10-06-2017, 05:00 AM
#1
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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I am hoping others might chime in and contribute/add to this discussion.

I purchased this brush on a punt, but it is yet to be delivered to me in Sydney, Australia. It was advertised as "looking like" a Simpson's Tulip, although the retailer's name was indecipherable to the seller (and me, at the time). I have now solved that little mystery, in part at least. The brush is branded as "Keppells" (Keppell & Co; or Keppells Ltd.) which was an up-scale pharmacist operating from its Piccadilly outlet from about 1900 to 1929, but with other outlets at Haymarket, The Strand and other places. I found an advertisement (not for shaving brushes) with the distinctive Keppells logo (see the bottom of the advert which I have attached below). It took a lot of searching to work out that this is a Keppells-stamped brush.

Things to note: 
  • Simpsons commenced operation in 1919 and made handles from different materials including ivory, vulcanite and other materials. 
  • Simpsons were known to supply brushes to different retailers, using the brand of the retailer in lamp black.
  • One of the earliest handle shapes was the Tulip, frequently carved in ivory.
  • Early Simpson brushes were stamped (as I understand it) with "London Made"
The brush:

Stamped "London Made", Tulip design, but of unknown handle material. I don't think it is ivory. It may be an early-use form of Catalin, but I am not 100% certain.

I am dating this brush to at least 1925 (Keppells advertisement dated 1925). Simpsons were operating in London at that time. "Sterilized" brushes (such as this) become more prominent from around 1919/20. 

The handle is lathe-turned. This is evident on looking at the base of the handle, which has a swirl inside the two concentric rings, not to mention the lines around the handle itself. The hair is stamped as "Pure Badger Hair", and you can make out the other markings, including a patent number. The other markings, such as the "63" also follows the pattern of earlier Simpson brushes, marked with numbers like this above the other details.

So the question is: Is this a 1925 Simpson Tulip? Pictures:

[Image: 5vjrIfr.jpg]
[Image: EcRO66w.jpg]
[Image: SaMj0hI.jpg]
[Image: YGA9ZQ2.jpg]

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 10-06-2017, 05:43 AM
#2
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I think it's fascinating.

I had looked at it when it was for sale and was wondering what the story about it might be. 

It's strikingly small if I recall correctly the seller's description.

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 10-06-2017, 05:45 AM
#3
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Interesting find and good historical research Shaun.

My initial impression when I saw the handle was that it was wood.

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 10-06-2017, 05:46 AM
#4
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Very cool! I don't think it's Catalin, but you should be able to figure that out when you have it in hand. (See http://www.ebay.com/gds/Bakelite-Catalin...322/g.html)

What's the patent number? You might trying doing a search on it. 

It almost has a ceramic look to me. Not saying that's what it is. Just interesting appearance. 

Hard to tell from the photos, but the tool marks seem to be a bit widely spaced and somewhat irregular, which I'd take to suggest that the piece was made on a machine that wasn't turning very fast.

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 10-06-2017, 05:54 AM
#5
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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(10-06-2017, 05:43 AM)bakerbarber Wrote: It's strikingly small if I recall correctly the seller's description.

Yes, small for sure. 

Handle is 38mm; 27mm wide at the base; knot is 17mm; and the loft is 40mm. Overall, it stands at 78mm or 3 & 1/8 inches.

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 10-06-2017, 05:58 AM
#6
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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I tried to do the patent search but nothing came up...yet. I had my doubts about Catalin, too, but the seller insists it is, describing it as 'butterscotch" although it doesn't look like it in the photos. I'll check very closely when I am able to. Yes, your comments on a slow lathe seem right. My thoughts too.

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 10-06-2017, 06:04 AM
#7
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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(10-06-2017, 05:45 AM)TheLegalRazor Wrote: Interesting find and good historical research Shaun. My initial impression when I saw the handle was that it was wood.

Yes, I thought wood, too, but the seller insists it is Catalin and describes it as having the classic butterscotch glow, although the pictures don't suggest this.

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 10-06-2017, 07:29 AM
#8
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(10-06-2017, 05:45 AM)TheLegalRazor Wrote: My initial impression when I saw the handle was that it was wood.

The same thought crossed my mind, but it's obviously very old, and if it were painted wood, I'd expect some cracks, crazing, and or flaking. It's too small to have been turned on a wheel, but as the images appear on my display the handle almost looks like a piece of glazed, hand-turned pottery. That wouldn't make much sense. It's just the effect.

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 10-06-2017, 02:52 PM
#9
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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I have kindly been given a reference to a substance I hadn't heard of before: "Celsit" which was used in the making of shaving brush handles back in the day. I researched and found this advert from 1922 (and in the SAME publication, a reference to Heppells of Piccadilly!!). So the mystery is slowly being solved. I would say that the brush in question isn't Catalin, as we all seem to agree...but I think Celsit might be the answer we've been looking for. Here's the ad:

[Image: ieE5N0x.png]

Also from the same resource (with thanks to Dave - aka blzrfn) there is reference to Culmak adopting use of the substance in the making of their brushes, however, this comes in at around 1925. See below one of Dave's brushes, also in the classic "Tulip" shape. Very interesting indeed.

