Raymond H Wilhelm and the bright idea

Raymond H Wilhelm wasn’t the first nor the last man who got a bright idea while shaving. He wasn’t even the first or last to get the idea to put something bright on his razor. Before I’ve mentioned patents from Lester E Norquist1 and F Pollifrone,2 as well as an aftermarket brightness enhancer.

The idea seems bright enough; the place you’ll need the most light where shaving is just where your hand and razor will shade for the light. The solution – the light bulb idea, if you will – is to place the light in or on the razor. And that is what Raymond H Wilhelm did in his patent application one hundred years ago.

Bathrooms were darker in the past. One needed to position oneself just so, or the shadows were more than the five o’clock ones. But if your light was on, or in, the razors, there would be less care needed when you shaved. Or in the words of the erstwhile inventor:

This invention relates to safety razors and an object of this invention is to provide a combined safety razor and flashlight which are ‘arranged so that the rays from the light will project upon the face or’ the user of the razor so as to prevent the casting of a shadow over the face and permit the shaver to clearly see the portions of his face as they are engaged by the. razor enabling him to’ make a clean shave.

From the introduction of US patent #1,440,325

A nice and simple idea, in nice and simple words. Which ended up meaning that you would mount a razors head on the business end of a flashlight. The drawing that accompany the patent is equally nice and simple.

Patent drawing by Raymond H Wilhelm showing his illuminating razor.
Patent drawing from US patent 1,440,325

The head of the razor is fairly straight forward, even if Raymond H Wilhelm also suggested an “improved” razor head and blade.3 An improvement he didn’t elaborate too much upon in the text, and probably wasn’t much of an improvement to begin with. The bright spark of his invention was the light source, and the shaped holes and concave-convex lenses that directed the light. Overall it is one of the better ideas I’ve seen for illuminating razors prior to the modern era and bright LEDs.

With the patent long expired, there is nothing stopping an aspiring machinist from making a modern version. One could use modern LEDs and batteries to make a handier and brighter version than what was possible in 1921. The only question is why, in the era of brightly lit bathrooms?

As usual the full patent can be read on Google Patents, as well as on razors.click – or just download the scan of the original document. If you enjoy old patents and other shaving oddities, I got a lot of posts about those.


  1. Which put you at risk f burning your hand.
  2. Who’s invention would cast more shade than light.
  3. Figure 4 is the improved razor head, and figure 5 is the improved blade.

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  1. Pingback: Light attachment for razors - Wegian WetshavingWegian Wetshaving

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