03-05-2017, 04:35 AM
#1
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What Happened??

According to my reading, throughout the first half of the 20th century, two different species, double edged safety razors and single edged GEM razors, co-existed peacefully.  According to Wikepedia by 1921 American Safety Razor, the manufacturer of the GEM razors, had produced over 1.8 million razors.  By any measure, single-edged razors were a major player in the market.  

And then they just disappeared.  Gone forever.  Sure, American Safety Razor continued to make razor blades of all different types, but just as the dinosaurs were wiped out by a cataclysmic asteroid, it seems that the GEM line of single-edged razors simply disappeared off the face of the planet overnight.

I have not been able to find out what caused the extinction.  I know that the GEM Contour II was manufactured through the 1970s but by then it was a minor player, barely surviving.  Was it simply that the mild Gillette safety razors of the 1950s were a better product for the times?  Or, did Gillette market their products better?  Or maybe American Safety Razor was a poorly managed company and was responsible for their own demise?

I own a wide variety of both modern and vintage razors.  I find the GEM single-edged razors every bit as good as their double edged counterparts.  So, What Caused the Demise of the GEM Safety Razors?

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 03-05-2017, 04:59 AM
#2
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My guess is marketing. It is eaay to see they are every bit as good and maybe better then the DE. Quality wise they have lasted too. So I dunno.

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 03-05-2017, 05:43 AM
#3
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There is a small glimmer of hope as ATT and Colonial General are developing a Gem clone. Also there might be others. These new razors hopefully will be out and available before year's end.

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 03-05-2017, 06:23 AM
#4
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ASR Made the GEM Contours into the 70's and 80's (?). They stopped the same reason Schick, Gillette etc. The introduction of carts and especially disposables

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 03-05-2017, 07:15 AM
#5
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(03-05-2017, 06:23 AM)SteelTown Wrote: ASR Made the GEM Contours into the 70's and 80's (?). They stopped the same reason Schick, Gillette etc. The introduction of carts and especially disposables

True, but if my reading is correct, they stopped being a major player long before the introduction of carts and disposables.  

What about this?  During WWII, the government supplied razors to soldiers.  Does anyone know if they supplied double edged razors exclusively?  If so, an entire generation of young men were directed away from single edge razors to double edge razors.

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 03-05-2017, 01:33 PM
#6
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(03-05-2017, 07:15 AM)rodmonster Wrote:
(03-05-2017, 06:23 AM)SteelTown Wrote: ASR Made the GEM Contours into the 70's and 80's (?). They stopped the same reason Schick, Gillette etc. The introduction of carts and especially disposables

True, but if my reading is correct, they stopped being a major player long before the introduction of carts and disposables.  

What about this?  During WWII, the government supplied razors to soldiers.  Does anyone know if they supplied double edged razors exclusively?  If so, an entire generation of young men were directed away from single edge razors to double edge razors.

A series of acquisitions by Bic, Phillip Morris etc in the late 60's changed the focus of the company to the industrial blade market. The new owners probably had no desire to stay in the personal care market with the advent of carts and disposables undergoing development...only they can say or know

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 03-05-2017, 01:51 PM
#7
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(03-05-2017, 07:15 AM)rodmonster Wrote:
(03-05-2017, 06:23 AM)SteelTown Wrote: ASR Made the GEM Contours into the 70's and 80's (?). They stopped the same reason Schick, Gillette etc. The introduction of carts and especially disposables

True, but if my reading is correct, they stopped being a major player long before the introduction of carts and disposables.  

What about this?  During WWII, the government supplied razors to soldiers.  Does anyone know if they supplied double edged razors exclusively?  If so, an entire generation of young men were directed away from single edge razors to double edge razors.
There may have been WWII sets available with SE razors. My Schick F came in this set.

[Image: 646972288a5cdb87ea97bda6154e869d.jpg]

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 03-05-2017, 02:09 PM
#8
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(03-05-2017, 07:15 AM)rodmonster Wrote:
(03-05-2017, 06:23 AM)SteelTown Wrote: ASR Made the GEM Contours into the 70's and 80's (?). They stopped the same reason Schick, Gillette etc. The introduction of carts and especially disposables

True, but if my reading is correct, they stopped being a major player long before the introduction of carts and disposables.  

What about this?  During WWII, the government supplied razors to soldiers.  Does anyone know if they supplied double edged razors exclusively?  If so, an entire generation of young men were directed away from single edge razors to double edge razors.

