Nowadays shaving seems to be not much more than a chore, done quickly in or after a shower. Regardless of our casual and varying affinity with the razor there are myriad of products designed to make shaving an easier and more pleasurable experience. More than 100 years ago shaving was a bit more of a formal affair; an important part of a man’s daily toilette and necessary to achieve the distinguished facial fashions of the day. I’m not too sure what type of affair women’s shaving was at that time, although I am sure that is a whole extra topic for another article.
Shaving products were slightly more limited but much the same basis as todays soaps and creams. In the early to mid-1900s the main options for shaving assisting soaps and lotions came in ceramic pots, tins, squeezable tubes and solid metal tubes. In Whangarei Museum we hold a beautifully packaged example of a solid metal tube containing a ‘shaving stick’. The shaving ‘stick’ itself consisted of a holder top which the advertising is printed on and a base for holding and a solid stick of soap inside. Our example was donated to us by Mr. K. Brady in 1973 and is a 1930s Dubois brand “Fine Quality Shaving Stick”. The metal cylinder itself measures about 12 cm tall and has a dark green coating with orange and golden yellow decorative flowers and borders. The decoration has rubbed off the domed lid but it would have screwed off to reveal a hard cylinder of “Fragrantly Perfumed” soap for creating a lather on the face before shaving.
Now anyone in Whangarei could have purchased such a shaving stick locally. Bargain Stores on Bank Street advertised their goods in a large supplementary brochure to a 1929 Northern Advocate newspaper. Amongst drapery, crockery and toiletry items, there is a listing for Dubois shaving soap at a cost of 5 pence on sale from 9 pence. The alternate brands of shaving soap available here were Yardley’s, Auto Strop, Colgate’s, Erasmic and William’s. Pears was also a large international brand which included shaving soaps in their range. Dubois also produced a range of feminine products including a range of “French Aids to Beauty”, which were advertised in newspapers around New Zealand. This range included a skin cleanser, hand lotion, vanishing hand cream and a setting lotion for forming the ideal 1930s hair waves. Despite being available around New Zealand, little else could be elucidated about the Dubois brand. Part of the label on our shaving stick cylinder has been rubbed off that may hold some answers; although the words Paris and London are still visible. A Paul Dubois of New York released a “Du Boy” brushless shaving cream in a squeezable tube, sometime in the 1930s and 1940s. Paul Dubois also released several women’s perfumes in the 1920s and a “Folle Jouir” face powder range. Despite the connection between the Dubois shaving soap and Paul Dubois products our shaving stick is still of immense interest for its attractive and colourful 1930s packaging and as an item that has fallen out of use over time.
Exhibitions Curator, Whangarei Museum.