Looking Back


Shaving Requires A Very Sharp Knife!

Here's some background, courtesy of Onoway Museum, about this everyday occurrence.

There is evidence that men have been shaving since the Bronze Age and it is said that Alexander the Great (4th century B.C.) encouraged his men to shave as a defense strategy (the enemy could grab their beards in a hand-to-hand battle). Although shaving has probably long been a rite of passage, it wasn't until after WWI that American men began to shave on a daily basis. It had been a requirement so that their gas masks would fit properly and the U.S. Army provided Gillette razors. (The same rule applies today for firemen they must be clean-shaven so the breathing apparatus fits properly.) By this time, safety razors were available and the traditional straight razor was on the way out.

The straight razor (commonly called cut-throats), often with bone handle that folded in neatly for safe storage, had been around since the 1700s. It required a stone to hone (sharpen the edge) or leather strop (to sharpen and clean the edge). But change was on the way in the mid-1800s when hoe razor (used the same way as your garden hoe) was invented fewer cuts, easier to use. Then came the safety razor which had a type of sleeve that surrounded the blade. Severe cuts would be a thing of the past. Next step was the razor with disposable blades. Single-edge and double-edge razors took over the market but change is constant and when electric razors hit the store shelves (patented by Jacob Schick) in the '30s, that was a winner.

One of the big advantages of the electric razor was that this brought about "dry" shaving. Previously, a good shave required wetting the skin and brushing with a soapy lather or cream.

Today disposable razors, battery operated razors, no shaving brush.

Straight Razor, honing stone
                                      and case
Wet shave necessities
Aristocrat Gillette 1940s
Straight razor, honing stone and case
Wet shave necessities: soap, mug, brush
Henry Struve's Gillette Aristocrat razor
with blade blank (1940s)

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 Last updated: October 13, 2015