There was a time when it was arduous and time consuming to shave. It required boiling your own water on a wood burning stove as you couldn't just turn on the tap for warm water. Then you had to maneuver yourself in poor conditions and lighting to do a good job. The alternative, if you could afford it, was to go to the barber shop, read the paper, and have someone do it for you for 10 cents. Doesn't that sound like a deal?
Back in the late 1800's and early 1920's this is what men began to opt to do. During this time, America was changing rapidly and industry was booming and there was a large influx of immigrants coming to our country. Most men owned shaving mugs either for use at home or had their own individual mug reserved for them at the barber shop.
Some of the oldest mugs, known as scuttle mugs, were shaped like a coal scuttle. They had a shallow dish area at the top for soap with a reservoir to hold the water so that the brush could be dipped in water and then rubbed into the soap to form a lather. Companies such as Old Spice and others made mugs for advertising purposes. There were many mugs produced to be decorative with flowers and scenes that are beautiful just for display. Some mugs were designed in the shape of characters of people or animals, others were made for souvenirs to commemorate different places or events.
Many mugs display names on them whose history I find the most amusing of all. During this time men began developing rashes after being shaved at the barber shop. The consensus was that the rash was from sharing soap. In an effort to be more hygienic and to gain repeat business from their customers, barbers decided to offer their clients a mug that they could keep at the shop on a mug rack for each customer with their name on it. Each time men came back they would have their own mug waiting for them. Unfortunately, what they did not realize was the rashes were from sharing the same razors and had nothing to do with the soap. Had they known this, we may not have so many great mugs to collect today.
There were also mugs made to represent the fraternities that men belonged to. Men would have certain benefits to being members such as having your burial paid for or receiving death benefits. Mugs can be seen with the symbols and names of different fraternal organizations. Perhaps the most collectible and sought after mugs are those that represent the occupations that people held in those days. Mugs that portray different occupations like the horse farrier, butcher, doctor, etc. are quite collectible and bring hundreds if not thousands of dollars from the serious collector.
People enjoy the hobby of collecting these antique mugs for their beauty as well as their role in America's history. Can you imagine women back then. They had no choice but to let themselves go and that was I'm sure the least of their worries.
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