Gillette, King Camp

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b. 5 January 1855 Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, USA
d. 9 July 1932 Los Angeles, California, USA
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American inventor and manufacturer, inventor of the safety razor.
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Gillette's formal education in Chicago was brought to an end when a disastrous fire destroyed all his father's possessions. Forced to fend for himself, he worked first in the hardware trade in Chicago and New York, then as a travelling salesman. Gillette inherited the family talent for invention, but found that his successful inventions barely paid for those that failed. He was advised by a previous employer, William Painter (inventor of the Crown Cork), to look around for something that could be used widely and then thrown away. In 1895 he succeeded in following that advice of inventing something which people could use and then throw away, so that they would keep coming back for more. An idea came to him while he was honing an old-fashioned razor one morning; he was struck by the fact that only a short piece of the whole length of a cutthroat razor is actually used for shaving, as well as by the potentially dangerous nature of the implement. He "rushed out to purchase some pieces of brass, some steel ribbon used for clock springs, a small hand vise and some files". He thought of using a thin steel blade sharpened on each side, placed between two plates and held firmly together by a handle. Though coming from a family of inventors, Gillette had no formal technical education and was entirely ignorant of metallurgy. For six years he sought a way of making a cheap blade from sheet steel that could be hardened, tempered and sharpened to a keen edge.
Gillette eventually found financial supporters: Henry Sachs, a Boston lamp manufacturer; his brother-in-law Jacob Heilbron; and William Nickerson, who had a considerable talent for invention. By skilled trial and error rather than expert metallurgical knowledge, Nickerson devised ways of forming and sharpening the blades, and it was these that brought commercial success. In 1901, the American Safety Razor Company, later to be renamed the Gillette Safety Razor Company, was set up. When it started production in 1903 the company was badly in debt, and managed to sell only fifty-one razors and 168 blades; but by the end of the following year, 90,000 razors and 12.4 million blades had been sold. A sound invention coupled with shrewd promotion ensured further success, and eight plants manufacturing safety razors were established in various parts of the world. Gillette's business experiences led him into the realms of social theory about the way society should be organized. He formulated his views in a series of books published over the years 1894 to 1910. He believed that competition led to a waste of up to 90 per cent of human effort and that want and crime would be eliminated by substituting a giant trust to plan production centrally. Unfortunately, the public in America, or anywhere else for that matter, were not ready for this form of Utopia; no omniscient planners were available, and human wants and needs were too various to be supplied by a single agency. Even so, some of his ideas have found favour: air conditioning and government provision of work for the unemployed. Gillette made a fortune from his invention and retired from active participation in the business in 1913, although he remained President until 1931 and Director until his death.
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Bibliography
"Origin of the Gillette razor", Gillette Blade (February/March).
Further Reading
Obituary, 1932, New York Times (11 July).
J.Jewkes, D.Sawers and R.Stillerman, 1958, The Sources of Invention, London: Macmillan.
LRD / IMcN

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gillette,King Camp — Gil·lette (jə lĕtʹ), King Camp. 1855 1932. American inventor and manufacturer who developed the safety razor (c. 1895) and founded the Gillette Safety Razor Company (1901). * * * …   Universalium

  • Gillette, King Camp — ▪ American manufacturer born Jan. 5, 1855, Fond du Lac, Wis., U.S. died July 9, 1932, Los Angeles, Calif.       American inventor and first manufacturer of a razor with disposable blades.       Reared in Chicago, Gillette was forced by his family …   Universalium

  • King Camp Gilette — King C. Gillette Gillettes Rasierapparat Patent vom 15.Nov.1904 King Camp Gillette (* 5. Januar 1855 in Fond du L …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • King Camp Gillette — King Camp Gillette, né le 5 janvier 1855 à Fond du Lac et mort le 9 juillet 1932 à Los Angeles, est un ingénieur et homme d affaire américain, inventeur du ra …   Wikipédia en Français

  • King Camp Gillette — (January 5, 1855 ndash; July 9, 1932) was an American businessman, popularly known as the inventor of the safety razor. While Gillette did improve the design of the safety razor (patent US775134), his true invention was an inexpensive, high… …   Wikipedia

  • King Camp Gillette — King C. Gillette Gillettes Rasierapparat Patent vom 15. November 1904 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • King Camp Gilette — noun United States inventor and manufacturer who developed the safety razor (1855 1932) • Syn: ↑Gillette • Instance Hypernyms: ↑inventor, ↑discoverer, ↑artificer, ↑industrialist …   Useful english dictionary

  • King C. Gillette — Gillettes Rasierapparat Patent vom 15.Nov.1904 King Camp Gillette (* 5. Januar 1855 in Fond du L …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Gillette France — Gillette Company Pour les articles homonymes, voir Gillette. Logo de Gillette Company …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Gillette — ist: der Markenname des Unternehmens The Gillette Company Orte in der Schweiz: Gillette VD, Ort in der Gemeinde Corcelles le Jorat, Kanton Waadt, Schweiz in den Vereinigten Staaten: Gillette (Arizona) Gillette (Florida) Gillette (New Jersey)… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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