History of Razors and Shaving

Men have been slaves to their facial hair – trimming it or getting rid of it entirely – pretty much since they first walked upright. A couple of inventors have made the process easier over the years and their razors and shavers are still widely used today.

Gillette® Razors

Patent No. 775,134 was granted to King C. Gillette for a “safety razor” on November 15, 1904. King Camp Gillette was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin in 1855 and became a traveling salesman to support himself after his family’s home was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871.

This work led him to William Painter, the inventor of the disposable Crown Cork bottle cap. Painter told Gillette that a successful invention was one that was purchased over and over again by satisfied customers, and Gillette took this advice to heart.

After several years of considering and rejecting possible inventions, Gillette suddenly had a brilliant idea while shaving one morning in 1895. An entirely new razor flashed in his mind—one with a safe, inexpensive and disposable blade. American men would no longer have to regularly send their razors out for sharpening. They could toss out their old blades and reapply new ones. Gillette’s invention would fit neatly in the hand, minimizing cuts and nicks.

It was genius, but it took another six years for Gillette’s idea to reach fruition. Technical experts told Gillette that it was impossible to produce steel that was hard enough, thin enough and inexpensive enough for commercial development of the disposable razor blade.

Then MIT graduate William Nickerson agreed to try in 1901. By 1903, Nickerson had succeeded. Production of the Gillette® safety razor and blade began when the Gillette Safety Razor Company began operations in South Boston.

Sales grew steadily. The U.S. government issued Gillette safety razors to the entire armed forces during World War I, and some 3.5 million razors and 32 million blades were put into military hands.

An entire nation was converted to the Gillette® safety razor by the end of the war. Gillette began sponsoring international sporting events in the 1970s, including the Gillette Cricket Cup, the FIFA World Cup and Formula One racing.

Schick® Razors 

Inventive U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Schick first conceived of the electric razor that initially bore his name in 1921. Colonel Schick patented the first such razor in November 1928 after deciding that a dry shave was the way to go. The Magazine Repeating Razor Company was born. Schick subsequently sold his interest in the company to American Chain and Cable who continued to sell the razor until 1945.

AC&C introduced the Schick Injector Razor in 1935 for which Schick held the patent. The Eversharp Company ultimately bought the rights to the razor in 1946. The Magazine Repeating Razor Company became the Schick Safety Razor Company, using the same razor concept to launch a similar product for women in 1947. Teflon-coated stainless steel blades were introduced in 1963 for a smoother shave. All the while, Eversharp slid its own name in on the product, sometimes in conjunction with the Schick logo and finally on its own before going back to Schick in 1965.