Gillette is an American brand currently owned by Procter & Gamble. The company specializes in producing safety razors and other personal care products related to shaving supplies. But before this brand grew to be a household name, the company played an important role during the World War. But how did Gillette help the US Army during that time?
Gillette helped the US Army by producing copies of German razor blades for secret agents operating behind German lines. They also innovated the designs of the razors so that it would be easy to hide money, escape maps, and even gadgets like a compass.
How Did the Gillette Company Start?
In 1985, King Gillette, an ambitious traveling salesman, invented the safety razor after not wanting to strop his straight razor. During that time, he was on the precipice of finding a product he could build a business around.
Gillette’s innovative shaving technology changed the market completely. Another safety razor, the Star, was already on the market then. However, it still required stropping before each use and eventually had to be appropriately sharpened, just like the straight razor. Gillette envisioned a low-cost, double-edged blade that could be clamped over a handle, used until dull, and then thrown away.
For the next six years, Gillette worked on his safety razor. He spoke with pessimistic scientists and toolmakers who scoffed at the proposal. Gillette, who was 40 years old at the time, was a successful salesman, inventor, and writer.
In 1901, Gillette teamed up with William Nickerson, a machinist who had studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He designed production processes to make Gillette’s idea a reality, while Gillette founded the American Safety Razor Company to raise the estimated $5,000 needed to begin producing the razor. He was appointed as the company’s president and chairman of a three-person board of directors. In 1903, the first razor was made. (Source: Stuart Lichtman)
How Did Gillette Make Their Mark in the Industry During the First World War and During the 1920s?
Every American serviceman was given a Gillette shaving kit in 1918. The company sold about 3.5 million razors and 32 million blades. As a result, millions of troops became accustomed to shaving using Gillette’s razors. After the war, Gillette applied this in their domestic marketing campaign, using advertising to reinforce the habit they had developed during the war. (Source: Stuart Lichtman)
Gillette’s Innovation During the Second World War
The Great Depression significantly weakened Gillette’s market position. In the 1920s, the company had fallen behind its competitors in blade manufacturing technology. It had allowed quality control to deteriorate while overstretching its production equipment to bring a new Kroman razor and blade to market in 1930.
By 1932, Gillette apologized for reducing blade quality, recalled the Kroman blade, and introduced the Blue Blade as its replacement.
In 1938, Gillette introduced the Thin Blade, which was less expensive and half the weight of the Blue Blade, despite costing nearly as much to produce. Due to the high demand for low-cost products and the scarcity of carbon steel during WWII, the Thin Blade became more popular than the Blue Blade for several years.
The Second World War reduced both domestic and international blade production at Gillette. As a result of the war, many markets were closed.
By the war’s end, servicemen had received 12.5 million razors and 1.5 billion blades. Gillette also assisted the United States. Army in military intelligence by copying German razor blades for secret agents operating behind German lines, ensuring that their identities were not compromised by their shaving equipment. Furthermore, the company manufactured razors with hidden money and escape maps in their handles and double-edged magneti