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Antique Shaving Mugs

I love the look and feel of vintage and antique items. My collections contain quite a few beautiful items that I enjoy sharing.

Barbershop, Voluntown, Connecticut

Barbershop, Voluntown, Connecticut

Antique Shaving Mugs -- Many Different Designs and Motifs

I came across my grandfather's antique shaving mug the other day and thought it might be interesting to share some information.

Back in the 1800's and early 1900s men used hard shave soap placed in a shaving mug and applied with a brush. The shave was with a straight razor, no safety razors back then. If they got barber shaves then the mug stayed in the barber shop. Each man's mug had his name on it. Good idea as nothing was sterilized.

The mugs were stored on a rack which was a set of wooden shelves divided into mug size boxes. One is visible in the intro photo -- look to the right above the sink. A lot of these are sold today as antiques as they make a great display shelf for small collectibles.

The mugs came in a wide variety of patterns and designs. Very common were the occupational mugs depicting each man's occupation. There were also mugs from fraternal organizations such as the Masons and Elks.

Alas and alack, my poor maternal grandfather had a frosted glass one with dainty little painted flowers on it. It was part of a bathroom vanity set which included perfume, after shave bottle and a dusting powder holder. Needless to say he shaved at home and did not bring this to the barber shop.

Grandpa's Occupational Shaving Mug - Blacksmith Theme

Grandpa's Occupational Shaving Mug - Blacksmith Theme

Grandpa's Shaving Mug

This is the front of my grandfather's shaving mug. It's an occupational shaving mug for a blacksmith.

Grandpa was a blacksmith, but he did not shoe horses. Some blacksmiths were also farriers (people who shoe horses).

Grandpa would be more the equivalent of a tool and die maker. His brother, Tony, owned a construction company. In those days, when tools needed to be made for a particular purpose you went to the blacksmith. Also, the tools would become broken or dull and need reshaping. Basically, he was a metal worker. He had a forge and a big old pair of bellows to fan the coals.

His name is on top in gold that is fading.



So......why is a barber pole red and white?

Yes, they were originally red and white, not red,white & blue

In years gone by (thank goodness) barbers used to not only cut hair and shave patrons, but they performed dental work and surgery. Also, blood letting and leeching.

The red represented his surgery skill (I'm guessing blood) and the white was for being a barber.

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A little barber shop in the Bronx

The barbershop my grandfather went to for many years, where his shaving mug stayed, was Alfonse's Neill Avenue in the Bronx. At that time, the building it was in, was owned by his brother-in-law, Orlando. Grandpa's brother Joe owned the shoestore next door to the barber. (Where the black and white awning is now.)

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When my sister and I were little, we would go to see Alfonse for our haircuts. He would put the special insert in the big barber chair so we could sit up. Alfonse said he enjoyed cutting our hair, unlike other children we had deep voices and didn't screech and whine.

When my Dad was in his early nineties, I used to still be able to take him there. It was now called Boris Barber Shop. Once inside he would delight in telling the barber and everyone waiting, how he was the first customer ever in that barber shop in 1929. "Why even got his haircut there, before they had put the glass in the windows".

As you look to the left side of the photo, that store was once a cobbler shop. When I was a child my Grandfather's brother Joe operated his shoe repair shop there.

You do not have to be a member of Hubpages to leave a comment. Everyone is welcome.

© 2012 Ellen Gregory

Do you have any barber shop stories to share? - If not, just share your thoughts

EmmaGraceEllis LM on May 27, 2014:

This is such an interesting lens.

Our family has an 'ancient' metal (puter maybe?) mug, I am a little more attached to it now after reading this.

I never knew that they were occupation specific

Thank you for sharing such great information

BodyHairRemoval on May 18, 2014:

These would make awesome gift ideas!

karMALZEKE on February 09, 2014:

Great inforrmation.

Amine from Doha, Qatar on February 07, 2014:

really nice cups, i always use coffee cups almost like the one on the pictues, you drink your coffee with passion

norma-holt on January 22, 2014:

This is a look back into the past. There were lots of shaving mugs in my family's history and this brings back memories. It's amazing how times change. Well done and great subject,

anonymous on January 07, 2014:

Wow! this is all very interesting. I love Costume Jewelry and I love your background. How is that done? I'm totally new on Squidoo and so far just have one lens.

anonymous on November 16, 2013:

I am just reading this and I can't stop smiling. What a beautiful lens and I enjoyed taking the quiz. Fond memories - what would we do without them?

Thanks for sharing.

Patricia Biro from Colorado Springs, Colorado on July 30, 2013:

I love all of your vintage lenses! Thanks for a good read.

JessicaMcConaha on July 09, 2013:

I love learning interesting facts about history (although I'm not much for the boring stuff taught in school! LOL) I never knew why the poles were red & white, that's very interesting. Thanks for adding that awesome tidbit into your lens!

Susan Hazelton from Summerfield, Florida on June 16, 2013:

I had no idea there were so many beautiful shaving mugs out there. They would make a nice décor for an old fashioned bathroom.

Steve Dizmon from Nashville, TN on June 15, 2013:

30 or 40 years ago I used my Dad's old shaving mug and his worn brush for awhile. Didn't last long but it was sort of fun for a short time.

Senditondown from US on April 02, 2013:

I have my share growing up with an older father. Now we know where the red and white comes from on the barber shop pole.

anonymous on March 22, 2013:

Nice shop on Ruby Lane. Sold there a few years back. It is good to see the site is still active.

