Electric Shaver Museum, Bang & Olufsen exhibition

This is the no-frames/text-only version of the Bang & Olufsen exhibition of the Electric Shaver Museum: a history of the company, its shavers and biographies of Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen. To see the photographs in this exhibition, or to visit E|S|M's other exhibitions click here (unless forced, not available for mobile devices with a screenwidth less than 640 pixels).

The companyQuality and designFuturistic designB&O nowadaysThe first shaverMore shaversSæbeformenPeter BangSvend OlufsenGunnar TerpWilliam VindeløvSources/further readingThanks to

The company
In 1925 Peter Bang (1900-1957) and Svend Olufsen (1897-1949) started to build radio equipment in the attic of the house of Olufsen's parents in Quistrup, in the north of Denmark (Jutland). The Bang & Olufsen company was founded on November 17 of the same year. One of the innovations in B&O's first radiosets was that they were powered directly by mains instead of by batteries, unusual in those days. In fact not their radios were a success, but their "eliminators" (usually called a "rectifier", the component inside the radio that changes AC into DC, which enables it to receive power from the socket). The eliminators were not only sold in Denmark, but in several other countries. In 1927 B&O employed 30 people and established their radio manufacturing business near Struer.

Quality and design
From the end of the twenties also B&O's radio's became more and more successful. A breakthrough came with the "5-lamperen" in 1929, a radio with 5 tubes and 4 Watts output, which was much for 1929. In 1934 the "Hyperbo" was introduced, a well-designed piece of furniture which combined a receiver, gramophone, speaker and a place to store records. The design was highly influenced by the steel tube chairs of those days. In 1939 another famous model was brought on the market, the "Beolit", B&O's first bakelite radio. The business expanded and in the years before the Second World War B&O became one of Denmark’s largest radio manufacturers. Until the end of the fifties, however, B&O was predominantly a home-market company. When Denmark joined the European Free Trade Association in 1957 the Danish radio and television industry had new opportunities abroad, but on the other hand it had to face new competition. B&O made the choice to aim at the luxury segments of the market. "Bang & Olufsen, for those who discuss quality and design before price" was the slogan.

Futuristic design
Futuristic design and new technology are the main features of B&O's products, for example the record player "Beogram 4000" (designed by Jacob Jensen, 1972) with a so-called tangential pick-up arm, which made it possible to pick up the sound from a record in the same way it was put on the master. B&O was one of the few manufacturers to have a 'solo-exhibition' in the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1978 (after for example Olivetti and Braun).

B&O nowadays
In 1990 B&O, then with 3.000 employees, had to face financial problems. The Dutch multinational Philips came to the rescue and took a 25 per cent interest in the company. Exchange of technological knowledge was agreed upon, while Philips also became 'preferent supplier' of components. As B&O was in a much better position in 1997, Philips sold back its interest to B&O. Co-operation, however, was continued. In 1998 the company employed 2.700 people and had a turnover of 500 million dollars. In 2000 B&O celebrated its 75th anniversary with the exhibition "Vision and Legend" and a book with the same name. B&O specializes in "sound and vision" products, medical applications and telephones.

The first shaver
Because of a shortage of radio tubes during the Second World War, and a low use of the plastics- and mechanical producing capacities, B&O started looking for other products. Svend Olufsen suggested a shaver after a trip to the USA; he brought some examples. In March 1947 B&O technician W.L. Vindeløv described the first B&O Shaver in Beonyt (B&O's house-organ). The shaver (model Sh.4) was an ivory colored "tube skirt" model with two shaving heads with a Remington/Schick-type shaving system. Although the design of the shaver also in other ways was influenced by American shavers from the early fourties, especially by the Remington Dual (1941), the prominent B&O mark on it made it quite recognizable. The shaver was designed by W.L. Vindeløv ("chief engineer for the mechanical development" at B&O) and Gunnar Terp (designing engineer and plastics specialist).

