Object of the Month

A double edged safety razor that belonged to Joseph P. Kennedy Sr.

The double edged safety razor pictured above was manufactured by the Gillette Company and possibly was in the Beals Street house during the latter portion of the Kennedy family's years there, as the latest patent date engraved on the razor is 1920. The razor also bears the monogram "JK", indicating that it belonged to the head of the household, Joseph Kennedy.


Safety razors were first invented around 1880, but gained widespread popularity in the early twentieth century after a patent was awarded to King Camp Gillette, founder of the Gillette Safety Razor Company, in 1904. Gillette's primary innovation was to produce double edged blades out of stamped steel that were disposable, thereby eliminating the need for the constant sharpening that earlier forms of razor blades required. A contract to provide shaving razors and blades to American servicemen during World War I also provided impetus for Gillette's growing business. Gillette razors sold for a hefty price during the 1910s and 1920s, from a low end of $5 to a high of $75, but nevertheless proved tremendously popular.

Interestingly, the use of double edged safety razors has vastly increased over the past five or so years. Reasons stated for the resurgence of these previously "old-fashioned" devices range from the belief that they are more cost-effective over time, to the thought that they provide a less irritating shave than disposable multi-bladed razor cartridges. Whatever the reasons for the safety razor's return to popularity, it can be said that Joseph Kennedy's 1920s shaving kit would fit right in with today's popular grooming equipment.

 

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