A 1870 improvement in shaving-mugs.

An interesting thing about old patents – especially really old ones – is that the inventions looks so… obvious today. Like this 1870 patent for an improvement in shaving-mugs. A hundred and fifty three year later is just a shaving mug. Back in 1870 Frank B Clock’s idea was a non-obvious improvement to the state of art. Time marches on, I guess – for better or worse.

The mug was, to quote the patent text, of:

…the kind in which there is combined with its water-receiver a soap-receptacle…

From US patent 107,4050

The whole thing is both clearly described in the text as well as beautifully illustrated in a hand drawn patent drawing.

Patent drawing from US patent 107,450, showing Frank B Clock's improvement in shaving mugs in which the soap could not fall out.
Patent drawing from US patent 107,450

The improvement in shaving-mugs are mostly down to its shape. In particular, if we’re to believe Frank, when compared to an earlier patented shaving-mug which I’ve touched upon before. It comes down to a inclined spout that could hold the brush, and a number of holes or slits to help drain the soap dish. To quote again:

I have combined with the water and Soap receptacles an inclined nose or spout-that is, one which stands at an acute angle or inclined to the axis of the water-receptacle. I have also formed the soap receptacle with one or more holes or slits, to allow Water to flow from the same either into the nose or directly into the water-receptacle, the mug being provided with a handle, as other mugs are. The nose or spout not only enables the liquid contents of the water-receptacle to be easily discharged therefrom at any time without danger of loss of the soap from the Soap-receptacle, but forms a convenient means of supporting a shaving-brush when introduced into it.

From US patent 107,450

I can definitely see the benefit of being able to drain your shaving mug without the soap going down the drain as well. And the benefit of not poring out the soap must have been even higher before proper indoor plumbing was common.

Unlike many of the patents I discuss, there is nothing wrong with Frank’s improvement in shaving-mugs. It wasn’t the right idea at the wrong time. Shavers have not forgotten it – you can buy scuttles today that work the same way as Frank’s idea. The only thing I find slightly odd about Frank’s mug is… that no one came up with it sooner.

If I was in the marked for a new shaving scuttle – which I don’t think I am, but I may be mistaken – I would love to get one based on Frank’s 1870 improvement in shaving-mugs.

You can read the full patent on Google Patents.

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