During the Victorian Era, it was common for a man to visit his barber for a “wet shave”. To perform a wet shave, the barber placed a round bar of soap into a mug, and then scrubbed that bar with a brush to produce a thick lather. Many barbers kept individualized shaving mugs for their customers, and such mugs became popular gifts for men.
The Berks History Center is home to a collection of 25 shaving mugs which came from the barber shop of Fred Messmer (1880-1959). Messmer was a German immigrant who operated a barber shop on North 11th Street in Reading from about 1900 to 1943. Each mug is decorated and marked with the name of a customer. We are fortunate that this group survives to provide unique insight into a local barber’s clientele.
Researched & Written by Bradley K. Smith