By JOHN V. SHOEMAKER, A.M., M.D., Physician to the Philadelphia Hospital for Skin Diseases.

The object of this paper is to briefly describe the hair and its important functions, and to suggest the proper manner of preserving it in a healthy state.

I know full well that much has been written upon this useful part of the human economy, but the constant increase of bald heads and beardless faces, notwithstanding all our modern advancement in the application of remedies to the cure of disease, prompts me to point out to you the many ways of retaining, without medication, the hair, which is a defense, ornamentation, and adornment to the human body.

[Dr. Shoemaker here gave an interesting history of the growth and development of the hair and its uses, which we are compelled to omit. Then, proceeding, he said:] Now, the hair, which fulfills such an important function in the adornment and health of the body, requires both constitutional and local care to keep it in its normal, healthy state. When I say constitutional care, I mean that the various organs of the body that assist in nourishing and sustaining the hair-forming apparatus should, by judicious diet, exercise, and attention to the nervous system, be kept healthy and sound, in order that they in turn may assist in preserving the hairs in a vigorous condition.

In the first place, that essential material, food, which is necessary to supply the waste and repair of all animal life, should be selected, given, or used according to good judgment and experience.

Thus, mothers should feed their infants at regular intervals according to their age, and not permit them to constantly pull at the breast or the bottle until the little stomach becomes gorged with food, and some alimentary disorder supervenes, often setting up a rash and interfering with the growth and development of the hair. It is likewise important, in case the baby must be artificially fed, to select good nutritious food as near as possible like the mother's - cow's milk, properly prepared, being the only recognized substitute. Care and discretion should likewise be taken by parents and nurses, after the infant has developed into childhood, to give simple, substantial, and varied food at regular periods of the day, and not in such quantities as to overload the stomach. Children need active nutrition to develop them into robust and healthy men and women; and it is from neglect of these important laws of health, and in allowing improper food, that very often bring their results in scald head, ring-worm, and scrofula, that leave their stamp in the poor development of the hair.

With the advent of youth and the advance of years, food should be selected and partaken of according to the judgment and experience of its acceptable and wholesome action on the consumer.

The meals should also be taken at regular intervals. At least four hours should be left between them for the act of digestion and the proper rest of the stomach.

It is, on the contrary, when the voice of nature has been stifled, when judgment and experience have been set aside, that mischief follows; when the stomach is teased and fretted with overloading, and the food gulped down without being masticated, gastric and intestinal derangement supervenes, which is one of the most prolific sources of the early decay and fall of the hair.

The nervous system, which is one of the most important portions of the human structure, and which controls circulation, secretion, and nutrition, often by being impaired, plays a prominent part in the production of baldness. Thus, it has been demonstrated by modern investigation that the nerves of nutrition, by their defective action, are often the cause of thinning and loss of hair. The nutritive action of a part is known to suddenly fail, the hair-forming apparatus ceases to act, the skin changes from a peculiar healthy hue to a white and shining appearance, and often loses at the same time its sensibility; the hairs drop out until very few remain, or the part becomes entirely bald. It is the overtaxing of the physical powers, excessive brain work, the exacting demands made by parents and teachers upon children's mental faculties, the loss of sleep, incessant cares, anxiety, grief, excitement, the sudden depression and exaltation of spirits, irregular and hastily bolted meals, the lack of rest and recreation, the abuse of tobacco, spirits, tea, coffee, and drugs of all forms, that are fruitful sources of this defective action of the nerves of nutrition, and consequent general thinning and loss of hair.

The hair, particularly of the head, should also receive marked local attention. In reference to the use of coverings for it, I know of no better rules than those which I laid down in my chapter on clothing in "Household Practice of Medicine" (vol. i., p. 218, William Wood & Co., New York), in which I state that the head is the only part of the body so protected by nature as to need no artificial covering.

The stiff hats so extensively worn by men produce more or less injury. Premature baldness most frequently first attacks that part of the head where pressure is made by the hat. It is, indeed, a pity that custom has so rigidly decreed that men and women must not appear out of doors with heads uncovered. It would be far better for the hair if to be bare-headed were the rule, and to wear a hat the exception.

Since we can not change our social regulations in this respect, we should endeavor to render them as harmless as possible.

The forms of hats that are least injurious are: for Winter, soft hats of light weight, having an open structure, or pierced with numerous holes; for Summer, light straws, also of open structure.

As regards the head-covering of women, the fashions have been for several years favorable to proper form. The bonnet and hat have become quite small, and cover but little of the head. This beneficial condition, however, is in part counterbalanced by the weight of false curls, switches, puffs, etc., by the aid of which women dress the head. These, by interfering with evaporation of the secretions, prevent proper regulations of the temperature of the scalp, and likewise lead to the retention of a certain amount of excrementitious matter, both of which are prolific sources of rapid thinning and loss of hair in women.