Because the above (my) brush is lathed, and uses a different stamping/id method, with no reference to 'Celsit' on the handle, which is what Culmak does later on, I'm thinking this example might be a little earlier, say 1921/22. 

I'm still leaning to (Alexander) Simpson, in the fledgeling years, working out of a workshop in Macauley Road, Barking. However, here's Dave's Culmak (in Celsit):

[Image: PmG18uU.png]

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 10-07-2017, 12:45 AM
#10
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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A little more evidence: In 2011, Mr Gary Young, great-nephew of Alexander Simpson, was interviewed at B&B, and mentioned the early production years, with reference to manufacture, sales, and design:

Q: “Did the department stores for which the company supplied "house lines" of brushes have their own specifications, or were they left to the discretion of Simpson? How did they differ from Simpson-branded brushes?

GY: “In the main, it was our standard designs which were simply ‘rebranded’ for the likes of Macys, Cable Car Chemists, Harrods, etc. We did make some ‘bespoke’ styles which were slight variations on our normal design but these tended to be for the ‘Chemists/Perfumeries’ such as E.R. Cooper, Floris, etc.”

Note that Heppells was not just a pharmacist, but sold perfumes... and that making slight variations on normal-design Simpsons was practised.

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 10-07-2017, 04:36 AM
#11
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(10-06-2017, 02:52 PM)Shaun Wrote: I have kindly been given a reference to a substance I hadn't heard of before: "Celsit" which was used in the making of shaving brush handles back in the day. I researched and found this advert from 1922 (and in the SAME publication, a reference to Heppells of Piccadilly!!). So the mystery is slowly being solved. I would say that the brush in question isn't Catalin, as we all seem to agree...but I think Celsit might be the answer we've been looking for. Here's the ad:

[Image: ieE5N0x.png]

Also from the same resource (with thanks to Dave - aka blzrfn) there is reference to Culmak adopting use of the substance in the making of their brushes, however, this comes in at around 1925. See below one of Dave's brushes, also in the classic "Tulip" shape. Very interesting indeed.

Because the above (my) brush is lathed, and uses a different stamping/id method, with no reference to 'Celsit' on the handle, which is what Culmak does later on, I'm thinking this example might be a little earlier, say 1921/22. 

I'm still leaning to (Alexander) Simpson, in the fledgeling years, working out of a workshop in Macauley Road, Barking. However, here's Dave's Culmak (in Celsit):

[Image: PmG18uU.png]

At first glance I thought it might be bone rather than Bakelite or Catalin.  I've seen bone turned on an old treadle lathe (think in terms of a treadle sewing machine) that exhibited similar surface roughness; but as this ad mentions, bone develops longitudinal cracks, none of which appear on this piece; so Celsit (which I've never heard of) could be a possibility.

It'll be interesting to hear your thoughts after you've had a chance to examine this brush in person.

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 10-07-2017, 05:01 AM
#12
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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Good to hear from you, Brad, and your knowlegeable comments on treadle lathing. All I can do now is wait for its delivery and feel this curiosity for myself. If it is a Simpson, it’ll be the earliest one I have ever seen. I wonder if anyone has even a picture of a very early Simpson? I have see the ‘upside down’ “Tourist” in bakelite case (1925, according to Gary Young) and I have one that’s just incredibly similar, but I’d date it later (1939... British Industries Fair... also listing other Simpsons brushes including Bajer, Sinue, Alex Sim, and Simbal...but that’s for a different thread, though Smile 

https://ia802503.us.archive.org/15/items...0M3216.pdf

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 10-07-2017, 09:01 PM
#13
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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The Simpson "Badjer Brand" (1931):

[Image: eyADC89.png]

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 10-10-2017, 09:17 AM
#14
  • blzrfn
  • Butterscotch Bandit
  • Vancouver USA
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Nice find on that advertisement, one of the brushes in the display looks vaguely familiar...

[Image: E0s46lz.jpg]

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 10-10-2017, 09:31 AM
#15
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(10-10-2017, 09:17 AM)blzrfn Wrote: Nice find on that advertisement, one of the brushes in the display looks vaguely familiar...

Wow! That is one gorgeous brush!

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 10-10-2017, 11:56 AM
#16
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(10-10-2017, 09:17 AM)blzrfn Wrote: Nice find on that advertisement, one of the brushes in the display looks vaguely familiar...

[Image: E0s46lz.jpg]

Beautiful!

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 10-10-2017, 01:30 PM
#17
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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Very nice indeed.  I'm not usually a fan of horn handles, but the colour of that one looks truly superb. It's like a carved block of coca cola!!! I love the turned rings underneath, too (another clue re the 'Tulip'?). Really nice brush, oh yes.

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 10-15-2017, 01:35 PM
#18
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Wow, what an awesome find. Congrats.

