What's new

Guide to American Button Company Pocket Edition Sets: Part One - Razors

This is part 1 of 2 in our introduction of the American Button Company pocket razor contracted by The Gillette Safety Razor Co. This thread will specifically focus on the razors themselves and part two (Cases) focuses on the cases. It is a joint project of Len (Oldguy) and myself and is meant to introduce these fine little razors to the members of B&B who may not be familiar with them. Len did most of the grunt work of taking photos, writing the material, and provided much of the information. And I helped with revising/writing some of the information and did the formatting. We hope that you enjoy the fruits of our labor.


BACKGROUND
First a little history. After many years of experimentation and prototype razors and blades, The Gillette Safety Razor Company made their first standard model razors in 1903, the Double Ring 3 piece open comb model. In 1906 the design was changed to an easier to produce model, the Single Ring. Both of these models were very similar, a thin cap for the blade and an open comb design blade guard attached to a hollow handle. It was held together by a threaded tube inserted into the hollow handle and screwed into the razors cap. These were full sized razors and were sold in leather covered wooden cases.

At some point in 1908 Gillette contracted with the American Button Company of Newark, New Jersey to produce a new style of razor. The new razors would consist of new and unusual designs where the razor handle was shaped somewhat like a Grecian column. What evolved were six different case and handle designs. The handles were solid and beautifully sculpted and the cases were smaller and ornate. Here is an example of the ABC pocket razor, the Flower pattern.






THE RAZORS THEMSELVES

As noted above, part 1 of this post will be concerned with only the razor itself.

Designs and Materials
There were five handle designs:
1) Shell with one ring (two variants exist. For more details, see below)
2) Shell with two rings
3) Scroll
4) Flower
5) Empire

Each of the five different designs came in either silver or gold.

Here are 8 different variations of the ABC handles that are in Len’s collection.




They are from L to R
1.The Empire gold
2.The Empire silver
3.The Flower in silver
4.The Scroll in gold
5.The Shell with two rings in gold
6.The Shell with one ring (w/ a uniform diameter for the entire length of the handle) in silver
7.The Shell with two rings in silver
8.The Flower in gold.

Each of the handle designs, which were made in either gold or silver, were mixed and matched to the 6 different cases in each set.

After the initial posting, it was pointed out (Thanks, Aaron622 )that there are actually two different Shell handles with one ring. The photo below captures the differences and an explanation follows.



On the far left, there is a Shell handle with one ring and next to it is another Shell handle with one ring. The one on the left has a uniform diameter for the entire length of the handle whereas the one in the center has a gradual tapering like the Shell with two rings, which is on the far right in the photo. Each of the different handles has a unique design.



Blade Positioning Posts
Another difference in the ABC pocket sets and the more mainstream Gillette sets is the blade positioning posts in the razor caps.




From L to R.
1.The ABC pocket razor. Note the shorter and more rounded post shape.
2. and 3. Two Gillette pocket razors with hollow handles and ball ends. The posts are longer and more bullet shaped.
4. The last is the original Double Ring razor from 1903 to 1906 with the much longer, bullet shaped posts.


Rare Engraved Head
Some of the American Button Company heads were engraved with the Gillette diamond trademark logo.



Variations in Teeth Style
The last oddity is the shape of some of the comb teeth found on the ABC guard. Note the rounded shape of the teeth on the left guard and the squared off shape of the teeth from another ABC razor. Both of these razors were produced in 1909. Of the 12 razors in my (Len) ABC sets, 3 have rounded teeth. Also note the faint letter at the beginning of the serial number. In some sets it is very difficult to determine the letter. It was caused by too infrequent changing of the letter punch in relation to the number usage.




Also note that most ABC razors I (Len) found do not have the Gillette Diamond trademark found on other Gillette pocket razors. I (Len) have a theory as to why this is. An ABC pocket razor was found with a 1907 serial number. This would indicate that the tooling for the new razor series was made in 1907. The Gillette Diamond Trademark was not released until 1908. This means that ABC would have to change their tooling and at least add a secondary operation in the manufacturing process. Note that the Diamond trademark is present in the ABC cases but it is a press-on fabric piece. This will be shown in part two of the thread.

As this thread evolves, additions are very welcome as well as pointing out any errors.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Wow-thanks for this. Do you shave with these using a washer under the blade or something?
 
Last edited:
Great post. This actually addresses a question I had about a razor I was looking at. Thanks to you and Len.
 
Wow-thanks for this. Do you shave with these using a washer under the blade or something?
Hey beav,

These ABC razors are actually great shavers without having to use a shim. I think they are the smoothest of all the Old Types. Everyone should try one.

Len
 
My experience is the same as Len's. The ABC razors are excellent shavers and like other old type razors, they do not require the use of any sort of washer or shim. The weight and balance of the handle combined with the thin and nimble head make for a superb shave.
 
Excellent post.

I think there might be two versions of the shell handle with one ring. On the version you have pictured, the handle width is uniform. On the one that I had, the handle got slight wider toward the bottom like the two ring version.
 
Excellent post.

I think there might be two versions of the shell handle with one ring. On the version you have pictured, the handle width is uniform. On the one that I had, the handle got slight wider toward the bottom like the two ring version.
Good eye, Aaron. I have four of the one ring shell handles. Two are tapered like yours and two are uniform and a little slimmer. I never noticed that before.
Thanks,
Len
 
And another variant emerges! Thanks, Aaron. I have two of the one ring Shell handles and both are tapered like yours.
 
Time for another photo Brian. :thumbup:

Len
Indeed. Can you take the photo and upload it as with the others? Both of mine are the tapered variant, so there wouldn't be anything for me to show. Let me know when you upload the photo and I'll add it into the original post.
 
Indeed. Can you take the photo and upload it as with the others? Both of mine are the tapered variant, so there wouldn't be anything for me to show. Let me know when you upload the photo and I'll add it into the original post.
What I think I'll do is take a new photo adding the tapered handle to the other eight. Then you can edit and exchange the photos and add the number 9 description. I should have it on Friday. I think this will be a living thread as we continue to learn more about these fine sets.

Len
 
Thanks for the info Brian.

I love my Gold Empire.. So much history behind it... When i'm in a nostalgic mood this is the go to razor.!
 
Wow - an excellent article -- I am looking for an ABC (hopefully misidentified on eBay for $5.00 ) - and having this info helps sort out the if it is all correct. I did not realize there are three shell style handles. Knowing how to tell if the top bit is right is cool. Hard to tell if you only have one razor with no comparison, but knowing there is a difference is great.
 
Wow - an excellent article -- I am looking for an ABC (hopefully misidentified on eBay for $5.00 ) - and having this info helps sort out the if it is all correct. I did not realize there are three shell style handles. Knowing how to tell if the top bit is right is cool. Hard to tell if you only have one razor with no comparison, but knowing there is a difference is great.
I'm glad the post is of assistance to you. Neither Len nor myself realized the two variants of the Shell razor with one ring until this thread went up. And using this thread to check sets on eBay should be quite helpful. One went last night for $65-ish dollars and had a New Improved head. Unless someone really wanted the case, they may be disappointed to realize that it isn't a complete set.
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom