A very early Gillette advertisement

Gillette started manufacturing safety razors in 1903, and were advertising fairly heavily in the early years. One recurring theme in the early marketing is how economical it was to use, making it an economical luxury to shave yourself instead of going to a barber.

The Literary Digest Volume 31, 1905

Five dollars for a razor with a dozen blades sounds cheap today, but with inflation taken into consideration it is almost 150 dollars in today’s money. Not nearly as much as some of the high end safety razor we can buy in this day and age, but not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. And replacement blades were a dollar a dozen, which is equal to two dollar and fifty cents a blade in 2020 money – which isn’t too far off from what you would pay if you bought the latest cartridges from Gillette today.

If I was paying that much for a blade, I would want it to last as well… although I’m not sure that they would shave as good for twenty to forty shaves as they did when new from the wrapper. This claim is also on par with today’s cartridges by the way; a lot of marketing material from Gillette claims a month worth of shaves from each cartridges (and I’m just as dubious about that claim as I am of a DE blade lasting a month or more).

The more things change – from DE to plastic cartridges – the more stay the same when it comes to price and claimed longevity. At least the black and white hand-drawn advertisements from a hundred and fifteen years ago looked a lot more stylish than today’s full colour photoshopped glossy posters we get today.

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