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 10-19-2017, 10:43 PM
#19
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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Happily, the brush has arrived and I have examined it very closely. What the handle is NOT composed of:
  • Ivory
  • Bone
  • Wood
  • Celsit
  • Catalin
  • Bakelite
So the question arises: What is it made of? At first I though it was solid little chunk of lathed celluloid because of the colour, but it lacked the lightness and didn't pass the rub and smell test: it doesn't smell at all like camphor. But... what it DOES smell of is a little bit disturbingly like rotten ...something... chemically meat? Wet wool? Weird, anyway. A little further research points me in what I think is the right direction: "Galalith" (from Greek: "milk stone"): one of the first ever plastics; a synthesis of casein (from milk) and formalin. It was also known by a few other terms (Erinoid, for example) and possessed certain characteristics that I explore below.

Here is a potted history of Galalith:

http://www.galalith.eu/histoire%20A.htm

Galalith is very hard and resembles horn. It can be polished to the point of glossiness.  It can be lathed. It doesn't take on the hue of other plastics, keeping its somewhat light, buttery colour. Can't be moulded and is always solid. Galalith has a density of 1.35, and the handle of this brush is quite weighty for its size: 32 grams. Here are some pictures next to a latter-day and a vintage Wee Scot Combined weight, 38 grams):

[Image: W2hhRpu.jpg]
[Image: yiJ1CUN.jpg]

So, it's a small hefty little brush. But is it a Simpsons?

The early pioneering days of Simpsons commenced in 1919. The license to manufacture Galalith was given in Great Britain just slightly earlier: 1915. Alex Simpson experimented with alternative materials, as is known, and there is reason to assume that in the early days Galalith was no exception to this, particularly as it was able to be tooled, lathed, etc, and resembled horn and ivory, but cheaper, of course. As we already know, Heppell's Ltd, was already thriving in London at that time.

But check the knot: pure badger, and, for a brush of its size, it is quite dense indeed. The knot is 16mm, a little more than either Wee Scot pictured (14-15mm). The loft is 40mm. The Wee Scot loft (later version) is 37-38mm. So...it's dense. The Simpson brushes were known for the density of their knots, and this is no exception. Do you not think the knots look similar? Also, the base has characteristic concentric circles, very much in keeping with early Simpson brushes.

I continue to claim -- on the basis of the information available to me so far -- that this is indeed an early Simpson Tulip (Update: see final later post)...a possible prototype. I am, however, open to being persuaded otherwise. The patent number stamped on the brush is 3103. I have not been able to trace this patent number. If anyone else can, please let me know. Smile

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 10-20-2017, 05:27 AM
#20
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(10-19-2017, 10:43 PM)Shaun Wrote: Happily, the brush has arrived and I have examined it very closely.

What the handle is NOT composed of:

  • Ivory
  • Bone
  • Wood
  • Celsit
  • Catalin
  • Bakelite
So the question arises: What is it?

At first I though it was solid little chunk of lathed celluloid because of the colour, but it lacked the lightness and didn't pass the rub and smell test: it doesn't smell at all like camphor. But... what it DOES smell like is a little bit disturbingly like rotten ...something... meat? Sour milk? Weird. A little further research points me in what I think is the right direction: "Galalith" (from Greek: "milk stone"): one of the first ever plastics; a synthesis of casein (from milk) and formalin. It was also known by a few other terms (Erinoid, for example) and possessed certain characteristics that I explore below.

Here is a potted history of Galalith:

http://www.galalith.eu/histoire%20A.htm

Galalith is very hard and resembles horn. Tick. It can be polished to the point of glossiness. Tick. It can be lathed. Tick Smile It doesn't take on the hue of other plastics, keeping its somewhat light, buttery colour. Tick. Can't be moulded and is always solid. Tick.

Galalith has a density of 1.35, and the handle of this brush is quite incredible for its size: 32 grams. More on that shortly. Here are some pictures next to a latter-day and a vintage Wee Scot Combined weight, 38 grams):

[Image: W2hhRpu.jpg]
[Image: yiJ1CUN.jpg]

So, it's a small hefty little brush. But is it a Simpsons?

The early pioneering days of Simpsons commenced in 1919. The license to manufacture Galalith was given in Great Britain just slightly earlier: 1915. Alex Simpson experimented with alternative materials, as is known, and there is reason to assume that in the early days Galalith was no exception to this, particularly as it was able to be tooled, lathed, etc, and resembled horn and ivory, but cheaper, of course. As we already know, Heppell's Ltd, was already thriving in London at that time.

But check the knot: pure badger, and, for a brush of its size, it is quite dense indeed. The knot is 16mm, a little more than either Wee Scot pictured (14-15mm). The loft is 40mm. The Wee Scot loft (later version) is 37-38mm. So...it's dense. The Simpson brushes were known for the density of their knots, and this is no exception. Do you not think the knots look similar? Also, the base has characteristic concentric circles, very much in keeping with early Simpson brushes.

In conclusion, I am claiming that this is indeed a very early Simpson Tulip ...a possible prototype, however, I am open to being persuaded otherwise. The patent number stamped on the brush is 3103, incidentally, and oddly, the two 3s are in a different font. I have not been able to trace this patent number. If anyone else can, please let me know. Smile

Yours in good shaving!

Shaun

That's impressive research, Shaun!  Even if you're wrong about any aspects of this brush, I believe you are in the right ballpark.  Lovely find!

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