I have several WWII Gem sets. They were called the G3. This is one I use as a travel set.
[Image: CSs9RsK.jpg]

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 03-05-2017, 02:32 PM
#9
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Just talking here ..But with the transition from the solidly built Micromatic series to the plasticky Featherweight/Pushbutton/Contour series beginning in 1950, in my eyes the perceived quality differential between GEM and Gillette razors (Superspeed, Tech, Fatboy/Adjustable) grew huge. If I became of shaving age in 1955 I can't imagine choosing the Feather Weight over a Red Tip or a Tech. At a time when new was very important the only real quality piece ASR was selling, the Streamline/Jewel/Ambassador, was a 40 year old design I don't imagine appealing to many under 50.

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 03-05-2017, 07:06 PM
#10
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(03-05-2017, 01:33 PM)SteelTown Wrote: A series of acquisitions by Bic, Phillip Morris etc in the late 60's changed the focus of the company to the industrial blade market. The new owners probably had no desire to stay in the personal care market with the advent of carts and disposables undergoing development...only they can say or know

(03-05-2017, 02:32 PM)jmudrick Wrote: Just talking here ..But with the transition from the solidly built Micromatic series to the plasticky Featherweight/Pushbutton/Contour series beginning in 1950, in my eyes the perceived quality differential between GEM and Gillette razors (Superspeed, Tech, Fatboy/Adjustable) grew huge.  If I became of shaving age in 1955 I can't imagine choosing the Feather Weight over a Red Tip or a Tech. At a time when new was very important the only real quality piece ASR was selling, the Streamline/Jewel/Ambassador, was a 40 year old design I don't imagine appealing to many under 50.

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Very interesting thread.  Appreciate the info and thoughts here.

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 03-06-2017, 03:03 AM
#11
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(03-05-2017, 02:32 PM)jmudrick Wrote: Just talking here ..But with the transition from the solidly built Micromatic series to the plasticky Featherweight/Pushbutton/Contour series beginning in 1950, in my eyes the perceived quality differential between GEM and Gillette razors (Superspeed, Tech, Fatboy/Adjustable) grew huge.  If I became of shaving age in 1955 I can't imagine choosing the Feather Weight over a Red Tip or a Tech. At a time when new was very important the only real quality piece ASR was selling, the Streamline/Jewel/Ambassador, was a 40 year old design I don't imagine appealing to many under 50.

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This makes good sense to me.  The Gillette line of razors in the 1950s were well designed and appealed to the new suburban commuter.  Not much to a Featherweight.

Anyone know if there was a big difference in price between a single edge GEM blade and a double edged blade in the 1950s?  More steel in a GEM blade for sure.  

Also, great photos of WWII GEM sets!!

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 03-06-2017, 08:07 AM
#12
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Working on Wall Street as I do, the M&A angle piqued my interest.
Here's a 1977 article and another one from 1982, both from the Washington Post, that support much of what SteelTown put in his post.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/b...7f5d8e337b

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/b...3176a32e65

Philip Morris bought ASR in 1960. The 1982 piece notes that when Philip Morris got into brewing by acquiring Miller in 1969, the corporate focus changed.
The 1977 piece notes that ASR's marketing budget was dwarfed by Gillette's.

The Bic deal (1977) was quashed by the FTC, after which employees bought the division from Philip Morris.

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 03-06-2017, 09:09 AM
#13
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(03-06-2017, 03:03 AM)rodmonster Wrote:
(03-05-2017, 02:32 PM)jmudrick Wrote: Just talking here ..But with the transition from the solidly built Micromatic series to the plasticky Featherweight/Pushbutton/Contour series beginning in 1950, in my eyes the perceived quality differential between GEM and Gillette razors (Superspeed, Tech, Fatboy/Adjustable) grew huge.  If I became of shaving age in 1955 I can't imagine choosing the Feather Weight over a Red Tip or a Tech. At a time when new was very important the only real quality piece ASR was selling, the Streamline/Jewel/Ambassador, was a 40 year old design I don't imagine appealing to many under 50.

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This makes good sense to me.  The Gillette line of razors in the 1950s were well designed and appealed to the new suburban commuter.  Not much to a Featherweight.

Anyone know if there was a big difference in price between a single edge GEM blade and a double edged blade in the 1950s?  More steel in a GEM blade for sure.  

