19th century shaving mug hand painted by J.R. Volden of Cleveland (photo courtesy of Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers)
Ohio Life

Ohio Finds: 19th-Century Shaving Mug

The shaving mug is a remnant of a bygone era. This one had sports a hand-painted design of a steam locomotive done by J.R. Voldan of Cleveland.

Shaving in America took a unique turn after the Civil War with the use of personalized shaving mugs — a concept no other country adopted. When beards went out of style in the 1860s, shaving was done with a straight razor and often by barbers. To maintain sanitary conditions, shaving mugs for regular customers were kept in the barbershop. The personalization of those mugs made it easy to match each mug with its owner.

The decorations ranged from simple to highly detailed, including the use of hand-painted occupational scenes, fraternal emblems or depictions of hobbies. This shaving mug had a hand-painted design of a steam locomotive pulling a tender lettered “B. of L.F.” (Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen) over the name R.D. Smith. The original owner of this shaving mug was likely a fireman on a steam locomotive.

Although the decorators of such mugs usually remained anonymous, this example from the late 19th century has an ink stamp noting J.R. Voldan of Cleveland painted it.

In 1903, the introduction of the safety razor and disposable blades led to the decline of barbershop shaves.

Sold at Auction: $88

Richard Jeffers is the owners of Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers in Columbus. garths.com