Jacob Schick's invention of an electric dry shaver at the end of the 1920s was not the only line along which the development of electric shaving took place. The other one was the electrification of safety razors. Below you will find a chronological overview of safety razors with a kind of drive, some electric, some driven by a clockwork and some by moving the razor over the skin, from the first patents in 1898 until Braun's BodycruZer in 2008.
Early patents (1898) | Lek-Tro-Shav (1913) | Collins Safety Razor (1915) | Lee Razor (1921) | King Oscillator (1920s/1950s) | Vibro-Shave (1925) | Electroshave (1930) | Cameron Electromaton Co. (1930) | Razors with light (1916 and later) | Rasoir Électrique Klaro (1931) | Siemens Rasier Maschine (1932) | Elrasor (Steidinger Bros.) (193?) | Tark Electric Razor Co. (1932) | Telerazor (1934) | Redox Rolling Razor (1935) | Racine Universal Motor Co. (1940s/1950s) | Ericsson, Miracle and other USA brands | Stahly Live Blade razor (1946) | Electro-Shav (1937) | Gravin Heat Shaver (1945) | Lektron, Coronet (1940s/1950s) | Gillette Orbitor 4000 (1968) | Firem / Micro-Electric (1969) | Tiffin Action Shave (1972) | Vibrating battery razors (1980s) | Dynablade (1997) | Gillette M3/Fusion, Venus Vibrance (2004) | Schick - Wilkinson Sword (2007) | Emjoi Rotoshave (2008) | Braun bodycruZer (2008) | Sources & links
In 1898 the first electric razor patent was granted to a John F. O'Rourke of New York (USA). Another early electric razor was invented by Isaac N. Brigham of Melrose Park (IL USA) for the Electro Automatic Safety Razor Company (1907). This company's factory was located at 510 West Chapman Avenue, Orange (CA USA). The buildings have been demolished May 1989. In the early years of the last century there have been more electrically or mechanically (e.g. spring-powered) driven safety razors, but there is no proof that these shaving devices have been a commercial success.
For this Lek-Tro-Shav safety razor patents were granted in 1913 and 1917, which makes the Lek-Tro-Shav one of the first electric razors. The single edge razor uses 110 Volt power from a lightbulb socket and has a vibrating system in the handle. The razor was manufactured by Vibrating Electric Razor Co. of Omaha (Nebraska, USA). This is another version of the Lek-Tro-Shav. In 1919 and 1920 the company advertised in Popular Science magazine with these ads.
Cap Bertrand Collins was the inventor of the Collins Rotary Safety Razor, fitted with a round razor blade slowly turned by a spring loaded mechanism in the rather large handle. The first Collins patent is dated February 9, 1915; later more patents were granted for improvements. The razors were manufactured in the Collins factories located at West Lake Street, Chicago (IL, USA). Some sources state that later on the company had another address: Collins Safety Razors at Franklin (PA, USA). Collins also produced a fixed blade version of the shaver, not much more than a round safety razor.
Another curious invention from the 1920s was the Lee Midget razor. On this razor the blade gained a vibrating effect when the rollers next to it are driven by contact with the skin. The rotation of the roller was mechanically changed into a reciprocating motion of the razor blade. The Lee razor was based on several patents of George Browning and Leander H. LaChance, from 1920 and later (see E|S|M's patents library). As this announcement in Popular Mechanics of January 1922 shows, the razor was introduced probably in the last months of 1921. Lee razors were manufactured by Lee Razor Manufacturing Co. of Chicago (IL, USA)
This King Oscillator has the same way of driving the blade as the Lee razor: the blade gained a vibrating effect when the rollers on top of it are driven by contact with the skin. The rotation of the roller was mechanically changed into a reciprocating motion of the razor blade. The razor was based on patents granted to John L. King in the 1920s. The razor was introduced in the 1920s. In the 1950s the razor was still sold, and supplied with a beautiful wood and metal packaging. The King Oscillator was a double edge safety razor. There has also been a Rotary King, a single edge safety razor. The razors were manufactured by the Rotary King Safety Razor Company (New York, NY USA) and later on by the King Oscillator Razor Co., in Minneapolis (MN USA), which company had a sales office in New York.
