Anton Hopfen’s improved shaving brush

Is your brush too soft? To stiff? Ever wanted a brush that could be either? If that is the case, Anton Hopfen’s improved shaving brush is what you need. Patented in 1878, it was not only capable of adjusting the loft and backbone on the fly, but also held the shaving soap.

Interestingly enough, the adjustable loft wasn’t the main point of the invention. To quote the patent text:

The nature of my invention consists in the construction of a handle for shaving-brushes, which form a receptacle for the shaving-soap or other articles, as will be hereinafter more fully set forth.

US patent 206,791

In other words the adjustable brush was more of an afterthought. A bright idea tacked on to a dim idea, seen in hindsight.

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…a plurality of very flat brush elements…

As most traditional wetshavers knows, a shaving brush works best if it’s not too small. This can have some drawbacks, especially if you’re travelling. To quote the inventor Michel Charles Blondin;

Shaving brushes used for putting soap on the skin before shaving should be preferably somewhat large. Consequently they take a long time drying and are difficult to clean; moreover they are comparatively cumbersome and cannot be put away in a small or flat dressing-case for transportation.

Michel Charles Blondin in US patent 1,786,224

The most modern solution seems to be having your travel brush made out of synthetic fibers, or being able to be retracted into a container. My own travel brush, for example, is an Omega 50014 – which neatly fits in it’s own handle. Mr Blondin’s solution was slightly more complex and actually rather interesting. In his own words again:

My improved shaving brush comprises a plurality of very flat brush elements adapted to be assembled to form the brush ready for use.

Michel Charles Blondin in US patent 1,786,224

As the patent drawing hopefully makes clear, the plurality of brush elements pivoted together could either be folded up as a cube-shaped handle with a squarish brush – or it could be flattened out to a long and flat brush that would dry quickly. Other forms the brush could take would be – according to the patent description – a flat elastic strip that could be rolled up, or small flat segments can can be stacked inside a holder. A holder could also optionally be used for the rolled up elastic strip and the hinged variations of the brush.

US patent 1,786,224

The patent drawing shows his new and improved brush in a hinged box with a full set of shaving gear, including soap (item 18 on the drawing). The whole shaving gear would be – he claims – flat enough to be carried in a pocket.

I can actually see the use of a brush like this today as well; it’s a niche market, but it would suit those of us who both like to have a proper shave on the go, and have to deal with living out of a small GoBag for a few days at a time. The only real question is if that niche in the market is large enough for a modern manufacturer of shaving brushes to invest the time, effort, and resources to produce it.

The original patent description and text can be found both at Google Patents and at