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Controversy and Lesser-Known Facts about King C. Gillette and His Company

King C. Gillette

Guest Writer Series |

King Camp Gillette is a name synonymous with the modern shaving industry. As the founder of the Gillette Safety Razor Company in 1901, he revolutionized the way men groomed themselves, making shaving safer and more accessible. However, there are many lesser-known facts and controversies surrounding King C. Gillette that paint a more complex picture of the man and his company.

Controversy Surrounding King C. Gillette

  1. Socialist Ideals: Though Gillette is celebrated as a successful capitalist entrepreneur, few people know that he was a passionate socialist. He wrote a book in 1894 titled "The Human Drift" that advocated for a utopian society where all production would be centralized and managed by a single corporation run by the government. In his vision, individual competition would be replaced with cooperation for the betterment of humanity. While these ideas never materialized, they did create a sense of irony and contradiction in the context of his own company's success.

  2. Patent Disputes: The Gillette Safety Razor Company was involved in numerous patent disputes during its early years. One such case was against the AutoStrop Safety Razor Company, owned by Henry J. Gaisman. Gaisman claimed that Gillette's razors infringed on his own patented design. The case was finally settled in 1920 when Gillette agreed to purchase a controlling interest in the AutoStrop Safety Razor Company and Gaisman became the largest shareholder in Gillette's company.

Lesser-Known Facts about Gillette's Company in the Early 20th Century

  1. Marketing Innovations: Gillette's company pioneered several marketing strategies that are still in use today. One example is the concept of giving away a product to create demand for its consumables. Gillette provided free razors to millions of American soldiers during World War I, which led to a significant increase in demand for disposable double edge razor blades when the soldiers returned home.

  2. International Expansion: Although the Gillette Safety Razor Company was founded in the United States, it expanded its operations globally from the very beginning. By 1905, the company had opened manufacturing plants in England, France, and Canada. By 1910, Gillette razors and blades were being sold in over 60 countries.

  3. Workforce Diversity: Gillette's company was one of the first to employ women on its factory floors, breaking from the predominantly male workforce in manufacturing at the time. By 1917, nearly 25% of the company's workforce were women, many of whom held skilled positions in blade grinding and assembly. This inclusive approach contributed to the company's reputation as a progressive employer.

King C. Gillette is undoubtedly a significant figure in the history of personal grooming and the razor industry. However, his story is not without controversy and complexity. By understanding the lesser-known facts and controversies surrounding Gillette and his company, we can appreciate the nuanced legacy of this iconic entrepreneur.

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1 comment

Excellent write-up. I did not know these facts about the man, so thank you for sharing them with me.


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