The Vibro-Shave electric razor was manufactured by the Electric (Safety) Razor Corp., which was located in Long Island City (NY, USA), and (initially) sold by the Razor Products Corporation at New York, and later by the Electric Razor Sales Company of America, with offices at Chicago, New York City and Montreal. The Vibro-Shave was a double edge safety razor with a small AC-only machine in the handle, which made the apparatus vibrate. In 1925 a patent for this "vibratory razor" was granted to Saul Shaler of New York, and assigned to the Electric Safety Razor Corp. The patent describes a solenoid magnet and a spring return to provide the vibratory movement. Usually the razor took alternating current, in the early days from a light bulb socket. For direct current an interrupter device could be used, as this patent drawing shows. The Vibro-Shave razors have been sold in the second half of the 1920s and later. Unlike the Lek-tro-shav and the Collins, there are still many Vibro-Shaves on the second-hand market, which means that this must have been one of the first successful electric safety razors. Several versions of this shaver have been produced. There was a Model A (chromium plated, without on/off-switch, $5.-) and a Model B (gold plated, with on/off-switch, $7.50). Vibro-Shave also marketed a beauty-set.
This ElectroShave branded electric safety razor resembles the Lek-tro-shav mentioned above. For this razor a patent was granted to Robert F. and Peter Elzinga of Holland (MI USA) in 1930 (see patentno on the head). It was manufactured by the Safety Razor Company of Grand Rapids (MI USA). This razor looks like another version of the ElectroShave. Do not confuse the ElectroShave brand with the Electro-Shav razors (see below).
On August 1, 1915 William John (Will) Cameron (1879-1953) opened his American Surgical Specialty Company (from 1922 called Cameron's Surgical Specialty Company) for business at 6 East Lake Street, in Chicago. The company's main product were surgical lamps. The 1929 stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression had a bad effect upon Cameron's Surgical. The company did not shut down thanks to some innovative products, like the "heartometer", the cauterodyne (a bloodless surgical knife) and a flexible gastroscope. The company also found new products, like an illuminated safety razor. For the razors an affiliated business was opened at 666 W. Division Street in Chicago. The trademark Electromaton was first used May 20, 1929 and published in December of the same year. The first product was an illuminated men's razor, which Cameron patented in Europe (see German patent 584345. Later Cameron manufactured two types of electric safety razors, the Electromaton and the Electromatonette, which was a razor with a beautyset and a toothbrush.
Cameron was not the first to patent a razor with lighting. Frederick N. Davidson of London (England) (US patent 1168288, filed 1913) and Katherine E. Allport (US patent 1180686, filed 1913) were granted patents in 1916. See "razors with light or heating" in E|S|M's patents library. Here are two examples of safety razors with a light in the handle: an unbranded razor and this Tedco Lite razor, made by the Tedco Lite Company of Pittsburg (PA, USA) in the 1940s. More razors with a light can be found in the Lorenzi collection in Collectors Encyclopedia. Go to the safety razors section and search by entering the word "lighted" in the "type"-field.
Also in Europe electric safety razors were manufactured. An early example of the promising electric shaver industry in France, before World War II, is this Klaro razor, manufactured in Marseille in the South of France, and probably based on an invention by Ferdinand O'Conill of the same city. The razorblade is driven by a flexible shaft from an external motor, like the electric animal clippers and clippers in modern barbershops in the 1920s. The razor is seldom found on the second-hand market, so probably it has not been a commercial success. This advertisement was published on March 7, 1931.
Unlike the Klaro, this Siemens SiRaMa (Siemens-Rasier-Maschine) has been a rather popular electric safety razor on the continent of Europe. In 1932 Siemens announced in "Siemens Mitteilungen", the company's house organ, that the company marketed a new shaver. Unlike many other brands in the 1930s the SiRaMa has a real moving blade, so not the complete razor is vibrating, but only the blade. A triangular spindle, driven by a very small real motor, pushed the razorblade slightly to and fro. The razor took power from a 4.5 Volt battery (in a separate box) to prevent electric shocks from the mains. With the razor Siemens also marketed a blade sharpener. The razor was based on a patent of Georg Biniek of Berlin (DE) and has been manufactured until about 1938. This advertisement is from the mid 1930s.
Another German electric safety razor: the Elrasor. This razor was marketed (and probably at least as far as the motor is concerned also manufactured) by the company Gebrüder Steidinger (Steidinger Bros.) at St. Georgen in the Black Forest in southwest Germany. The company was founded in 1900 by Christian Steidinger to produce parts for wind-up mechanisms and clockworks. Later the company specialized in (small) electric motors. Steidinger Bros. became famous in the 1950s and 1960s for its turntables with the brandname Dual. The company also sold electric dryshavers (see E|S|M's Dual exhibition). The advertisement shown is from the 1930s. The picture shows that Steidinger Bros. sold a Pandora razorblade sharpener with it.
