Ernest E. Koken
Although Ernest Koken was born in Germany, his father was a naturalized U.S. citizen and his mother was American-born. The family moved back to the U.S., and settled in St. Louis, Mo. After his father's untimely death, Earnest was forced to leave school and help support the family. He was artistic by nature, and as a young man, he discovered an opportunity to hand-decorate and sell shaving mugs to barber shops for resale to customers.
Koken drew close to the barbering business, and found other products to market, starting with barber chairs. He subsequently invented a reclining barber chair, received a patent and found strong demand for such an innovation. He found a manufacturer, and the product was a huge success. He continued developing new, improved models.
Ultimately he developed the Koken Hydraulic Barber Chair, the first of its kind. There are barber chairs still in use today with the name Koken engraved on the footrest. After Koken's death in 1909, his son Walter found an unfinished draft on his father's drawing board…a gasoline engine that could've become a competitor to the Ford engine. Had it not been for Koken's untimely death, many of us today might be driving a Koken instead of a Ford or Chevrolet. Mr. Koken was inducted into the Barber Hall of Fame in 1975.