On November 15, 1904, patent #775,134 was granted to King C. Gillette for a safety razor. King Camp Gillette was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin in 1855. To support himself when the family’s home was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871, Gillette became a traveling salesman. This work led him to William Painter, the inventor of the disposable Crown Cork bottle cap, who assured Gillette that a successful invention was one that was purchased over and over again by satisfied customer.
In 1895, after several years of considering and rejecting possible inventions, Gillette suddenly had a brilliant idea while shaving one morning. It was an entirely new razor and blade that flashed in his mind—a razor with a safe, inexpensive, and disposable blade.
It took six years for Gillette’s idea to evolve. During that time, technical experts told Gillette that it would be impossible to produce steel that was hard, thin, and inexpensive enough for commercial development of the disposable razor blade. Then in 1901, MIT graduate William Nickerson agreed to try.
By 1903, he had succeeded. Production of the Gillette ® safety razor and blade began as the Gillette Safety Razor Company started operations in South Boston. Sales grew steadily. During World War I, the U.S. Government issued Gillette safety razors to the entire armed forces. By the end of the war, some 3.5 million razors and 32 million blades were put into military hands, thereby converting an entire nation to the Gillette safety razor.