Letters to Gillette Blade from the Gillette Boys

Gillette used to – back in the olden days – to have an internal magazine called the Gillette Blade. As far as I can tell, the Gillette Blade was aimed at Gillette’s employees, sales people, and share holders. Today one would have a company website, but this was a wee bit before the modern internet came along.

While this magazine was in circulation, Gillette also handed out more than a few safety razors to American soldiers and sailors called up for the Great War. About three and a half million of them, in fact, which gave the company a solid leg up on what we today would call their user base.

As part of their internal communication, they included a number of letters from these soldiers and sailors – specifically from service members who had worked with or for Gillette before being called up. The magazine calls these soldiers for the “Gillette Boys”. I assume that was meant to sound jolly and cheerful, and not like being stuck in the mud and trenches.

Dear Friends:
Rest assured you all will be busy turning out the goods if what I see in my small sphere is a criterion. Every town large or small that I have been through in Frame has one or several stores with the Gillette holding down the reserve seat in the center of the show window and this is not ” Bull.”
When I pass a store window. I automatically stop when I see that “old plated hook” resting in a case that looks like a million dollars, and see that familiar U. S. Currency labelled carton near. The sets just look at me from these French store windows and “dammit” if they could talk I might have to answer several questions, because hundreds of thousands of Gillettes are going into the trenches—if for no other reason than that a soldier must be clean shaved daily to expect proper results with the gas mask which is the most important part of a soldier’s equipment within quite a few miles of the front.
Being cleaned shaved is so necessary on this account every man considers a razor first when making up his pack prior to a trip in. So you can imagine that looking into a window at a nice display of fresh sets is the most homelike feeling I can dig up in France.
Captain William J. McCarthy
American Expeditionary Force.

The guys typesetting the Gillette Blade sure loved their quotation marks…

Clean-minded men fighting for clean ideals - a Gillette advertisement from the Great War
Clean-minded men fighting for clean ideals – a Gillette advertisement from the Great War

War Committee, Gillette Safety Razor Co.
RECEIVED your welcome package today and wish to thank and congratulate you for the kind work you are doing and will do for the boys in the Service.
To say that it is a pleasure to receive a package would be saying little as packages are really the connecting link between the soldiers and the folks “back home.”
Gratefully yours,
E. Frank Ward
Camp Decent, Ayer, Mass

While short, I enjoyed the last one in particular since it points to a special committee at Gillette. A committee which, while obviously important when it came to the distribution of the khaki kits, virtually no trace can be found of online today. Part of me wants to find the committee minutes… but part of me hopes never to run across them, since I know how much time I might spend reading those.

And if you have time to spare, you can read all the Gillette Blades that were published in 1918 over at the Internet Archives.

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