Wet shaving at its simplest, is just that – shaving with water, a razor blade, and some sort of lubricant (soap, cream, gel, oil, etc.) on your face.
Men have shaved this way for centuries, starting early on with a sharp knife or stone, progressing to the straight (cut-throat) razor for many years.
In the late 1800s patents began to be issued for ‘safety razors’ as we know them. These originally held a single edge blade with King Camp Gillette filing a patent application for a safety razor using a disposable double-edge blade in 1901 which was granted in 1904, 15 November 1904 to be precise.
Over time many modifications were made to this basic concept with additional ‘features’ such as twin and then multiple blades added, pivoting head mechanisms, lubricating strips, etc etc. These have ended up in the cartridge razor ‘systems’ and disposables we have now.
A closer shave can generally be had from a wet shave versus an electric razor. The ‘benefits’ of some of the other ‘advancements’ in razors over the years are far more dubious.
The ritual, scents, and connection to the past associated with using high-quality wet shaving products can also turn what is generally viewed as a chore into something pleasurable – that was certainly my experience. Many men also feel their skin quality is improved by the exfoliating nature of the wet shave and the moisturizing nature of the products used.
I was in an antique store in Adelaide a few years ago and spotted a Bostonian case with some engraving on the top.
Now I have a Bostonian and if it wasn’t for the engraving I may not have even picked it up.
But as you can see it was engraved as follows:
‘Presented to C. J. Harding Best & Fairest Player for S.A v N.S.W. Jubilee Oval Aug 17th 1929’
A mystery to be solved – who was C. J. Harding and what was he the best and fairest player for?
After doing some research I discovered that according to an article in the August 17 1929 issue of The Register news-pictorial an interstate soccer match was held on that day at the Jubilee Oval in Adelaide between SA and NSW for the Australian Junior championship.
The match report from that evening’s issue of The Mail indicates that ‘an excellent exhibition of soccer was witnessed’ with NSW the victors 3 goals to 2. The Advertiser carries a picture of the game.
According to the report in The Mail, Harding scored the first goal for South Australia and ‘Harding was playing good football for South Australia, but his inside men failed to take advantage of his centres’. It seems that he was in the thick of it because it is also reported that ‘Harding was unlucky not to score from a hard drive across the goalmouth’.
So the mystery is cleared up.
The report concludes by indicating that ‘Trophies given for the best player on each side were won by Harding (South Australia) and Boddan (New South Wales)’.
After I posted this information in a shaving forum another member turned up the following from the Adelaide Advertiser of 25 Sept 1941:
Advice has been received by the wife of C. J. Harding that he died of wounds on September 20. He was married to Audrey, only child of Mr. and Mrs. E. S. Rush, of O.G. Hotel, Klemzig, on October 17, 1940, two months before he sailed for overseas. He was the only son of Mr. J. G. and the late Mrs. Harding, of Gilberton, and was educated at Pulteney Grammar School. He was a keen Soccer player, and before he enlisted was employed by News Ltd.
Of course this begged the question – was this the same C. J. Harding? The age seemed about right and he was described as being ‘a keen Soccer player’. It might have been written off a co-incidence except I recalled this this article which is from The Advertiser on the day before the 1929 game which outlined the teams, including:
‘C. Harding (Pulteney Old Scholars) has had experience in senior league football and is the best wing man playing junior soccer to-day. He is fast, and his ball control and shooting make him a most useful man’
So with the school connection confirmed the C. J. Harding presented with the razor is almost certainly the same man who died of his wounds in September 1941. A little further digging turns up his military history.
Private Charles James Harding served with the 2/48th Battalion (Infantry) and was at Tobruk when he was wounded in action on 13 August 1941. He died of his wounds on 20 September 1941 in Egypt and is buried there at Alexandria.
You can see a digital version of the records on-line here, on the second page of the records there is even a photo from his enlistment.
So there we have it. Unfortunately the antique store where I brought this from didn’t have any records of how they acquired this razor. Obviously it never went to war from its condition, he probably left it with his new wife. What happened to her I don’t know. Did she remarry? Did she keep this razor until her death as a reminder of her husband? I’m not sure I’ll ever find out.
If you are ever at the Australian War Memorial you can see his entry in the Roll of Honour. I’ll certainly be stopping by next time I’m there and pay my respects.
Thanks to those who contributed to this story – it is much appreciated.