Razor Blade Wrappers
Travelling salesman King Camp Gillette developed the first disposable Razor Blade with MIT metallurgist William Emery Nickerson, patented in 1904. With the razors’ packaging depicting his own moustachioed likeness, Gillette became something of a celebrity and by 1908 profits exceeded $13,000,000. When the patent expired in 1921 a host of competitors began manufacturing blades and the hobby of collecting wrappers was born.
Wilkinson Sword Roller Guard Safety Razor
For over 100 years, the Wilkinson Sword Company manufactured English bayonets and swords. In 1898 they diversified to develop precision instruments including safety razors. One of the most successful was the Empire Razor Set series, manufactured from 1930 until 1952. The Empire Series featured an innovative self-stropping mechanism and roller guard ensuring a smooth shave. Sets were made in single, two or three blade form and also in deluxe seven day sets with the days of the week engraved on the spine of the blades.
Until 1916, British Army regulations stipulated all soldiers must wear a moustache but have clean-shaven chins and so letters sent home from the Front often requested mirrors, razors and strops alongside the comfort of warm socks and chocolate. This is the Shaving Kit of Sgt Adams, a Motorcycle Despatch Rider in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. 4,365 men of the Royal Flying Corps died in service and although his Shaving Kit survived the conflict, Sgt Adams’ own fate remains unknown.
Sterling Silver Shaving Cup 1899
The shaving scuttle was first patented in the Victorian era when running hot water was uncommon. Water from a kettle was poured into the wide spout and shaving soap rested upon the top of the cup, thus providing convenient means to achieve a hot lather. This exquisite example was made by Henry Matthews, a renowned silversmith skilled in creating fine household objects and greatly admired for his meticulous attention to detail.
Personal Shaving Mug
In days of old it was customary for a gentleman to visit his barber for a wet shave. Soap was placed in a personalised mug and kept safely at the barbershop along with a chap’s own razor. Such mugs, often with gilt or floral designs were popular coming of age gifts for young men. This one, named for Henry Cole, is American, dated 1941, the year of Pearl Harbour. What story might it tell?
Russian Beard Token (1705 version)
Peter the Great, returning from years exploring Europe in disguise, was keen to modernise his empire by taxing the beards of Russia gentlemen. Should a chap be reluctant to expose his chin to the elements, he was able to preserve his hirsute pride by paying for a token to prove his beard was worn with approval of the Tsar. When the tax was abolished in 1772 ‘beard kopeks’ were melted down, thus are vanishingly rare and, as such, nigh on priceless. This example, it must be noted, is a reproduction.
What were the travelling requisites of the 19th century gentleman? A modern chap carries a rather pared down kit in contrast to his historical counterpart. Indeed, lavishly stocked dressing cases were de rigueur and contained an array of wondrous implements from familiar shaving essentials to glove stretchers, button hooks, curling tongs and razor strops, often crafted in ebony, ivory, silver, cut glass, mother-of-pearl and tortoise shell. No wonder the well groomed explorer or soldier required such a retinue of servants and porters!
Glass bottles filled with tinctures, powders and oils were sold to well-heeled families by Victorian apothecaries and pharmaceutical chemists Dr Harris & Co, awarded a warrant as Chemists to the Queen in 1938, supplied the gentry of men’s Clubland. Savory & Moore were chemists in Belgravia, served “By Appointment” Her Majesty Queen Victoria. Ward & Company were a dispensing Family Chemist in Richmond. And ‘Croton Oil’ is a powerful purgative, rarely used today due to its poisonous effects. Good heavens!