More Williams’ Soap advertisements

A trio of vintage Williams advertisements, from 1916, 1917, and 1920.

Popular Mechanics, 1916

First one is from 1916, showcasing the whole line up of shaving powder, shaving liquid, shaving cream and shaving stick – as well as pointing out that the company have been makign soap for seventy five years (technically seventy six, but I’ll allow a bit of fudge in ad copy)

The Literary Digest, January 1917

That smile appeared in 1917, and apparently had not meet the shave before Williams came up with the Big Stick. Or possible the guys writing the copy was stretching the truth a tiny bit…

The Literary Digest, September 1920

Still smiling three years later, although if the text is to be believed the smile is now in the lather. Well, at least in the lather that came from the cream.

Three ads over four years, showing a shift from focusing on the facts – “these are our shaving products and we made them for a long time” – to feelings – “our shaving products will make you smile”. In hindsight, the later approach probably sold more shaving soap.

Shave of the day 29th April

Razor: Gillette 1958 TV Special
Blade: Wilkinson Sword
Brush: Wilkinson Sword Badger
Pre-Shave: The Lavish Gentleman Natural Strength Oil Cleanser
Lather: Palmolive Sensitive w/ aloe vera
Aftershave: BullDog Oil Control Moisturiser
Additional Care: Alum Block & Gentlemen of Sweden Original Beard Oil

The only ‘real’ shaving soap… real old, at least

Williams’ is an old brand… sometimes vilified in this golden age of wetshaving, but if reports from trustworthy shavers is to be believed the vintage formulations was/is pretty good.

1898 advertisement for the Williams’ Shaving Soaps from J. B. Williams Company (Glastonbury, Connecticut)

One hundred and twenty two years ago, Williams had already been making shaving soaps for half a century… well, technically for more than half a century, since James B. Williams manufactured the first shaving soap for use in shaving mugs in 1840 – a whooping one hundred and eighty years ago today. It might be fashionable to talk down the modern formulation – I have not tried it yet, although I probably ought to at some point just to see how horrible it really is – but they have to do something right to stay around for that long.

GEM’s Micromatic – can’t nip, won’t skip

I found an interesting 1934 advertisement for the GEM one-piece open comb Micromatic, highlighting some of the key selling points of the razor when compared to other and presumably inferior shaving utensils.

  • Holds the blade secure – five points of contact – so it can use a blade sharp enough to control any beard!
  • Designed to force the user to get a close shave, by making the user lay the cap flat against the face – which, by the way, is one reason I sometimes recommend a GEM to a new shaver over a Double Edge; the angle is easier to get right
  • Thicker and more rigid blades! Interestingly enough the Micromatic appeared around the time Gillette switched from older, thicker blades to the thinner blades we know today.
  • Cheaper then other razors – allegedly ten million had switched to GEMs since the Great Depression, thus proving that GEMs were cheaper and better.
Collier’s, September 15th 1934

In addition to the offer of an gold plated Micromatic and an unspecified amount of blades for one dollar (about 20USD today), the advertisement tells us that a single quarter would get you a testing set of one non-gold razor, one single- and one double-edged1 blade. Pretty good value, and I suspect the 25 cent razor would last a long time too as long as you bought blades.

  1. See “The invention of the modern GEM blade, with two interesting variations” and “The double edged single edged blade” for more on the double edged blades for a single edge razor – the advertisement from 1934 proves they were sold earlier and thus for longer than I was previously led to believe.

Safetee Shaving Soap

Back in February I posted about a 1919 patent by Mr Joseph Kaufman of the American Safety Razor Corp, covering the invention of a shaving stick with a cocoa butter core. Today I learned two things; in 1919, the American Safety Razor Corp spun off a subsidiary by the name of Safetee Soap Corporation, and one of the first products offered by this subsidiary was – unsurprisingly – a shaving stick… with a cocoa butter core.

from eBay via Google Image Search

Reading the marketing wank lines up close to the patent description – although more verbose and less technical – as far as the cocoa butter goes:

You can see the beard-softening, skin-soothing core of pure cocoa-butter which runs from end to end…
…getting a beneficial cocoa-butter massage which soothes the skin like an added lotion.

Other features of the soap lines up less well with the patent; it’s round instead of square, it appears to be sold in a tin and not in a flexible sleeve -although there seems to be an inner cover on the soap in addition to the tin, the upper drawing seems to point to this being a metal foil.

So while I don’t think you can get a shaving stick like this today (unless an artisan feels inclined to make some that is) as I lamented in my previous post, you could in the early twenties for a mere thirty cents… and you could get a sample for the cost of a letter and ten cents in stamps.

Shave of the day 20th April

Razor: Parker 22R
Blade: Wilkinson Sword
Brush: Semogue TSN LE 2012
Pre-Shave: The Lavish Gentleman Natural Strength Oil Cleanser
Lather: Asylum Shave Works Frankincense & Myrrh
Aftershave: Asylum Shave Works Frankincense & Myrrh
Additional Care: Alum Block, BullDog Beard Balm, & Pereira Shavery Boomerang Beard Comb