Thursday 16 June 2016

Razor Sharp

            We have been extremely busy this week starting the process of setting up our new Steamship exhibit, and so we apologize if our hidden history posts have been a little on the short side, or if we miss a day next week! Our plan is to be open for June 27th, so we are under a bit of a time crunch getting everything prepared and in place. Our post today is about a sharp little object used by many men for many years.

Assembled perhaps sometime during the early 1900s, this straight razor belonged to the grandfather of the artifact’s donor. Writing this as a female individual, it is hard to believe ever having used such a thing, but even harder to imagine someone having used this razor knowing what is available today. Turns out, though, men started using this style of razor in the 1600s and it was still ongoing in the 1900s, so I guess it must have been fairly safe – or maybe it was easy enough to learn the trick to shaving! I can only imagine watching someone attempt to use one of these and the next thing you know a gash appearing right across their cheek!

This straight razor came to us in this stylish, yet still masculine, maroon case with the trademark, “The Clauss Shear Works, Fremont Ohio, USA”, during the 1970s. A company started in the late 1800s by two german brothers, it quickly developed into much more. Starting with only five employees and a handful of products to be manufactured, the company merged with Henkel Company in 1919 to form Henkel-Clauss. The merged company had more than 1,000 employees and the largest payroll in the United States in 1919.

            The blades, like anything else with a metal edge, work best when they are sharp. Apparently, the only way one could cut themselves is if they were moving the blade in the same parallel fashion as the blade itself sits. Even though this may be true, I don’t know if I would trust someone else, or even myself to place that – very sharp – blade near my face!

            Do you have or know anyone that has one of these razor blades? Better yet, do you still use a blade like this?!


  1. I can remember a barber using one of these when putting the finishing touches on my Dad's haircut, around his sideburns and back of neck. They made it look really easy. They also used a 'strop' made of leather that helped keep the blade sharp after passing it across the leather several times.

    1. Thank you for your comment! We love learning things that connect our artifacts to real life happenings!

  2. Barbers still use this type razor.

  3. I had one memorable experience with a straight razor when I was 23 years old. I went to the barbershop for a haircut one Friday evening. I thought I would treat myself and get shaved as well. Unfortunately for m, I happened to have a rookie barber that night. I had seen other barbers cover a man's face with a hot towel before they would apply the lather to shave him. My barber kept applying towels to my face after he started shaving me. It seemed to be taking a verl long time before he finished. I just had enough time to pay him and hurry up town to meet my girlfriend, who was working until 9 o'clock. I was late getting uptown. I explained to her where I had been. She looked at my face and asked me if I had looked in the mirror before I left the barber shop. My face was all cut, especially below my chin. I could not shave for 5 days, until my face had healed. The owner of the barber shop tried to defend the young barber, by saying that I had acne on my face and that is why I was so cut up. I never had acne in my life. That was the last time I was in that barber shop and the last time I have had a straight razor anywhere near my face.