Way back in the Olden Days – May of 2015 to be exact – I posted about a tiny little travel razor I had found some photos of and were fascinated by. The logo on the back points to Bigelow and Perkin Co, a company that operated out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A very similar, close to identical, razor was manufactured by Gronbech – likely in Woodhaven, New York – was marketed under the names of Groenbech and Handy. Additionally – according to Waits’ Compendium – there was at least one unmarked copy of this style of travel razor marketed in the 20’s.
More recently I managed to track down the actual patents for it, all filed by Mr Christian E A Gronbech; US 1,370,9351 – granted on March 8th 1920, US 1,370,960 granted same date, and US 1,376,759 granted on May 3rd 1921. While the three are broadly similar, there is an interesting difference: The two later is set up to be adjustable, after a fashion. As the patent texts says:
…the invention comprises a blade holder, in which the blade may be adjusted, such blade holder provided with means cooperating with complemental means in a part of the razor for securely retaining the blade in adjusted position in the razorChristian E A Gronbech, US 1,370,960
Another object is to provide in a razor of this kind, simple means for adjusting the depth or protrusion of the cutting edge of the blade so as to secure a more or less close shaving action, as may be desired.Christian E A Gronbech, US 1,376,769
The big difference between the patents is for what kind of blade they are set up for; 1,370,935 is set up for three hole Gillette blades (which means modern DE blades will fit), 1,370,760 is set up for Christy style (spineless, with or without ears) single edge blades, while 1,376,759 can accept both of the former as well as EverReady/GEM style blades (single edge with spine).
While the razor set up for Gillette blades simply have a pair of studs in the top cap lining up with matching holes in the bottom, the ones for Christy and GEM style blades utilises different forms of holders. The holder for Christy style blades held the blade by a pair of simple tabs that reached over the blade, while the latest patent included the option of using three different kind of holders; one for single edged blades with a spine, one for single edged spineless blades and one for Gillette style double edged blades – even if just one edge was exposed in the razor. The patent text describes it as follows:
…designed to interchangeably receive different kinds of blades, without requiring any adjustment or rearrangement of the parts of the razor.Christian E A Gronbech, US 1,376,769
It is the use of holders that provide the ability to adjust how aggressive the razor is, by adjusting how much of the edge is exposed. for the first form of holder – as described in US 1,370,960 – the user would adjust how much the edge stuck out by sliding the blade back and forth in the holder. The holders described in US 1,376,759 used a different trick, and was adjusted by an inclined tab sticking down from the holder into an inclined slot – so that sliding the holder from side to side would also push the edge in and out of the razor.
Seeing the three patents in succession, it’s easy to see how the idea of a simple vest-pocket razor evolved from a razor consisting of four stamped parts (and two pins) that would accept a single style of blade into a more refined, adjustable vest-pocket razor consisting of five stamped parts (and two pins) that accepted the three major styles of blades available at the time. With that in mind it’s kind of sad that the only version that seems to have made it to production in any numbers was the simple one for double edged blades.
- The first patent also had Mr Winfred H Van Gorder as a co-inventor.