July 13, 2024

Black Entrepreneur History

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John Telemachus Hilton – Successful Hair Dresser, Barber & Retailer of 1800s

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History was an African American man named John Telemachus Hilton who became a successful serial businessman and abolitionist.

Born in the year of 1801 in Chester County, Pennsylvania, not much is known about John Telemachus Hilton’s childhood, however, it was when he was still a teenager, functioning as a full adult at the age of 17, that he went to Boston. He met and married Lavinia M. Ames on December 1, 1825[1]and they went on to have five children – 3 girls and two boys – Lucretia, Louisa, John, Henry, Thomas.

They lived on 12 Belknap Street in the Black and very successful Beacon Hill community of the city. John Hilton had a entrepreneurial spirit and it was his strong business sense that led him to opening his own salon five years after he married. Not only was he the owner, but he was also a barber/hair dresser in the shop.

What makes the salon so special is that it was like a mini super-center because it was also a ticket master for local shows that went on in the area, a furniture and retail store as well as an employment agency.

He was a member of the N.E. Temperance Society of Colored Americans[2] along with the Massachusetts General Colored Association, which he co-founded. Hilton worked against segregation and slavery as a member of the Boston Vigilance Committee and Anti-Slavery Society and he was an African American integrationist. He was also the Grand Master of the Prince Hall Masons.


He passed away on March 5, 1864 in Brighton Massachusetts of Bright’s Disease, a form of kidney disease[3].


[1]Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records. Provo, UT: Holbrook Research Institute (Jay and Delene Holbrook)

[2]The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts) 09 Nov 1838, Fri Page 4

[3]Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1911. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts

[Photo]Jrmorgan919, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons