Stationary shaving cup

Angelo Piccione filed a patent for a stationary shaving cup in 1928. Which brought up some odd mental imagery, since in my line of work the opposite to stationary is self-propelled or towed…

A number of inventions straddle the line between insanity and brilliance. And while it’s clear that Piccione took a large step towards one of the two sides, I’m not sure what way he went with this.

Not only does Piccione’s invention sounds like it was a piece of heavy machinery, but the patent drawing1 also looks the part too. We got multiple valves, springs, and linkages. We got pipes, sprayers, and tie-rods. I can easily imagine this device in shiny brass, chrome, and glass – and part of me really wants one.

Patent drawing from US patent 1,782,793 - showing A Piccone's stationary shaving cup
Patent drawing from US patent 1,782,793

The patent

Just take a second to marvel in the drawing. Then take a deep breath and let us dive into what this was and what it was supposed to achieve. To quote Angelo on the later:

One of the objects of this invention is to provide a shaving cup of this character which can be quickly, readily and thoroughly flushed by turning on the water supply valve, and in which a-small quantity of water is retained in the brush for the purpose of supplying the necessary water for producing a lather in the cup.

Another object is to provide such a cup which is so designed that it can be readily taken apart, thoroughly cleaned and dried, thereby keeping it in the most sanitary condition.

A further object is to provide such a cup in which a small amount of water is retained in the cup for the production of lather after it has been flushed and in which the cup can be completely drained or filled with water as occasion demands.

A still further aim is to provide such a stationary shaving cup which is compact and attractive, simple and inexpensive in construction, reliable in operation and not liable to get out of order under conditions of constant service.

Another aim is to provide such a cup which has an auxiliary hot water reservoir into which the barber can dip his fingers to moisten and clean the face and neck of the customer.

From US Patent 1,782,793

A few basic observations from the drawings first. Hot water comes in through the small diameter pipe on the right in figures 1 and 3. A ring shaped manifold doubles as the rim of the shaving cup. And excess lather and gray water is flushed down the big pipe in the middle of the cup.

Looks complicated, right?

To the best of my understanding, the order of operation would be as follows:

First, turn the tap 30 to flush out the cup as well as filling the small reservoir 50. Turning the tap also raises the drain valve 39 via linkages 43&44. Overfilling the small reservoir is avoided by the means of the overflow drain 57 and pipe 56. Leaving the brush in the cup while flushing makes the brush moist. This makes sure that there are enough hot water to make lather with.

Barber proceeds to making lather and shaving the customer in the usual manner. The patent don’t mention small talk, but I assume that is required as part of the usual barbershop experience. Fingers are dipped in the small reservoir in order to help clean of excess lather and blood.

And at the end of the shave, simply open the drain valve 54 to drain the small reservoir. Then crank the hot water tap up to rinse out the cup, and also rinse the brush and razor. Angelo suggested that the hot water could be used to sterilize the razor, so he must been wanting to use almost boiling water.

Ah, easy

Frankly, the whole complex stationary shaving cups comes down to two valves. Turn one to flush and soak the brush Turn that one off again. Shave, then turn the other valve open. Then turn the first one again. Rinse. Close both. Done.

I can actually see this as useful for a barbershop. Perhaps slightly less sanitary than as Lupowitz & Mackilbank’s aseptic shaving cup or Scott’s disposable shaving cup, but certainly a lot more visually appealing. The cup itself was to be made from glass. I suspect this was so customers could see how clean it was. Pipework of the period was commonly made from copper. Copper can be buffed to a high sheen with just a little elbow grease. And things like the valves and manifold would likely be cast bronze. Bronze can also be polished up, or be chromed like so many safety razors are.

Honestly, if done right and maintained well, it would look awesome and shiny! Small wonder I want one in my bathroom.2

Final thoughts on the stationary shaving cup

While the drawing looks complex, and the patent text is dense and technical… this should work. And work reasonable well too. Personally I would have replaced the small finger pieces with levers. But that is a personal preference, and finger pieces were the style of the times. I would also make the small reservoir slightly wider, and used it to soak my brush in. Other potential improvements could be a way to hang your brush and razor on the side when not shaving.

The stationary shaving cup is old fashioned, retro futuristic, and steam punk all at once. I can see there being more shavers than me who would want one of these in their shave den. I can also see the wives and girlfriends of shavers putting their foot down, unless they are lucky enough to have a bathroom all for themselves to turn into a shave den.

The full text of the patent can be read at Google Patents,3 and as always I have a lot more old patents and other shaving oddities on my blog.


  1. Honestly it looks like it belongs in the Museum of Retro Technology.
  2. I know my wife way to well to even ask though – and she’s right.
  3. The OCR isn’t the best, but the PDF is fairly easy to read.

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