More shavers
The first shaver had an interruptor-motor for 220 volts AC or DC. Soon after B&O brought the same shaver fit for 6, 12, 24 and 110 volts (resp. Sh.6, Sh.12, Sh.24 and Sh.5) and the type Sh.U (Universal) for 110-250 volts AC or DC. A 'langhaarsskær' (trimmer) was available from 1948; it was marketed as a long-hair trimmer or ladyshaver.
The next models Sh.7U (1949) and Sh.8U (1952) had an improved motor and a new body. They were, like the Sh.U, fit for 110-250 volts AC or DC, and had an ivory coloured body with black shaving-head holders. Model Sh.7U, however, could also be ordered with a green or a red body. Models Sh.7U and Sh.8U were also available as a carshaver with a motor fit for 6 and 12 Volts DC.

In 1954 model Sh.510 was issued, with a strikingly slight oval body, in Danish called 'Sæbeformen', a soap-shaped body. It had an improved motor and much bigger shaving heads than the first B&O Shavers. With this new model B&O followed changes in shaver design in the United States, where Schick (model 20), Remington (model 60) and Sunbeam (model W) had set a new trend with compact shavers.
B&O started with a rather good position on the Danish market: in 1950 40 per cent of the electric shavers sold in Denmark were B&O Shavers. The shavers were also sold outside Denmark, especially in Italy. When the big manufacturers began to dominate the market more and more at the end of the fifties, B&O could no longer maintain its position. In the sixties the production of shavers was discontinued.

Peter Bang
Peter Bang was born March 14, 1900 in Copenhagen (DK), and studied at the Technical University of Aarhus (Aarhus Teknikum), where he met Svend Olufsen. After Bang had made a trip to the USA, he and Svend Olufsen decided to start building radio equipment, and founded the B&O company in 1925. Bang died May 26, 1957.

Svend Olufsen
Svend Olufsen was born December 12, 1897 in Quistrup near Struer. Like Peter Bang, Olufsen studied at the Technical University of Aarhus. His parents owned the estate of Quistrup in Jutland. Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen started their radio experiments in the attic of this estate. Olufsen died December 22, 1949.

Gunnar Terp
Gunnar Terp was born September 20, 1921. He studied mechanical engineering at the Technical Highschool of Odense (DK) (Odense Teknikum). He was employed at B&O from November 1, 1944. Terp guided B&O through the change from bakelite to modern plastics like ureaformaldehyde. Gunnar Terp was involved (probably as chief designer) in the design and the construction of all four electric shaver models B&O produced.

William Vindeløv
William L. Vindeløv was born September 1, 1913. He also studied mechanical engineering. He was employed at B&O from November 1, 1938 until 1980. In the 1950's Vindeløv was chief engineer for the mechanical development, and the superior of Gunnar Terp. Vindeløv described the first B&O Shaver in Beonyt, B&O's house organ.

Sources / further reading
Jens Bang, Bang & Olufsen - From Vision to Legend, B&O/Vidsyn 1. edition, Struer (DK) 2000
Jens Bang and Jørgen Palshøj, Bang & Olufsen - Vision and Legend, Danish Design Centre, Copenhagen (DK) 2000
Thomas Bloch Ravn, Den nye store radiogud - B&O og den vide verden, Struer Museums Venner, Struer (DK) 1992
Andreas Ortmann, Bang & Olufsen: Design & Technik, in: Trödler (DE) nr. 211, June 1997
G. Terp or W.L. Vindeløv, several articles in Beonyt (B&O's house organ) of March 1947, Dec. 1948, Dec. 1949, Dec. 1952 and Dec. 1954, B&O, Struer (DK)

Thanks to
Johan Cheret (Beofriends The Netherlands)
Bente Nyby (B&O company)
Helle Pramanik (B&O company)

Electric Shaver Museum
Please note that this is the no-frames/text-only version of E|S|M's B&O exhibition. To see the photographs in this exhibition, or to see E|S|M's other exhibitions click here (unless forced, not available for mobile devices with a screenwidth less than 640 pixels).
Texts, photographs and illustrations © 1999-2011 Peter de Weijer (E|S|M), unless indicated otherwise. Noncommercial use of the information on this site is permitted provided the source is stated expressly.

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