1904: King C. Gillette Patents The Gillette Razor Blade

By Karen Harris
Gillette razor and packaging, circa 1930s. (IgniteSMA/Wikimedia Commons)

King C. Gillette's parents must have had high hopes when they named him, and fortunately, he lived up to the hype, becoming a wealthy entrepreneur and household name. Gillette didn't invent the shaving razor, but he did create a unique model and business plan that turned into a highly successful shaving empire.

King Gillette

At the end of the 19th century, shaving was a rather barbaric process, requiring a straight-edged razor that had to be constantly sharpened with a leather strap. Some inventors tinkered with prototypes for safety razors, but King Gillette emerged at the top with a design that didn't require constant sharpening—because it was instead thrown awayBefore entering the shaving business, Gillette worked as a traveling salesman for the Crown Cork and Seal Company, whose most profitable product was the disposable bottle cap, and one day, after finding his razor had dulled, he was struck with the idea for a similarly disposable—and profitable—razor blade.