Friday, November 21, 2008

King Camp Gillette

Today we honor King Camp Gillette (1855-1932) for his invention of the disposable safety razor. Gillette wanted to invent something people would use, throw away, and then buy again, allowing the inventor to become very wealthy. He soon came up with the idea of a disposable shaving blade. He worked on developing the razor for six years, and with the help of William Nickerson also developed the T-shaped handle for the razor.

In 1903, Gillette sold 168 blades and by 1904 sales had dramatically increased: he sold 90,000 razors and 123,000 blades. Gillette was also one of the first people to use freebie marketing in his business model; he gave every soldier heading overseas in WWI a free razor.

Gillette soon became a millionaire and retired from active management of his company. Upon retirement he developed interesting economic ideas. Gillette advocated for a economy where engineers ran the world, thinking this would abolish wasteful competition. Among other ideas, he wanted to eliminate the waste of each household preparing its own meals and proposed communal dinning halls as a solution.

Gillette is a Hero of Capitalism, he took his private property and ideas and created vast amounts of wealth. However, he remains an interesting hero because of his economic and social ideas that often seem to contradict his business plan.

Wikipedia: King Camp Gillette
Wikipedia: Safety Razor
Van Dulken, Stephen. Inventing the 20th Century. New York: New York University Press, 2002.

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