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Antique Shaving Mugs

Updated on February 4, 2017
LiteraryMind profile image

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 | Source

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 | Source

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.

barber-pole-shaving-mug | Source

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.

Views Of Grandpa's Shaving Mug

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Front of grandpa's mugLeft side of grandpa's mugRight side of grandpa's mug
Front of grandpa's mug
Front of grandpa's mug | Source
Left side of grandpa's mug
Left side of grandpa's mug | Source
Right side of grandpa's mug
Right side of grandpa's mug | Source

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.)

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

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    • EmmaGraceEllis LM profile image

      EmmaGraceEllis LM 

      6 years ago

      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 profile image


      6 years ago

      These would make awesome gift ideas!

    • karMALZEKE profile image


      6 years ago

      Great inforrmation.

    • aminebombom profile image


      6 years ago from Doha, Qatar

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

    • norma-holt profile image


      6 years ago

      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,

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      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.

    • TheWritingnag profile image

      Writing Nag 

      6 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

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

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      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!

    • hazeltos profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      6 years ago from Summerfield, Florida

      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 profile image

      Steve Dizmon 

      6 years ago from Nashville, TN

      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 profile image


      7 years ago from US

      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.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • Meyani profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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)

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      7 years ago

      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 profile image


      7 years ago

      This was fun, and I aced your quiz too!

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 

      7 years ago from Rome, Italy

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

    • profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • LucyIsles profile image


      7 years ago

      That's a very interested Lens.

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

      Many thanks.

    • ghebert profile image


      7 years ago

      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!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This brings back great memories.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      7 years ago

      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 profile image


      7 years ago

      These are nice collectibles.

    • LiteraryMind profile imageAUTHOR

      Ellen Gregory 

      7 years ago from Connecticut, USA

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

    • mojoCNYartist profile image


      7 years ago from CNY

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

    • LiteraryMind profile imageAUTHOR

      Ellen Gregory 

      7 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @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 profile image

      Winter52 LM 

      7 years ago

      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. :)

    • profile image

      Deadicated LM 

      7 years ago

      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).

    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas

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

    • LiteraryMind profile imageAUTHOR

      Ellen Gregory 

      7 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @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 profile image


      7 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • Write4U LM profile image

      Write4U LM 

      8 years ago

      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!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i like the collections of antique mugs

    • cathywoodosborn profile image


      8 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

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

      Enjoyed the narrative about your grandfather though!

    • AlphaChic profile image


      8 years ago

      A wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it.

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      8 years ago

      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 profile image


      8 years ago

      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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