Today I learned that Gillette sold something called a Brush Plus in the eighties… maybe before and after that time too. It worked by lettings the shaver turn a knob to push shaving cream into the knot. And it’s not exactly a new idea, but before we look at older patents let us look at what it actually is.
In the very simplest of terms, it’s a brush. It’s a can of “shaving concentrate”: It’s both, but in one chunky package.
A couple of comments; Firstly, the knot looks gnarly. Short and mushrooming, and that was in their commercial. Secondly, that looks more like cottage cheese than it does proper lather. But let us watch the whole commercial Gillette did for the Brush Plus.
Twist the handle, and shaving cream comes out. An idea so old, yet with so many patents. They been known as fountain brushes, self-feeding brushes and many other names. Lets look at a few, shall we?
Older variations of the self feeding fountain brush idea
The oldest patent for a self-feeding I’ve found so far is Mr William S Jewett’s self-feeding brush. Patented in 1849, this brush let the user turn a knob to force soap into the brush. In other words, just like the Brush Plus…
Mr H Forms Hansell Jr. and Mr G D Lewis was awarded a patent for a more novel self-feeding brush in 1908. Meant for liquid soap, the shaver would squeeze the handle to push soap into the brush.
The Warner Self Soaping Brush was offered for sale in 1918. Seems to have done reasonable well too, unlike most of these fountain brushes. The kicker is that a lot of the ones you find today is pristine condition, which tells me they saw little actual use.
In 1922 Mr C E A Gronbech – who also invented a razor – came up with his own novel spin on the concept, suitable for travel and home. To me the most novel feature is the stamp metal construction. It was refilled by unscrewing the knot.
In 1929 Mr Aubry F Stepelton got a patent for a shaving brush. This “novel” design let the user turn a knob… and yes, that would press soap into the brush. Like the Brush Plus, which is starting to look like an old idea.
A couple of years later Mr Isaac S Mathieu and Mr Frank B Springer patented an improved fountain shaving brush. This improved device let the user turn a knob and… Well, you know the drill by now. At least it was refillable with the user’s favourite shaving cream.
Fast forward to the post-war era, and you’ll find other variations on the idea, such as the shaving brushes meant to go on aerosol cans of canned go. For examples, see the patents of Mr Alfred B Miller, Mr John Cleghorn, and Mr Boye E Cox et al. None of which, I might add, would be able to tempt me to use canned goo.
To me the self-feeding brush is a solution in search of a problem. Yes, the various incarnations – including the Brush Plus – could be handy while travelling. But they do introduce one more thing to break, leak or run out. There is, I believe, good reasons why the Brush Plus is no longer offered for sale.