Over the years, there have been several names used for military shave sets. This holds true for both standard issue sets and for kits a soldier1 could buy himself. From the Great War we have names like the Khaki Kit in several variations, the Service Kit, the Khaki Service Outfit, and the Comfy Kit. From the Great War part II, we have the Buddy Kit. Even so, I had never heard the term “Army and Navy Pillow Kit” being used before I saw Rebecca Harris’ patent filed in late 1917.
So, like me, you might wonder what a pillow kit is. And it is little more than what the name suggests; a hygiene kit – that is a kit for keeping clean and healthy – inside a pillow. Or, perhaps, a pillow with a hygiene kit inside. You say potato, I say dirt-apple…
Looking at the patent, it seems that a lot of though has gone into fitting as many things as possible into the stylishly named Army and Navy pillow kit. To quite Rebecca;
The primary object of the invention is the provision of a compact kit for the use of soldiers whereby a large number of small articles such as soap, brush and comb and a razor may be easily carried while the device is serviceable as a pillow covering when desired, the same being of simple construction, easy and inexpensive to manufacture.From US patent 1,269,276
A further object of the device is the provision of a pillow formation, adaptable for a plurality of uses such as a carrying kit, muffler, helmet, knapsack, laundry bag and game-board, provision being made for rendering the same waterproof when employed for use.
A still further object of the device is to provide a serviceable covering adapted for arrangement in pillow formation without the necessity of stitches and whereby the device may be employed in its unfolded arrangement or as a body protector when -desired land then arranged for immediate use as a pillow covering for stuffing with any available articles2 when desired for use as a pillow.
In other words, the Army and Navy pillow kit was intended to be a genuine multitasker.
The kit itself can be seen unfolded in Figure 2 of the drawing. Made from a double layer of fabric, the kit was claimed to be waterproof and durable. On the right and left side were a number of pockets, suitable for a razor, brush, soap and other necessities. Along the top is one large pocket. More pockets of various sizes can be found along the bottom edge. Between the multitude of pockets, there is a printed game-board – suitable if you want to unpack all your kit and play chess or checkers in the trench. The whole kit would be closed up with a large number of fasteners along the edges, and two strings helped keeping it pillow shaped.
In addition to being used for storing a soldier’s or sailor’s razor, the Army and Navy Pillow Kit could be used for a myriad of things. You could keep your helmet in it.3 You could fold it and use as a muffler4 – or a scarf, as I would say. It could be used as a laundry bag.5 And of course, you could play a game of chess or checkers.6
Having spent my fair time in the field, and being forced to use a folded up uniform as my pillow… I can see why the Army and Navy Pillow Kit seems to have gone nowhere. Buttons, zippers, and belt make for a poor pillow – and shaving kit, game pieces, and other odds and ends would not have improved matters one bit.
I’m sure Rebecca meant well though, and I can sort of see a multitasking kitbag like this being appealing. Appealing, that is, to someone unfamiliar with what living in the field actually is like. Personally, I prefer not sleeping on my razor.
You can read the whole patent over on Google Patents, as usual. As a sidenote, Rebecca Harris has, as far as I can tell, one other patent to her name; An oddball pneumatic tire she patented jointly with her (presumed) husband.
- Or perhaps more often, bought by a well meaning and worried relative.
- Things like spare clothes and other soft materials. In other words the Army and Navy Pillow Kit did not come prestuffed.
- If you took out the spare clothes, of course.
- If you first took out all the spare clothes, and didn’t mind having a scarf full of razors, shaving soap, brush, and other toiletries.
- Provided you took out out all the clean clothes, and didn’t mind your pillow smelling of old socks.
- You would have to dump out all the spare clothes first, of course.