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Shaving with an ancestral straight-razor
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To the editor:

Since I have so many relatives in the Great Bend area, I read the Tribune, and even glance at the advertisements. One product that is purchased in Great Bend stores and nearly every store in the land are razors. Today, you find both blue Men’s Razors and pink Women’s razors; as well as a variety of electric shaving appliances. Modern companies cater to the vanity of groomed masculine faces or silky feminine legs. When I was a teen I couldn’t wait to shave, now at age 57, I’d almost skip it, although I hate the jagged stubble-look.  

When I was age 17, my late dad gave me an electric shaver. I was already accustomed to using his usual metal safety-razors, which had a screw at one end which unhinged clasps which usually held a conventional razor blade for safe and secure usage. I guess it must have been a family-tradition, since my dad said that when he was 17, his half-uncle Granville Norris of Liberty, Neb., gave him his first safety-razor. I don’t know if my dad thought electric was trendy. However, most of the time, I still used the metal safety-razors invented by King C. Gillette. I have to admit, I rarely ‘nicked’ myself on those type of razors. 

I’ve admired  the 1800’s “cut-throat” straight razors which were actually bare razors with no guards, which look essentially like a long, sharpened knife. Older TV Westerns depicted men with whiskered faces lathered with shaving-cream, and the image of a wild-eyed barber whisking away a swath of stubble. At regular intervals, a razor-strop would be used to sharpen the edge of the razor. They weren’t called “cut-throat” for nothing. I have used a few in my life and I was exceedingly careful. I’m grateful that I was never on “the receiving-end” of a razor-strop used in lieu of a belt for corporal-punishment or “spankings.”

In Sheffield, England some of my ancestors and their cousins had tool/razor shops, namely William Marples and Sons;  Robert Marples & Son; and Joseph Marples, Ltd., which still exists in family hands. I have a rare pair of “Marples Farrier Pliers” which my granddad’s cousin’s company manufactured circa 1880. And probably the rarest tool I have is an unusual Marples screwdriver “S.A. Marples” along with a “Marples Analog Clock” that has marvelously intricate inner-workings. 

A friend once said he had a razor with the name Marples on it, but it bore the name H.G. Long. I was glad to discover Benjamin Marples merged his company with one founded by Henry Godfrey Lamb Long. By 1852, the partnership of Long, Hawksley & Marples had been established. Marples died in 1866 although the firm’s  name was retained for the next 40 years. It dealt in steel, files, saws and cutlery. I enjoy really close smooth shaves. 

James A. Marples