Gillette Valet Razor History

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Gillette Valet RazorThis past weekend Kathleen purchased a really nice antique razor for me called the Gillette Valet Razor.  The razor looks to be especially suited for steampunk enthusiasts, composed entirely of brass, copper and the added touch of gears.  We didn’t know anything about razors, so when we got home, I jumped at the chance to start learning what I could.

Gillette Valet Razor History

The Gillette name derives from King C Gillette an inventor who started the American Safety Razor Company and then in 1903 changed the name to Gillette Safety Razor Company upon which they started advertising and producing of their first Gillette brand of razors.

King Gillette had a vision to produce disposable razors rather than having to constantly sharpen non disposable straight razors of that era.

In 1904 Gillette received the first patent for the “safety razor”, which allowed them to increase sales dramatically.  The following year Gillette expanded their sales abroad and by 1909 the Gillette name was known throughout Europe and included plants in France, Germany and England.

In 1910 King Gillette sold most of his controlling shares to John Joyce, one of the major Gillette Safety Razor Company shareholders.  By doing so, this basically removed King from playing an active role in operations and decision making.  As part of the deal however, he still held the title of president.

During World War I, sales exploded when the US government purchase large sums of Gillette Safety Razors and Blades.  This was a brilliant move by Gillette, since it enabled them to showcase their blades to a whole generation of men.  After the war of course, more disposable blades were needed for these safety razors, which in turn greatly enhanced sales.

Gillette Valet Razor – Determining Age

Our Gillette Valet had several markings on it, including the Gillette Name, The Model Name (Valet), and a bunch of patent numbers included.  Like any good game of clue, we had several great bits of information to process.

Patent Numbers
1492246
1639335
1770170
2068717

By using the last patent number, 2068717, we are able to tell what the most logical starting point for the razors existence is.  In most cases older patents numbers (lower patent numbers) pertain to parts of the Gillette Valet razor that probably also existed on earlier models.

Below shows the patent numbers with the associated dates and inventors.  Based on this, it is reasonably assumed that our Valet razor was produced around 1937 and might have been used by a service man during World War II.

Patent number: 1492246
Patent Inventor: Henry J. Gaisman
Filing date:
Aug 19, 1921
Issue date:
Apr 29, 1924
Name:
Safety Razor

Patent number:1639335
Patent Inventor:
Henry J. Gaisman
Filing date:
Jun 24, 1924
Issue date:
Aug 16, 1927

Patent number:1770170
Patent Inventor: Henry J. Gaisman
Filing date:
Oct 22, 1927
Issue date:
Jul 8, 1930

Patent Number: 2068717
Patent Inventor: Nicholas Testi
Filing Date: Oct 4, 1935
Issue Date: Jan 26, 1937

Prior to 1930 there was another company that produced the Valet razor called the Auto Strop Safety Razor Company and run by Henry Gaisman.  Henry’s first patent a “safety razor” in 1904.  Henry ran Gillette after King Gillette died in 1932.  An interesting fact Henry Gaisman lived to the ripe old age of 104.  The word “Strop” (pronounced strope) is a thin leather strap that was used to sharpen a razor blade.

If you see razors made by the Auto Strop Safety Razor Company you can be safely assured that those razors were made somewhere between 1904 and 1930-1932.

Gillette Valet Razor

Antique Gillette RazorGillette Valet Razor GearsGillette Valet Razor

Gillette Valet Razor – Determining Value and Worth

While the Gillette Valet Razor is an amazing piece for a man’s grooming tool set, it currently doesn’t sell for much. Prices typically range from $8 – $50. Both Etsy and Ebay are probably your best choice for getting a good deal. You may be able to find one at an estate sale, antique store or flea market, but they will probably be harder to track down.

Gillette Valet Razor – Safety Razor Cleaning and Restoration

Gillette Valet Razor – Safety Razor Restoration Tips

Now that we know what to look for, we may watch out for an earlier version of the Gillette Valet Razor, which will have been made by the Auto Strop Safety Razor Company instead.

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About Author

I share a passion for collecting all things vintage and antique and love to share that passion with others.

2 Comments

  1. I own a razor made by the auto strop razor company probably made around 1912 according to the date stamped on the razor

    • Tom Crandall on

      Hi Jim,

      Funny you should mention that today. I just picked up a similar one at an antique market today. Love those razors.

      Send me a picture and I will post it in the article.

      Cheers

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