In November of 1902, King Gillette filed a patent for a safety razor that was a modest improvement on previous models. It sold for $5, which made it top of the line – that would be the equivalent of $100 today. The Gillette Safety Razor Co. did offer something a bit different, however – their razor used disposable steel blades.
In its first year, Gillette sold 51 razors and 168 blades. The next year, 91,000 razors and 123,000 blades. By 1915, they were selling 70 million blades a year.
Gillette was a millionaire, of course, but he had started out a Utopian Socialist and he remained one – sort of. He believed that all business in the US should be part of one giant corporation owned by the public. Everyone should live in a giant city called Metropolis with everything powered by Niagara Falls. (I think that last part has happened.)
He drew up plans for all this and offered Teddy Roosevelt a million dollars to run the corporation, but TR declined. Gillette never offered to share his company with his employees, however.
In the 1920’s, he bought property in Palm Springs and in the Santa Monica mountains, but he spent most of his time at the Desert Inn hotel in Palm Springs, wandering the grounds in his bathrobe. He died in Los Angeles in 1932 and is buried at Forest Lawn. His ranch in Calabasas was sold to a movie producer, then to Bob Hope, then to church and school groups. It was finally bought by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and its Wallace Neff-designed buildings restored. It’s open to all of us utopian socialists now.
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They are Georgia O’Keeffe and Marianne Moore. And here is an O’Keeffe for your viewing pleasure: