If you were looking to purchase a gift for your father a hundred years ago, a foolproof item would be a shaving mug. Every male would have their own personalized mug for use when visiting their barber.

In the late 1800’s barbershops became increasingly popular due to the style of short hair in favor during the World War I era. This short hair was an attempt to limit the amount of germs carried from one soldier to another. In an attempt to provide customers with a clean experience, barbers began to use personal shaving mugs. There was a fungus that erupted in the late 1870s, known as the “barber’s itch” which opened the door for individual shaving mugs in order to stop the spread of the fungus.1 Unfortunately, the mugs did not prevent the fungus because the fungus itself spread from the razor and not the mug.

Shaving mugs gained popularity in the late 1800s, which is known as the “Early Stage.” From the 1890s until about 1915 was known as the “Golden Age.” During this time, shaving mug use was at its peak, and mugs were being widely distributed around the United States.2 The shaving mugs themselves were often imported from Europe, but were decorated in the United States. The porcelain found in the United States was seen as inferior to materials imported from Europe. Barbers would suggest to clients that they order mugs to avoid the “barber’s itch”, and the barber would then place the order to the decorator. Barbers typically had a catalog with different designs their clients could browse through, and then the client could pick their personal design.  The more detailed designs cost more than the simple ones. One famous decorator was Curt Grimm. He had a long career of decorating and claimed the busiest season for mugs was from September through December right before Christmas.3 The process of shaving mugs began with a photograph, chosen by the client. The photograph was then placed on the mugs themselves and was burned right onto the mug. Then a gold frame was placed around the photo in order to enrich the appearance of the mug.
There are five different categories of shaving mugs: gold name, floral, decorative, fraternal, and occupational.   The gold name mugs the simplest and cheapest mug to make.  These were often used in hotels and contained a number that corresponded with a hotel guest.  Occupational mugs showed the owner working in his chosen trade; it was the action itself, not just a symbol of their trade.  The fraternal mug symbolized a family name and would be passed down from generation to generation.  

For immigrants in the United States, shaving mugs were more than just a way to practice safe hygiene.  Often fathers would leave their mugs to their sons, and along with the shaving mug, the sons inherited the responsibility of the family as well.  Barbershops also provided immigrants with a social environment in their native culture and helped them adjust to the American way of life. The decline of shaving mugs began with the invention of the safety razor by King Camp Gillette.  After the invention of the disposable razor, there was a decline in the number of clients who visited the barber for a shave. 

1 Estep, Keith E. The Shaving Mug & Barber Bottle Book, with Value Guide. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub., 1995 (pg 6)

2 Estep, Keith E. The Shaving Mug & Barber Bottle Book, with Value Guide. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub., 1995 (pg 16)

3 Ware, W. Porter. Price List of Occupational and Society Emblems Shaving Mugs. Chicago: Lightner Pub., 1949 (pg 70)

4 Ware, W. Porter. Price List of Occupational and Society Emblems Shaving Mugs. Chicago: Lightner Pub., 1949 (pg 72)

By Carolyn Fitzgerald,
Chudnow Museum Associate

In 1909 Anna Jarvis gave recognition to mothers’ through the creation of Mother’s Day. It was shortly after, in 1910, Sonora Smart Dodd created the first Father’s Day. Dodd wanted a holiday to celebrate the parental duties a Father in a family after the death of her Father who had raised six children on his own after his wife’s death in 1898.

The first Father’s day celebrations were held in Spokane, Washington. At the local YMCA Dodd and her pastor prepared the celebrations on the third Sunday of June in 1910. This holiday was inspired by the work of Anna Jarvis, and had a strong following across the nation. (Watch the video summary of this history below.)

Due to controversy in Congress, official legislation to make it an official holiday was rejected three different times and took decades to become official. On its third submission, President Johnson signs it to official holiday in 1966, and made permanent by President Nixon in 1972. 

The holidays are greatly popular across the country, and across the world to recognize important roles in the family. Contemporary families are incorporating a growing number of stay at home dads, and running the household is becoming more shared than any other time in history. 
Any man can be a father. It takes someone  special to be a dad.
~  Anonymous
Read more at http://www.theholidayspot.com/fathersday/quotes.htm#pRPrb0Y1qrRKFuxY.99

By Dustin Hochmuth,
Museum Intern, UW-Whitewater Communications Major