Like the Vibro-Shave Electric Razor, the Tark razor has been invented by Saul Shaler (application filed 1932, patent granted 1935). Also like the Vibro-Shave the Tark razor was produced in Long Island City (NY USA). Tark has been selling razors from 1932 until about 1940, when Tark Sales Co. (New York, NY, USA) was dissolved. Tark's production corporation (Tark Electric Razor Co.) seems to have been dissolved already in 1938. There have been several versions of Tark's single edge electric safety razor, including the "Aristocrat" model. In 1934 Tark advertised in Popular Mechanics magazine with these ads.
The Telerazor was a product of Norma Technical Products Ltd. of London (UK). Since the trademark was first used in 1934 (filed October 12, 1935), the razor has probably been introduced in 1934. The Telerazor is a double edge safety razor with a very small vibrating motor in the handle. The razor may be based on patents by Rudolf Goldschmidt, a German who lived in London. One of his patents for a vibratory motor was assigned to Norma Technical Products (German patent 682178, which has a British equivalent in patent 450687, not assigned to Norma).
The razor uses a Telerazor branded battery, a slighly shorter version of an AA-battery. The AA battery size was standardized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 1947, but versions of it had been used in miniature flashlights and electrical novelties for quite some time before formal standardization. This advertisement of 1935 shows the Telerazor and the Telerazor battery: a refill battery lasted two months according to the advertisement. There has been a metal version and an ivory and metal version of the Telerazor.
This Redox Rolling Razor very much resembles the King Oscillator (see King) and it has the same way of driving the blade. The Redox was based on several British patents granted in the second half of the 1930s to Charles Dixon and Harold J.W. Raphael of London (UK). The razor was introduced in 1935 and several versions of this razor have been produced in Great Britain and sold by Modern Traders Ltd. (Oxford Circus Ave. and Oxford Str., London, UK) in the 1930s. This advertisement shows that in 1935 Redox had four different versions: Popular (nickle plated), Traveller (heavily nickle plated), De Luxe (silver plated) and Superb (gold plated). This is an advertisement of 1938.
Racine (a town in Wisconsin USA) is famous for its lighthouses, but even more for its important role in the development of small electric motors. Several manufacturers of electrical products were established in Racine. The Racine Senior DeLuxe and the DeLuxe Esquire were manufactured by Racine Universal Motor Co. in the 1940s. This company's policy was to produce the motors for various products, and have specialised manufacturers produce other parts, like in this case the Gillette Company the shaving head. Racine Universal Motor Co. already existed in the 1920s and also produced hairclippers (brand Race and others), hairdryers etc. The company sold its OEM-products to various wholesalers, like the Vibo-razor of W.L. Henne (Erie, PA USA).
A great variety of motors with a razor attached to it has been produced. For example this razor with Ericsson brand on the double edge safety razorpart. Ericsson Safety Razor Co. operated in Brooklyn (NY USA) as a manufacturer of safety razors. The motorpart may have been produced by another company.
The same goes for the Miracle Electric Razor, marketed by Miracle Products Co. of Chicago (IL USA) in the 1930s and for this unbranded razor.
This razor had a small but significant success in the USA that started with an eye-catching advertising-campaign with subjects on hunting and fishing. This advertisement, with artwork by James M. Sessions, was published in 1946. Several Stahly razor models were marketed from 1946 until the 1960s. The razors were driven by a spring-powered mechanism that produced "about 3,000 vibrations-per-minute of positive shaving action". Initially Stahly Inc. was located at South Bend, Indiana, USA. Later Stahly became part of another company and moved to Milwaukee (WI, USA). Stahly's razors were based on patents by Russell P. Harshberger of Chicago. There have been four or five versions of the Stahly razor, like for example this gold plated and black model (1945). You may find more information in E|S|M's special Stahly exhibition.
The Electro-Shav safety razor has been manufactured by Rochelle Specialties Co. at Rochelle (IL, USA) from 1937 until the end of the 1940's. Occasionally these razors turn up at eBay, so it may not have been a giant success. It is a normal dual edge safety razor, to use on an electrical outlet of 110-120 Volts A.C. "When this is not available, simply use as any non-electric safety razor", says the manual, which was quoted in Popular Science of January 1937.
The Gravin Heat Shaver surely is something special among the electrical safety razors. The razor has no moving parts at all, but the special thing about it is that the double edge blade is heated by electricity like a soldering iron. Probably it has not been easy to use this shaver because there was no temperaturecontrol of the blade: one had to simply unplug the razor when it became too hot. The Gravin Corporation was located at Rochester (NY USA) and the Gravin Heat Shaver was based on a patent granted to Mozes M. Gravin of the same city in 1943.
