Shadrach Martin

George Taylor's barber shop at 145 King Street. Left to right: Will Taylor, Shadrach Martin and Thomas Logan.
Shadrach Martin, known as "Shack,” was born in Nashville in 1833. He said his father was a free man and his mother was a former slave, whose freedom had been purchased by her future husband. By age 11, he was working on a steamboat as a cabin boy. At age 13, he became apprenticed to a barber in Memphis and later moved to Cincinnati, where he stayed until he moved to London in 1854. In the depression of the late 1850s, Shack returned to the United States, where he obtained work as a barber on a Mississippi steamboat. At the beginning of the American Civil War, he was encouraged by one of his regular customers, a Union gunboat captain, to enlist in the navy. He was accepted and served for two years on the captain’s gunboat. Receiving his honourable discharge in May, 1863, he returned to London where he became one of the best-known barbers in the city. As early as 1868, Shadrack Martin and James Worthington were operating a barber shop together in the Tecumseh House Hotel. Then the best hotel in the city, it was located near the Great Western Railway station on York Street, where the Via station is today. George Taylor and his partner, William Newman, had a shop that same year in Strong’s Hotel which was on Dundas Street, just east of Richmond.
Barbering was a traditional Black occupation and, in these years, they would have served an all-white clientele. Martin’s customers included London’s long-time MP Sir John Carling and John Labatt the brewery owner.