Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shaving Mugs

For my husband's birthday, I gave him a shaving mug, a badger-hair shaving brush, and a razor (with stand).  It reminded me of watching my grandpa shave when I was young.

I inherited two shaving mugs from my Grandma Maymie.  The first one pictured belonged to my Grandpa Elmer Martin.  The mug had belonged to his father, John Stephen Martin, and before that to his grandfather, Mathias Martin.  Mathias brought the mug with him when he immigrated to America in 1847.  The bottom of the mug is marked "Germany 288."  Grandpa Elmer used this mug during his lifetime.  I can also remember the razor strop hanging on the end of cabinet.:)

The next shaving mug belonged to her grandpa, Martin Monroe Hatfield.  Not sure if he was the first person to own it or not.  Maymie said that Martin Hatfield brought it with him when he moved west into Oklahoma and Colorado from Kansas.

History of Shaving Mugs

A shaving scuttle and shaving mug were developed around the 19th century with the first patent for a shaving mug dating to 1867.  As hot water was not common in many households, one way to provide hot lather was to use a scuttle or mug. A traditional scuttle resembles a teapot with a wide spout where hot water is poured in, and this is where it differs from a shaving mug, which has no spout. Both shaving scuttles and mugs usually have a handle, but some have none. Shaving mugs often look like a standard mug, however, some also have a built in brush rest, so the brush does not sit in lather. Modern versions of the scuttle are in limited production, usually by independent potters working in small volumes.

At the top of the scuttle or mug is a soap holder. Traditionally, it was used with a hard block of shaving soap (rather than soft soap or cream) and therefore had drain holes at the bottom. Later scuttles and mugs do not include the holes, and thus can be used with creams and soft soaps. Some scuttles and mugs have concentric circles on the bottom, which retain some water thus helping to build lather.

In use, the shaving brush is dunked into the wide spout, allowing it to soak into the water and heat up. The soap is placed in the soap holder. When needed, one can take the brush and brush it against the soap, bringing up a layer of lather; excess water is drained back. This allows conservation of water and soap, whilst retaining enough heat to ensure a long shave.

The modern shaving brush may be traced to France during the 1750s. The French call a shaving brush blaireau or "badger." Quality of these brushes differed greatly, as materials used to fashion the handles varied from the common to the exotic. It was not uncommon for handles to be made of ivory, gold, silver, tortoise shell, crystal, or porcelain. The more expensive brushes used badger hair, with cheaper ones using boar's hair. In the 1800s when the folding-handle straight razor design made it practical for men to shave themselves rather than visit a barber, a shave brush became a status symbol, and an expensive or eccentric brush was a way of asserting one's personality or even affluence. The recent rapid rise in the popularity of "wet shaving" has raised demand for high quality and custom shaving brushes.

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