A presentation of the Electric Shaver Page
Photo: UPI/Bettman Archive
Jacob Schick was an American who was born in Ottumwa, Iowa. He grew up in the southwestern USA. He showed a knack for management and a genius for invention at an early age. When he was 16, he was in charge of a railway line that ran from Los Corrillos, New Mexico to a coal mine his father had opened.
Schick enlisted in the 14th U.S. Infantry in 1898. He went to the Phillippines a few months later with the 1st Division 8th Army Corps. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and returned to the U.S., but went back to the Phillippines from 1903 to 1905 with the 8th Infantry. He returned to the U.S. at that time because of a severe attack of dysentery, and spent a year recovering. During this time, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant.
Schick's doctor suggested a transfer to colder climates for health purposes, so he went to Fort Gibbon in Alaska to join the 22nd Infantry. His health improved and he was instrumental in laying out military telegraph lines stretching over 1000 miles in the frozen Alaskan interior. He also invented during this time the General Jacobs Boat, which was particularly useful in shallow water.
Schick retired in 1910 after deciding to do some gold exploration in both Alaska and British Columbia. On one of these trips, he sprained his ankle and had to remain close to camp while he recuperated. He killed a moose for food to eat during his forced imprisonment. In the -40° Fahrenheit weather, Schick found it quite difficult and unpleasant to shave and with time on his hands he resolved to come up with an improved method. He drew up crude plans which would feature a shaver with a shaving head driven by a flexible cable and powered by an external motor. The plans were sent off to manufacturers and promptly rejected. Schick put these plans on hold for a time and when World War I broke out, Schick returned to active duty as a Captain. Schick was placed in charge of the U.S. Embassy in London, in charge of troop transport in England. He was promoted to Major, but his health problems came back. After recuperating, he was placed in charge of the Division of Intelligence and Criminal Investigation. In this function, Schick was promoted to Lt. Colonel.
Col. Schick's earliest prototype of an electric shaver. It utilized a flexible drive shaft separate from the reciprocating head. No wonder it was rejected by manufacturers! Schick made several models which he gave to friends.
Schick left the army in 1919 and again devoted himself to his dream project of perfecting a dry shaver. In the interim, however, he needed capital, and to get this capital he ventured into the shaving business in another matter. Inspired by weaponry he saw in the service, and wondering why people would risk cutting themselves on new blades, Schick put his inventiveness to work to develop the Magazine Repeating Razor, and in 1925 he started a company of the same name. This company sought "to use the principles of repeating firearms in a safety razor not much larger than a good-sized fountain pen" which could readily be carried in the shirt pocket. It was the forerunner of the injector razor. The blades were sold in clips which were easily loaded into the razor without touching the blade.
The Magazine Repeating Razor was placed on the market in 1926. Although this product was doing well in the marketplace, Schick was devoted to his dry shaver concept. In 1927, his electric was perfected to the point of being a marketable product. He was so sure of its success that he sold the assets of his razor company to the American Chain & Cable Company in 1928 for capitalisation. In 1929, the dry shaver went on the market, and in 1930 the firm was incorporated as Schick Dry Shaver, Inc.
Thus, the razor company and the electric shaver company became two separate corporate entities. The razor company is today owned by Energizer Holdings, Inc. Schick razors are on the Internet at http://www.schick.com Be sure to check out the shaving history section in the official Schick razor web site.
In 1931, Schick introduced this model which is the first successful electric shaver to go on the market. I'm sure most electric shaver users prefer this one-handed model, compared to the above two-handed prototype.
Schick's electric dry shaver was not enjoying the overwhelming public acceptance, envisioned by the inventor, in 1929. The early electric consisted of a small electric motor connected to a flexible shaft arrangement which terminated in a shaving head. Even so, he was able to open a factory in Stamford, Connecticut which employed 100 people. Times were lean for the Schick family, however. Mrs. Schick at one point mortgaged their home for $10,000 U.S. in order to allow the business to survive. This business grew steadily as improved models were introduced. In 1935, Schick went to live in Canada for health purposes, and in 1937, he died of complications from a kidney operation. He was survived by his wife Florence and two daughters, Virginia and Barbara. He was buried in Canada at Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, Quebec.
In 1940, Schick Dry Shaver was incorporated in Delaware as Rainbow, Inc. In 1946, the name was changed to Schick, Inc. The manufacturing plant closed in 1979, and the manufacturing and trademark rights were taken over by Philips DAP and its Norelco operations in the USA in 1981. Norelco is located, where Schick operated his electric shaver factory, in Stamford, Connecticut.
Thanks to Phillip L. Krumholz. The above biography of Col. Schick was from Mr. Krumholz's book "A History Of Shaving and Razors" ©1987
The photographs, unless otherwise indicated, are from the book "The Housewares Story" by Earl Lifshey. ©1973 by the National Housewares Manufacturers Association (USA).
Phillip Krumholz' Shaving and Barberiana web site is found at http://www.heart.net/~krumholz