Stropping and Honing were terms used to describe the process that kept the edge of a blade sharp. This was something King C. Gillette knew very well.
As a young man, King C. Gillette (1855-1932) worked as a traveling salesman. Always interested in inventions, King received a number of patents, none more important than one for a disposable safety razor blade. In the 19th century safety razors were essentially short pieces of a straight razor clamped to a holder. The blade had to be stropped and honed before and after each shave by a cutler.
Gillette's invention was inspired by his mentor at Crown Cork & Seal Company, William Painter, who had invented the Crown cork. Painter encouraged Gillette to come up with something that, like the Crown cork, could be thrown away once used. While Gillette came up with the idea in 1895, developing the concept into a working model and drawings that could be submitted to the Patent Office took six years. Gillette had trouble finding anyone capable of developing a method to manufacture blades from thin sheet steel.
During its first year of operation, the company sold 51 razors and 168 blades, but the second year saw sales rise to 90,884 razors and 123,648 blades. The company was renamed to the Gillette Safety Razor Company in 1904 and it quickly began to expand outside the United States.
In 2005, Procter & Gamble announced plans to acquire Gillette for more than $50 billion, positioning P&G as the world's largest consumer products company.
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