VALET AUTO-STROP "New Streamline Runner-Guard" Model in Beautiful Ballsy Brass
Now this is a company that made major contributions to early
pogotomy & went mano-a-mano with Gillette in many court battles. What most don't realize is that Valet Auto-Strop
inventor actually took over Gillette & forced the legendary
King Gillette into early retirement, actually DEATH !!!
Valet Auto Strop was founded in 1904 with the issuance of
patents to inventor & founder, Henry Gaisman.
Valet was Gillette's main competitor. They sued each other constantly during the 1920s.
The Valet razor was so different from the Gillette razors that neither company really infringed on each others patents although you wouldn't know that from the litiginous history of suit & counter suit against each other.
The Valet Auto-Strop razor was actually similiar to the Gem's that we all know & many love except the Valet was significantly advanced over the Gem in having an adjustable angle to the head (with a lovely & elegant visible gear mechanism). The Valet Auto-Strop blades sold to use in these razors was stroppable right at home. Back in the day when even a 2 cent blade was considered extravagantly expensive this was a heckuva competitive advantage.
Henry always wanted to OWN Gillette and he accomplished his
goal in 1930 by forcing King Gillette to buy him out in exchange for Gillette stock. He was what we would today call
an "activist investor" & he owned a huge chunk of Gillette stock. Some say that his activism & constant battles with King Gillette drove the Great One to an early death. Upon
King Gillette's death Henry took over and ran Gillette for many years.
Henry J. Gaisman was born in 1869 in Memphis, Tennessee, the youngest of four children. His father Jacques died in Memphis during a Yellow Fever epidemic when Henry was age 3. After his father's death, his mother Sarah moved the family to Cincinnati, OH, where Henry spent some of his early childhood trying to help support his family by working as a newsboy.
At the tender age of 9 Henry invented a medium for street car advertising.
Unable to afford the lengthy schooling required to study mechanical engineering and chemistry (his first interests), he left school at age 13 to work various odd jobs.
At age 16 he invented the glass-enclosed bulletin boards commonly used in hotel lobbies. He then worked briefly as a leather worker, then a leather dealer, and in 1894 moved to New York City where he sold his first financially successful invention, a belt that wouldn't slip.
In 1904, he invented & patented his first safety razor prior to King Gillette patenting his safety razor. Henry's
razor was very successful & allowed him to become a very very wealthy businessman despite never completing his formal education.
His safety razor was patented in May and July 1904, and was initially sold by the Auto Strop Safety Razor Company, a competitor to razor and blade manufacturer Gillette Razor Corporation, run by competitor Mr. King C. Gillette.
When Mr. Gaisman found similar technologies in the Gillette razors, his company sued the Gillette Razor Corporation for patent infringement, which Mr. Gillette eventually resolved by merging with Auto Strop.
When Mr. Gaisman came on board at the Gillette corporation, he found financial reporting errors which shook investor confidence and briefly caused the Gillette stock to drop.
When Mr. Gillette eventually died four years later at age 77, Mr. Gaisman went on to become the leader of the Gillette Razor Corporation.
Henry's inventiveness wasn't limited to razors. In 1914, he also developed the autographic camera, a process where photographers could write small notes on the edge of their negatives. The rights to this process were purchased by George Eastman (of Eastman Kodak) in 1914 for the sum of $300,000 - huge money back in the day.
After his razor blade patent ran out in 1921, he continued to develop newer razor blade technologies in an effort to protect his patent. On November 21, 1922, he applied for a new patent on a newer razor technology with a double-edged safety blade that would fit into the Gillette handles, but the Gillette blades would not fit into his newer handles.
On June 28, 1927, he was granted the patent for this newer "Probak" razor, and in 1928 he founded the Probak Razor Corporation.
The Business Week magazine of Nov. 26, 1930 described Mr. Gaisman as "... of medium height, of benign mien. He lives in a Park Avenue apartment in a state of contented batchelorhood [sic] ... Like Gillette, Gaisman is an incurable inventor. Also like Gillette, Gaisman possesses a quality notoriously lacking in most inventors – shrewd executive ability."
He retired from the Gilette Safety Razor Corporation in 1938, at which time he was reputed to be worth more than 25 million dollars. That's the equivalent of around 25 billion today.
Henry was a beneficent & charitable man who donated tons of money to Catholic Charities as well as land for various Catholic institutions.
Henry died at age 104.
The model we have for consideration here is probably from
the late 1920's, the "New Streamline Runner-Guard" with an original price tag of $1.25 which included a 5 pack of blades & a thin Auto-Strop.
Our specimen is a stunner in bright Brass (easily mistaken for gold). The handle is in Beautiful condition & the intricate head mechanism is in Excellent condition.
Comes in original box (decent condition altho one of the top piece corners is split), includes a 5 pack of Valet Auto Strop blades (4 unused in box & one loaded in the head).
The auto-strop is long gone.
All in all, an interesting & historic piece in top notch
condition considering it's age.
This specimen would be a sterling addition to any serious
Luckily for the collector, Valet's don't command as high a price as the older Gillette's despite being rarer than most
Made in the USA back in the days when American workmanship
was beautiful and top quality. Oh....for those days again :)