Friday, September 28, 2012

Getting A Classic Shave

Back in the Victorian era, gentlemen wanted the finest shaving accessories available, the kind that made getting a classic shave both a simple matter, and a comfortable one.

Victorian inventor Dr. George A. Scott of New York City was known for his Electric Corset and Electric Hair Brush, among other items (he also made Electric Cigarettes and Belts). So he was just the fellow to come up with an Electric Safety Razor and Electric Shaving Brush. They weren`t really electrically driven in the modern sense, though; the first electric razor as we know them was patented in 1928 by Jacob Schick. So what was their special shaving magic?

In the small print - always worth reading in an ad - Dr. Scott refers to his razor as a Magnetic Safety Razor, which is something rather different. His Electric Corset was in fact fitted with magnets, too; he seems to have used the words Electric and Magnetic interchangeably. Scott writes "you have in both Razor and Brush the great magnetic principle, the power that knows no non-conductor" and reaches "the root of every blotch or marring spot" - thus leaving your face perfectly smooth and soft. All of which sounds excellent, except that it is still all rather mysterious.

Once you had your Electric Razor and Brush, you were going to need some shaving cream worthy of Dr. Scott's inventiveness. Until the 20th century, bars of shaving soap were used more often than cream, but in 1889 the Yearbook of Pharmacy published a recipe for Inseparable Shaving Cream (guaranteed to stay thick and fluffy) for drugstore owners to make up and sell. It contained Cream of Almonds, glycerine, distilled water and oils of almond, geranium, bergamot, neroli and citronella - which sounds very nice, but highly perfumed.

It was more likely, then, that gentlemen would have used Genuine Yankee Shaving Soap, made by the J.B. Williams Company of Glastonbury, Connecticut. They also made Barber;s Bar Soap, Clipper Shaving Soap, Barber's Favorite Soap, Mug Shaving Soap and my favorite, Tonsorial Soap. In essence, a soap for every shaving occasion. Happily, today's gentlemen can still find a wide range of shaving accessories such as mugs, soaps, creams - and of course razors of all kinds, though perhaps not ones fitted with magnets.


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