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Black History Month 2023: Frank Crowd, Resilient Black Business Owner

By Emily Cottrell, Interim Archivist

During Black History Month we want to pay special attention to a resilient, persistent, and notable Black business owner in Jacksonville’s early history: Frank Crowd. Crowd’s original business, only the first of many, was a barbershop located in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, which would not only rise from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1901 but prosper in the following decades.

Charles Frank Crowd was born in 1858 to Edwin and Mary Crowd while residing in Massachusetts. Shortly after Frank’s birth, his father, Edwin Crowd, would be enlisted in the Union Army from January 17, 1863, through 1864. Edwin served on the USS Antona and the USS Rachel Seaman as a barber, a profession he and his son would eventually share. By 1880, the family had migrated to Boston, Massachusetts then later arrived in Jacksonville in 1884.

In the following years, Frank Crowd worked as a barber at 39 W. Bay Street, which would change addresses to 17 W. Bay Street. Then, in the blaze and frenzy of the Great Fire of 1901, the building which housed Crowd’s barbershop was burnt to ashes. The devastation that the city experienced from the Great Fire of 1901 did not keep Crowd down; within a week of his business’s destruction, Crowd reopened in a simple wood-framed building, sporting signage that read, “Crowd the 10¢ Barber” and “New building better than ever.” An image of this very scene is one of the treasures present in our collections.

Crowd would go on to rebuild his shop and expand his business portfolio by opening the Bijou Theater, later reopened as the Globe Theatre, in 1908. While Crowd’s barbershop would prosper for the remainder of his life, he also made the effort to donate to local charities and businesses to help the growth of the city and those who lived in it. In 1927, Frank Crowd passed away, but he was not forgotten. His daughters would continue his legacy by running the barbershop until 1972.

On September 30, 1972, Crowd’s barbershop closed permanently, but its legacy lives on. One of the unique features of the barbershop was the large, framed images of the shop throughout its existence which hung on the walls. In an article from September 1972, it was said that upon the shops closing, the images would potentially be given to an art museum or a local historical society. The Jacksonville Historical Society can proudly say we have been trusted with at least three of these framed images and will continue to use them to highlight the resilient Black history of Jacksonville.

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