One of the earliest Gillette converts?  Is that who we have identified?

You may remember a post I made a while back in relation to a postal card sent from Gillette as part of their replacement blade policy. In it I noted the comment by the insurance agent recipient about his firm being the only one to insurance motor vehicles in the area in 1897.

I subsequently got in touch with his great grandson who still owns that business and he indicated –

“The first auto insurance policy in the world was issued by The Travelers Insurance Company in 1897.    In 1897, our agency was the only agency representing Travelers in the area so, it is true, we insured every car in Geneva that had insurance in 1897”.
Email from Tom Burrall, 25 July 2022

Which got me thinking a little more about Mr Charles S Burrall.

Charles S Burral (1857 – 1930)

OK, so this is NOT going to be a deep dive into the history of Charles Stacey Burrall, BUT …

… I did the maths on him being sent a postal card in August 1905 indicating that 12 used blades had been received by Gillette from him.  On a conservative estimate of one blade a week that would mean he had been using a Gillette razor for at least three months by then.

In other words, Charles Stacey Burrall had purchased a Gillette safety razor before June 1905.

So what?  So that is a BIG DEAL!

The Gillette Double Ring was the first safety razor from Gillette. The razor was manufactured from 1903 – 1906. These sets are still very difficult to come by.

1905 Gillette Double Ring
Example of 1905 Gillette Double Ring

According to enquiries made with the Proctor & Gamble archivist the estimated sales were:

  • 1903: 424
  • 1904: The first 55,000 were not numbered. #1-25424 were marked “Pat Apl’d For, #25,425-45,424 were marked “Pat Nov 5.1904”
  • 1905: #45,425-370,424
  • 1906: #370,425-770,424 (Single Ring was introduced mid-year)

On those numbers it is fair to assume that Mr Burrall owned one to the first couple of hundred thousand Gillette razors!

It would have also been a considerable investment at the time.  There were three different double ring models offered in 1905.

  • Triple-Silver Plated model that came with 12 blades, this razor is the most common. Price: $US5.00 – equivalent to $168.34 in 2022.
  • Heavy Gold-Plated model that came with 12 blades. Price $US10.00 USD – equivalent to $336.68 in 2022.
  • Heavy Gold-Plated model that came with 12 blades, offered the customer’s name printed on the case, and initials or monogram on the handle. Price $US12.00 – equivalent to $404.01 in 2022.

Of course this is all based on an estimate of using one blade a week, so the twelve blades returned would represent only three months use, but …

Gillette Advertisement

Gillette’s advertising of that era suggested that each blade would last more than a week, they claim that every blade will give ‘from ten to thirty velvet shaves’.  This would mean that the 12 included blades would give between 120 and 360 shaves.

In fact, many of there advertisements claimed 400 shaves without stropping or honing.


Obviously at the low end of Gillette’s advertising claims a purchase prior to June 1905 remains a valid estimate – but clearly a conservative one, it would have been more likely to have been May 1905.

Taken the upper end of the estimates, 360 – 400 shaves, and assuming that Mr Burrall shaved daily, that would mean he purchased his Gillette Safety Razor either July or August in 1904.

Let’s look at those production numbers again, the patent was issued on 15 November 1904, so the only possible razors purchased prior to that would have been –

  • 1903: 424
  • 1904: The first 55,000 which were not numbered
  • 1904: Serial numbers 1-25424 which were marked “Pat Apl’d For”

So it may well be possible that Charles Stacey Burrall purchased one of the first 80,000 Gillette razors every produced.

According to Russell Adams (Adams, Russell B – King C. Gillette, the man and his wonderful shaving device. 1978. ISBN 0-316-00937-7) by the end of 1909 Gillette had sold nearly 2 million razors.

Of course, this is all rather speculative and impossible to prove without the actual razor he brought.

However I’d like to think that a man who would have been at the cutting edge to have ‘insured every car in Geneva that had insurance in 1897′ would have been as innovative in other areas of his life – including his choice of razor.

Gillette Postal Card 1905 Front
Gillette Postal Card 1905 Back
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