The Lektron Corporation of New York (NY USA) sold the Lektron and Coronet electric wet shavers in the second half of the 1940s or in the 1950s. At first the razor was called Lektron, but, probably because of a trademark infringement, the shavers were renamed to Coronet, as this instruction leaflet shows. There have been several versions of the shaver, like this cream and red one, or this grey version.
In 1965 the Gillette company introduced the Techmatic Band razor: inside a cartridge there was a coiled strip razor blade. The user could advance the blade strip to the next part with a crank lever when the part used became blunt. The Techmatic razor was not a great success. Nevertheless Gillette did not hesitate to introduce a vibrating electric version of the razor: the Orbitor 4000 (introduction 1968, patent granted in 1971). Only few Orbitors have been sold. In 1971 Gillette developed another vibrating battery-operated razor (patents granted in 1972 and 1973), but because of poor performance in a test market this razor was never introduced.
An electric wet shaver which has been sold for quite some time is this Firem razor, introduced in 1969. The Firem razors have been on the market in the 1970s and 1980s. This model was marketed by Firem Elektrorasiergeräte GmbH of Germany, but Firem is an Italian company: Fabbrica Italiana Rasoi Elettrici Milano, based in Milano. This Firem was manufactured in Italy. In the USA the same razor was sold by Alexander Sales Corp. of Mount Vernon (NY, USA) as Micro-Electric Safety Razor or Micro-Electric Shaver, as these advertisements show.
The Tiffin Action Shave razor is a battery powered double edge safety razor. A patent for this razor was granted to Victor Tiffin in 1972. The wooden box supplied with the razor made the set quite a curiosity. "The Tiffin Razor was designed for people like you who want the finer things in life", says the manual. The Tiffin Action Shave Razor Co. was located at Elgin (IL USA).
In the 1980s and 1990s there was a small revival of vibrating electric safety razors when Chinese factories started production of rather simple plastic vibrating battery razors, for example for Remington with this Lektro Blade shaver and for other wholesalers, like this non-brand Shaver.
In 1997 the company The Sharper Image (internetstore and shops in the USA) introduced the Dynablade 4000 and later the Dynablade M3 razor. The razors used a very small battery powered motor with an oscillating blade: Gillette's Sensor or Mach3 respectively. This rubbed Gillette the wrong way. Gillette sued for multiple patent infringement and the Dynablade was soon taken off the market. Sharper Image later sold the Dynablade TurboGrip which is still battery powered, but now holds the entire handle of many different blades.
Whether or not inspired by the Dynablade, spring 2004 the Gillette company gave the electric safetyrazor conception another try. It introduced the M3Power as the newest member of the successful Mach3 family. In September 2004 the razor has been introduced in Europe. Inside the handle is a very small vibrating motor, which uses power from one AAA-battery. According to Gillette the "motor sends micro-pulses to the blades. Micro-pulses raise hair up and away from the skin so you can shave closer and more thoroughly in one easy power stroke". Both Mach3Turbo blades and the new "PowerGlide" blades fit the razor, but the PowerGlide blades are manufactured with a new, patented coating process which, again according to Gillette, produces "Gillette's smoothest blade surface ever for incredible glide and comfort".
Later innovations include M3Power Nitro (2005), Fusion Power (2006) and Fusion Power Stealth (2007 in Europe). In the USA the Fusion Power Stealth is called Fusion Power Phantom. Gillette also brought an exclusive version of this razor, the Fusion Chrome Collection Power Razor, for sale at the The Art of Shaving shops in the USA. Spring 2008 the Fusion Power Phantom has been replaced by the Fusion Power Phenom (in the USA, in Europe Fall 2008). The Fusion razors have five blades plus a precision trimmerblade on the back of the shaving head. In 2009 and 2010 two limited editions of Fusion Power have been introduced (color variants only): Fusion Power MVP and Fusion Power Gamer.
In 2010 the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power was introduced. ProGlide has re-engineered blades with edges that are thinner than earlier Fusion versions. They are finished with Gillette’s most advanced low-resistance coating. ProGlide Power has a guiding comb under the first (of five) blades. There is also a Art of Shaving version of Gillette's Fusion ProGlide Power.
In 2005 Venus Vibrance for ladies was introduced. In 2011 this razor is available in some countries outside the USA only.
In reaction to Gillette's success with the M3 Power, the Schick - Wilkinson Sword company (nowadays part of Energizer Holdings, Inc. of St. Louis, MO USA) introduced the Quattro Power and the Quattro Titanium Energy. In 2008 Schick/Wilkinson Sword introduced a real innovation with its Quattro Titanium Precision, which is in fact a wetshaving system and a precision trimmer in one device, one of the first real hybride shaving systems. In 2009 this razor has been introduced as women's razor with the name Quattro Bikini.
