Before the invention of the disposable double-edged safety razor in 1895, a straight razor was the easiest, most comfortable method of shaving. This pewter scuttle shaving mug held hot water, and the bowl at the top contained a cake of shaving soap, which was lathered using hot water and applied to the face with a brush. Shaving cream and the application of hot water to relax the hairs of the beard allowed for a closer shave. High quality steel razors, such as these, needed to be kept sharp and honed with the razor strap. These straight razors were given to Washington, D.C., hotel proprietor Cyrus Martin by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis in the mid-1850s. Davis later became the president of the Confederate States of America.
The Virginia Historical Society has been collecting since 1831. Included in our unique collection are 8-million processed manuscripts, 200,000 books, 290,000 prints and photographs, and 32,000 museum objects documenting the daily lives and times of all Virginians. The object featured here offers one opportunity to look into the past. Millions more treasures await you at our headquarters in Richmond, by appointment at Virginia House, and online at vahistorical.org.