustache. Photos show Dr. Sabin with a thin, narrow, closely clipped mustache that outlines the upper lip.[2] This type of moustache could be considered a slightly fuller pencil-style moustache, sometimes called a mouthbrow. Sabin continued with this traditional look, with only minor alterations into the 1970’s. As Dr. Sabin’s hair color changed to completely gray, his moustache became a little thicker and not as closely clipped as seen in earlier photos.

Photos taken of Dr. Sabin in the late 80’s and early 90’s show another facial hair change which could possibly considered his most dramatic choice. Late in life, with snow white hair, Dr. Sabin went for the moustache and neatly trimmed beard. This classic facial hair choice reminded me, of course, of Santa Claus. Dr. Sabin’s new moustache and beard did not go unnoticed. Ruth Drozewski dropped Dr. Sabin a note on 7/15/1986 remarking on what a surprise it was to see him with a beard and noting how distinguished he looked.[3]

To follow the evolution of Dr. Sabin’s facial hair or to discover hundreds of other fascinating facts consult the Finding aid for the Albert B. Sabin Papers, 1930-1993.

[1] United States Certificate of Citizenship found in Sabin Binder Photos – Albert Sabin with Children: 1960-1990, File 5 (Misc).
[2] Photo of Albert Sabin taken by the U.S. Army found in The Albert B. Sabin Collection Photos, Dated: Box 2 – 1950’s.
[3] Letter to Dr. Sabin dated 7/15/1986 found in Sabin Binder Photos – Albert Sabin with Children: 1960-1990, File 5 (Misc).

In 2010, the University of Cincinnati Libraries received a $314,258 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to digitize the correspondence and photographs of Dr. Albert B. Sabin. This digitization project has been designated a NEH “We the People” project, an initiative to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in our nation’s history and culture and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.