Also, great photos of WWII GEM sets!!
I've seen comparable pricing for blades: $.49/10 blade GEM Push-Pak, $.98 /20 blade Gillette Blue dispenser. These are both c.'49:

[Image: 1ad8c55e88b0a29e7ead6dbb1ec0f9fa.jpg][Image: 9734cbcfffe7c58f7a83de43d7c40a6b.jpg]

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 03-06-2017, 10:49 AM
#14
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(03-06-2017, 09:09 AM)jmudrick Wrote:
(03-06-2017, 03:03 AM)rodmonster Wrote:
(03-05-2017, 02:32 PM)jmudrick Wrote: Just talking here ..But with the transition from the solidly built Micromatic series to the plasticky Featherweight/Pushbutton/Contour series beginning in 1950, in my eyes the perceived quality differential between GEM and Gillette razors (Superspeed, Tech, Fatboy/Adjustable) grew huge.  If I became of shaving age in 1955 I can't imagine choosing the Feather Weight over a Red Tip or a Tech. At a time when new was very important the only real quality piece ASR was selling, the Streamline/Jewel/Ambassador, was a 40 year old design I don't imagine appealing to many under 50.

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This makes good sense to me.  The Gillette line of razors in the 1950s were well designed and appealed to the new suburban commuter.  Not much to a Featherweight.

Anyone know if there was a big difference in price between a single edge GEM blade and a double edged blade in the 1950s?  More steel in a GEM blade for sure.  

Also, great photos of WWII GEM sets!!
I've seen comparable pricing for blades: $.49/10 blade GEM Push-Pak, $.98 /20 blade Gillette Blue dispenser. These are both c.'49:

[Image: 1ad8c55e88b0a29e7ead6dbb1ec0f9fa.jpg][Image: 9734cbcfffe7c58f7a83de43d7c40a6b.jpg]

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I think you misread the advertisement.  The GEM blades are advertised at $0.98/10 blades or $1.49/10 blade push-pak.   Even with the standard pack, the GEM blades are twice the price of the Gillette double edge blades.  A moot point really since the GEM razors of the 1950s-70s  were toys when compared to the Gillette offerings.

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 03-06-2017, 11:11 AM
#15
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(03-06-2017, 10:49 AM)rodmonster Wrote:
(03-06-2017, 09:09 AM)jmudrick Wrote:
(03-06-2017, 03:03 AM)rodmonster Wrote: This makes good sense to me.  The Gillette line of razors in the 1950s were well designed and appealed to the new suburban commuter.  Not much to a Featherweight.

Anyone know if there was a big difference in price between a single edge GEM blade and a double edged blade in the 1950s?  More steel in a GEM blade for sure.  

Also, great photos of WWII GEM sets!!
I've seen comparable pricing for blades: $.49/10 blade GEM Push-Pak, $.98 /20 blade Gillette Blue dispenser. These are both c.'49:

[Image: 1ad8c55e88b0a29e7ead6dbb1ec0f9fa.jpg][Image: 9734cbcfffe7c58f7a83de43d7c40a6b.jpg]

Sent from my Nexus 5X using Tapatalk


I think you misread the advertisement.  The GEM blades are advertised at $0.98/10 blades or $1.49/10 blade push-pak.   Even with the standard pack, the GEM blades are twice the price of the Gillette double edge blades.  A moot point really since the GEM razors of the 1950s-70s  were toys when compared to the Gillette offerings.
No look again. The razor plus 10 blades is indicated to be a "$1.49 value" ($1.00+$.49) selling for 98 cents. The 10 blade pack is clearly 49 cents per this zoomed pic.[Image: ef97619dac4a6bc7c19ef448a07f6ac4.jpg]

Here's another to prove the point that blade cost wasn't the issue.
[Image: 7102df7e02fd4678797ee54c2beb19c2.jpg]

Per my earlier comments I agree about the razors.

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 03-06-2017, 12:23 PM
#16
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(03-06-2017, 08:07 AM)Rory1262 Wrote: Working on Wall Street as I do, the M&A angle piqued my interest.
Here's a 1977 article and another one from 1982, both from the Washington Post, that support much of what SteelTown put in his post.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/b...7f5d8e337b

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/b...3176a32e65

Philip Morris bought ASR in 1960. The 1982 piece notes that when Philip Morris got into brewing by acquiring Miller in 1969, the corporate focus changed.
The 1977 piece notes that ASR's marketing budget was dwarfed by Gillette's.

The Bic deal (1977) was quashed by the FTC, after which employees bought the division from Philip Morris.

Interesting articles.

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 03-11-2017, 06:38 PM
#17
  • chazt
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Good reads. Thanks, Rory.

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