The First Use of the Term “Safety-Razor”


For years the wisdom among collectors was that the term “Safety-Razor” was first used by the Kampfe Brothers in their 15th June 1880 patent.

I then stumbled upon the definition of “safety razor” by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. They claim the first known use of “safety razor” to be from 1842, but without giving any source for that claim.

This got me interested and I found (among others) the following interesting uses of the term “Safety-Razor”, all predating the 1880 Kampfe patent.

In reverse order…

1878, February 4th - The Age - Melbourne, Australia

This article from “The Age” is not the first example I found, but interesing in that it refers to Monks' Shaving Apparatus as a safety-razor (and it's from Australia).
Monks' razor clearly was what we would call a “Safety-Razor” today. The Kampfe Brothers definitely did not “invent” the name safety-razor for a razor with a guard. They might have been the first ones to use it in a patent document, but even that is doubtful.

1878, January 18st - Sheffield And Rotherham Independant, England

This article refers to a pre-1880 British patent by “H. Brandner” for a safety razor. I have not yet been able to find a copy of this patent, but the term “Safety Razor” was used in the context of a patent before 1880.

In August of the same year the paper publishes an article stating that the patent specification has been published as patent 135 of 1878.

1877, Knight's American Mechanical Dictionary

In 1877, the term was already so well known that it appeared in “Knight's American Mechanical Dictionary, Volume III” on page 2018.

1842, December 31st - Sheffield And Rotherham Independant, England

This is the article Merriam-Webster refer to by year only. The Oxford English Dictionary does so explicitly (account required).
Early. But not early enough.

The patent number is confusing. According to the British Library web site there was no numbering system for English patents before 1852. Patents before 1852 do have numbers, but they were assigned those numbers retrospectively.
US patent 2891 is actually from December 1842 as well, but it is for a door knob.

1833, January 13th - Observer, London, England

The earliest mention of the term “Safety-Razor” I could find for a while is from The Observer in January 1833.

I was then able to improve this date by one more week:

1833, January 5th - The Spectator, London, England

Mechi — of No. 4, Leadenhall Street (Four Doors from Cornhill) — also advertised in The Spectator for the week ending Saturday, January 5, 1833 (page 22) — a week earlier than the previous find.

That's the earliest use of “Safety-Razor” I could find so far. If you can do better, please let me know.