Early safety razor advertisements – like early safety razors patents – can be a source of much fun and enjoyment. And today I found a very early Gillette advertisement, printed in The Literary Digest on May 20th 1905. The Gillette safety razors were first offered for sale in 1903, so the marketing department of Gillette was just finding out how to properly sell razors when this was printed.
Looking at the advertisement, there is a lot more text than we’re used to seeing today. Not only do we get information that each razor comes with a dozen blades, but we’re also subjected to the claim that each blade lasts up to forty shaves. To top that off, there is an offer to send a prospective buyer one new blade for every two blades you ship back to Gillette!
The last bit sounds bizarre to us today, used as we are to the idea of disposable blades. But Gillette didn’t just plan to sell razors and new blades, but also to sell refurnished and resharpened blades for less than brand new ones. That idea died within a few years though… and now we just recycle old razor blades like we would any other bit of stainless steel; by melting it down.
Just a reminder that the Kindle edition of my book will be on sale from Friday the 27th of November at 0000 PST (0800 GMT) and for a full week after that. The price of the paperback have been cut as well.
A nice way to start the new week. Goldex shaving cream, courtesy of Camilo from Pereira Shavery, is a cream I have not have the pleasure of trying before, but after one shave I’m happy for the tub being large. The vintage Gem is a gift from fellow shaver.
Razor: GEM Heavy Flat Top Blade: GEM Single Edge Stainless Brush: Artesania Romera Manchurian Badger, imitation horn Lather: Goldex Nova Fórmula Aftershave: Barber No3 Marmara Additional Care: Alum Block
A lot of ingenuity have gone into inventing razors that makes shaving easier, simpler, better… but not many inventers seems to have gone out of the way to create razors that are terrific.
Let me expand on that by quoting the late Sir Terry Pratchett:
Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder. Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels. Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies. Elves are glamorous. They project glamour. Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment. Elves are terrific. They beget terror. The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning. No one ever said elves are nice. Elves are bad.
Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies
In the same way, Arthur McKee Rankin’s electrical razor is quite terrific, because what I would have felt if I was forced to use it would be sheer, unadulterated terror.
From front to back it consists of:
What looks like an antique lawn mover, with six razor blades spinning around. A belt – with the associated risk of dragging hair through the pulley – driving the whirling contraption. An open set of friction wheels turning the belt, and the wheels in turn being driven by what looks like a heavy and massive electrical motor. The whole shebang is tentatively manoeuvred by a handle that looks downright wobbly and unstable in the drawing.
So there it is, a patent for a terrific electrical razor filed in 1908. Suitable both for inspiring terror in the bathroom and planing wood. As usual, the full patent can be read at Google Patents.
A little while ago we looked at the Young Any-Angle Razor, a razor that trued to help shavers achieve more with less skill. And today we have a patent for a razor with a very similar goal of making the head tilt-able, but doing it in a radically different way.
Where the Young razor relied on a setscrew and a bit of operator dexterity, Mr Seitz’s idea used a spring and a push button to achieve what the patent describe as:
The object of this invention is the provision of a safety razor, which is provided with an adjustable blade carrying head so that the blade may be adjusted to position its cutting edge at various angles with relation to its handle, to which it is pivotally connected.
US patent 1,247,581
Pushing down on the button frees the ratcheted wheel from the spring, and the spring pushes the button back up when released.
The head of Mr Seitz’s razor is – when looking at the drawing – reminds me of the various CURBO razors, but honestly any style head1 would work with the basic idea of the ratcheted tilting head.