Lather foam dispenser

Self lathering or fountain brushes is a dream as old as time. Or at least a dream as old as 1849, and as recent as.. well, at least the eighties. And it still don’t make much sense to me, so I wasn’t expecting anything earth shattering when I spotted Salmon C Harvey’s lather foam dispenser.

Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed when I looked into it more.

I’ve said it before, and I’m likely to repeat it often; most inventions are attempts to solve problems. Sometimes important problems, but more often – it seems – imaginary ones. As for Salmon… well, let us turn to the patent text.

It is an object of this invention to provide a shaving brush construction with a dispensing handle adapted to contain the soap solution and which can be squeezed to effect a discharge of the soap solution to the brush bristles and wherein the reservoir serves as the handle for the brush.
Other objects of the invention are to provide a shaving brush structure with a removable head having bristles and serving as a cap for the reservoir which is of simple construction, inexpensive to manufacture, has a minimum number of parts, light in weight, compact, sanitary and efficient in use.

From US patent 2,729,505

So if the solution was a cheap and efficient self lathering brush, what was the problem? Presumable that self lathering brushes like the somewhat successful Warner was expensive and inefficient, I guess.

Solmon utilized the most modern materials of his day to make his lather foam dispenser cheap and simple. Plastic.

The lather foam dispenser, as shown in the patent drawing
Patent drawing from US patent 2,729,505

In short, the lather foam dispenser was made up of three parts.

A plastic squeezy bottle. It had a tube going down to the bottle, and one or more simple check valves to let air in.

A shaving brush know mounted on and in a cap that fitted the squeezy bottle. It had a hollow centre to let soap solution into the brush.

And a container with a lid to store the whole shebang in. The lid had holes, to let the brush dry.

All in all, pretty simple and straight forward. The check valves were simple plastic domes with cross slits. These would work well enough under the fairly low pressure the soap would be subject to. And they would also be all but impossible to make in any other material than soft plastic or rubber.

To ensure an even spread of the soap solution, Solomon didn’t use a fancy injector plate with multiple precisely located holes. No, he just twisted a bit of wire and rammed it into the tube. The twist in the wire would spread the soap around nicely enough.

The brush for the lather foam dispenser was, according to the text, made from conventional badger, nylon, or cow hair. Which leaves me with two burning questions.

First of; cow hair shaving brush? Where can I get one?

And secondly; what would a brush made from unconventional badger be like?

As for the container and lid… there is little to be said. It’s a round box with a perforated lid.

There is no reason I can see why Solomon’s lather foam dispenser wouldn’t work as intended. The trouble is, I can see no reason to get one. What it offers is an all in on soap and lather making solution, but it’s really no easier nor handier than a small brush and shave stick combo.

Reading between the lines a bit, it seems like Solomon also played with the idea of selling refill bottles. Which would have been a nice little walled garden, and could have been a prime example of the razors and blades business model. Solomon could have sold the brush cheap, and gouged shavers on the refills. Just like Gillette and other multinationals do with their cartridge razors today – and just like GIllette didn’t do with their original razors and blades.

I think the main reason why Solomon’s lather foam dispenser and other self feeding fountain brushes fails is that they are pointless. They may be a little easier or quicker to use than a plain brush and soap – and I’m not entirely convinced of that – but they are also more costly, fiddly, and with more parts that can break or fail. Even one made for being simple, inexpensive, and with a minimum number of parts is inherently way more complicated than soap stick and brush.

You can, once again, read the full patent at Google Patents.

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