Emjoi is a brand of Soft Lines International Ltd., a Hong Kong based company manufacturing shavers and epilators in the province of Guangdong, China. Emjoi's administrative headquarters are in New York (NY, USA). Emjoi has a strong market presence in Japan and Australia and is featured in leading department stores, such as Macy's, throughout the USA. Emjoi's products are sold in the USA by Emjoi Inc. and in Australia and New Zealand by Sunbeam Corp. of Australia. Emjoi also manufactures products for over 60 private label customers, well known brands such as Babyliss, Grundig, Remington, Arcelik, Arzum, Valera, Glen Dimplex, Medisana, OBH Nordica, Team, Tescom and Carrera among them. The company was established in 1988. In 2008 Emjoi introduced the Emjoi Rotoshave. Nine rotating blades touch the skin at 30 revolutions per second. Patented safety guards act as a barrier between the blade and the skin to avoid nicks or cuts. The razor also has patented spiral windings to avoid irritation. The shaver is cordless and includes an electric wet shave feature. Emjoi markets other electric wet shavers, most of them with vibrating shaving systems, like the Emjoi RolleShave Classic and this Emjoi Power 9 Ladies Razor.
Summer 2008 Braun introduced a hybride razor: the bodycruZer. In 2008 two versions have been introduced: bodycruZer B30 and bodycruZer B50. B50 has an extra trimming attachment, a soft pouch and another color, but in other respect it is the same shaver. In 2009 two more versions have been introduced: bodycruZer B55 (titanium) and bodycruZer B35 (white), and in 2010 a limited edition of B55 (black) was introduced. The bodycruZer is marketed as a bodyshaver. The B50 and B30 are trimmers with a Gillette M3Power (triple blade) connected to it. B35 and B55 have a Gillette Fusion razor (fivefold blade) attached. Braun is related to Gillette since 1967 when Gillette bought the company to enter the dry shaving market. Since 2005 Gillette and Braun are part of Procter & Gamble, one of the world's largest manufacturers of consumer goods. See E|S|M's Braun page for other Braun shavers.
Selected literature:
• Kurt Moe, Phillip Krumholz a.o., The Razor Anthology, Knife World Publications, Knoxville (TE USA) 1995
• Phillip L. Krumholz, A history of shaving and razors, published by the author, Bartonville (IL USA) 1987
• Phillip L. Krumholz, The complete Gillette collector's handbook, published by the author, Bartonville (IL USA) 1992
• Franco Lorenzi, Rasoi e lame, barbe e baffi, Silvana Editoriale, Milano (IT) 2003
• Amy van Hoosier (ed.), Safety Razors, a price guide, L-W Book Sales, Gas City (IN USA) 1995
• Helmut Beermann, Solingen, ein Streifzug durch fünf Jahrhunderte Messer und Klingen, Eigenverlag Martor, Solingen (DE) 1993
• See the library for more.
Collectors Encyclopedia
Shaving and Barberiana on-line catalog
Knife World Publications
Gillette's website
The Art of Shaving
Schick - Wilkinson Sword
Emjoi's USA webstore
Braun's bodycruZer pages
Current shaver programs:
• Visit websites of the companies mentioned or your local dealer for more information and for exact specifications. E|S|M cannot guarantee the correctness of the data and specifications on this page!
• Illustrations are from Collectors Encyclopedia or by E|S|M, except:
• Lek-tro-shav (Omaha Fine Art Shop)
• Collins razor (Joe and Betty Dial)
• Elektro Shave (Sigmund Wohl)
• Cameron (Isaac Birch)
• Klaro (G. Pelta/J.P. Bezard)
• Gillette M3 (Gillette company)
• Schick - Wilkinson Sword (Wilkinson Sword company)
• Emjoi (Emjoi Inc.)
• Braun bodycruZer (P&G Germany)
• See pop-ups over photographs for sources.
Thanks to:
Omaha Fine Art Shop, Joe and Betty Dial, Sigmund Wohl, Isaac Birch, G. Pelta/J.P. Bezard (photographs used with permission) and the razor companies for their photographs (company photographs used with assumed permission). Special thanks to Mauro Lorenzi for his kind permission to use photographs from Collectors Encyclopedia.
More razors like these:
On the Collectors Encyclopedia website there are many more safety razors with moving blades or safety razors with light. Go to the safety razors section and search by entering the word "vibrating" or "lighted" in the "type"-field.

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last update: June 10, 2010