Occupational Shaving Mugs
In Eastern Ohio, where I grew up, ceramic-lore abounds. Coming from a family who runs the Museum of Ceramics, on the clay-rich banks of the Ohio River, I thought I knew a thing or two about the history of American pottery. But, when my father became interested in an odd and specialized aspect of the pottery industry—men’s shaving mugs—I was startled to discover that printmaking holds a unique place in the pottery world, too.
The occupational shaving mug is a late 19th century phenomenon. The first patent for an American shaving mug was registered in 1867, and in the subsequent decades pottery companies (American and European) produced thousands of these simple, functional objects. Wooden shelves built into local barbershop walls would house a man’s personal mug and brush [see above]; thus, within such a public display, in order to distinguish one mug from another, decorative decals, names, and personalized designs were applied to the surface of each mug. A widely popular trend was to proclaim your trade with an image pertaining to your professional occupation (perhaps serving as a conversation starter, too), and the printing profession was of course widely represented. These tiny, roughly painted scenes of print shops and presses offer a view into what has always been a specialized field, and highlight some fascinating manifestations of 19th century masculinity.
Fore more information, visit the National Shaving Mug Collectors Association. Enjoy these photos, and feel free to share in the comments if you come across more!
Washington Press (photo credit: LiveAuctioneers)
Linotype (photo credit: LiveAuctioneers)
[N.B. All of the mugs, except for the barbershop scene, the Linotype mug, and the Washington press, are in collection of Jeff Hendrickson, East Liverpool, Ohio.]
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