Meyani on March 21, 2013:

great lens. I took your quize and my score only 50%, need to improve my vocabulary.

anonymous on March 20, 2013:

Great lens

anonymous on March 17, 2013:

This just has such a homey feel to it and what a wonderful look into a little family history from a unique view. Your "Alas and alack" got me smiling and that good feeling held all the way through....I guess your Grandfather liked pretty things to or maybe it was a gift from Grandma and he loved the thought of it and just didn't care if it seemed manly or not.

I have plenty of barber shop stories. My Grandma lived in Cromwell, MN and when we'd visit, there was a continual stream of men coming from far and wide for haircuts and it wasn't unusual to have 3 or 4 waiting. Grandma was often paid 2 bits and would send the guy home with a loaf of bread. The best story is when the town barber brought Grandma to court for taking his business. Grandma told the judge that she would welcome jail time to get some rest because not only did she do haircuts but most of the work around the place. She let the judge know that he would need to arrange for care for her mother as well as Grandpa, who was disabled from a stroke. Grandma went home that day and it was business as usual.

Boroot on March 11, 2013:

I am thinking of getting one on ebay auction. But then again, I would also have to buy a shaving blade etc.

Been there, done that.. don't know if worth the time, just for the feelings sake..? What do you think?

CuriousBoy on March 11, 2013:

I have a few shaving mugs - not enough to claim to be a collector...

But the point, today, is that you cannot find anymore good shaving soap!

(still just a couple of brands kept the original formula)

Rose Jones on March 07, 2013:

These antique shaving mugs are great. My sons would love them! They have started shaving with real razors instead of disposables - they love the soap and all that.

KimGiancaterino on March 05, 2013:

This was fun, and I aced your quiz too!

Deborah Swain from Rome, Italy on March 04, 2013:

I love reading about other people's collectibles! Blessed!

cmadden on February 20, 2013:

The hub used a shaving mug (even a straight razor at one time!), and would have loved one of these.

LucyIsles on February 08, 2013:

That's a very interested Lens.

It also gave me a few thoughts on finding topics for my future Lenses. :-)

Many thanks.

ghebert on February 07, 2013:

I love history and I love your lens! I actually use a shaving mug but it is not as fancy as those you have here! Thanks for the great info!

WeirdStuff on January 06, 2013:

Excellent lens, I even didn't know such thing existed.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 25, 2012:

This brings back great memories.

darciefrench lm on December 10, 2012:

What a fun history lens. I remember my grandpa's shaving mug and shaving cream brush - I believe he used them until he died.

WriterJanis2 on November 22, 2012:

These are nice collectibles.

Ellen Gregory (author) from Connecticut, USA on August 11, 2012:

@mojoCNYartist: The designs on mine are painted on and might very well contain lead paint. I wouldn't try it.

Dan from CNY on August 06, 2012:

I wonder if someone has bought one of these mugs and tried to drink from it.

Ellen Gregory (author) from Connecticut, USA on August 03, 2012:

@Winter52 LM: He probably did have the solid soap. The brush was used to work up a lather on the solid soap. That, and aerosol shaving cream didn't come out until the 1950s.

Winter52 LM on August 03, 2012:

I know that my dad had one of those brushes, but I can't for the life of me remember if he had that solid soap?? Must ask my mom. Thanks for the nudge... one more story to add to my family tree. :)

Deadicated LM on August 03, 2012:

I really enjoyed your Lens, you're very original. I still have my father's cup, soap and brush he once used to shave with (believe it or not, and he'll be gone ten years come May of 2013).

Lori Green from Las Vegas on July 17, 2012:

My husband used the same little corner barber shop most of his life until it closed.

Ellen Gregory (author) from Connecticut, USA on July 10, 2012:

@Cinnamonbite: Yes, it would be a good idea if you looked into it. You would be surprised what type of things are selling and what they are worth.

Cinnamonbite on July 10, 2012:

You know, my husband uses an antique shaving mug. My Grandmother gave it to him years ago and she used to run an antique store for years and years. Anything she ever gave away was an antique and worth quite a bit. Maybe I should research that mug and see how old it is and if it has a story behind it.

pawpaw911 on June 15, 2012:

I love antiques, and these antique shaving mugs are really interesting.

Write4U LM on March 25, 2012:

This is a wonderful story but it never occurred to me to pair my love of antiques with shaving. I use a brush and shaving soap, and hunting for an antique shaving mug would be an excellent supplement to that. I'd get something a little less floral though. SquidLiking this!

anonymous on March 22, 2012:

i like the collections of antique mugs

cathywoodosborn on March 16, 2012:

Very entertaining lens! I don't have a collection of shaving mugs, but I do have one antique shaving mug with the original brush. I bought it at a garage sale.

anonymous on March 15, 2012:

No stories of 'close shaves' to share! :))

Enjoyed the narrative about your grandfather though!

AlphaChic on March 11, 2012:

A wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it.

flycatcherrr on March 11, 2012:

You've suddenly brought back the memory of my own granddad's shaving mug. I remember standing beside the wash sink, looking waaaaay up at him as he worked the shaving brush on a cake of brown soap, lathered his chin, then rinsed the brush off in his stoneware shaving mug... I wonder whatever happened to that mug...

Ahdilarum on March 11, 2012:

Yes.. Shaving purpose going to barber is unbelievable for me.. Because for me it grows very slow, and i shave daily at home itself..

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