You could be forgiven for thinking that combining razor blades with the reloading mechanism of a repeating rifle sounds downright dangerous. But in fact, it was the basis of a design for a safety razor that Jacob Schick came up with in 1921.
At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, Schick joined the US Army and was sent to the Philippines.
After nearly dying from dysentery, he was posted to Alaska for health reasons, but found the cold made it difficult to shave.
Hot water was hard to come by, and numb fingers made it dangerous to replace worn-out razor blades. A self-reloading or ‘repeating’ razor solved the problem of the numb fingers, but not the water – so Schick put his mind to inventing a ‘dry’ motorised razor.
In 1925, Schick set up the Schick Magazine Repeating Razor Company in New York. The repeating razors were a commercial hit, and three years later, Schick sold his stake to the American Chain & Cable Company.
Schick poured all his energy and money into finally launching his electric razor, for which he received a patent in November 1928.
The electric razor was launched in 1931. Schick sold over a million electric razors in two years, at $25 dollars each. But while he was a great inventor, Schick was no accountant, and it wasn’t long before the taxman came after him.
In 1935, Schick fled to Canada. He renounced his US citizenship and spent the rest of his life being pursued over dodgy business practices.
Meanwhile, other companies took advantage of his self-imposed exile to muscle in on the electric razor market. Soon after, Jacob Schick contracted pneumonia and died in 1937.