A trio of vintage Williams advertisements, from 1916, 1917, and 1920.
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)
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…
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.
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.
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.
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
Cheaper then other razors – allegedly ten million had switched to GEMs since the Great Depression, thus proving that GEMs were cheaper and better.
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.
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.
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.