Early street barbers in England used the porcelain hand basin and soap bail until the late 1600's. These early barbers used their fingers to apply lather. The barber bowl was supplanted by a mug and brush in the 1700's. .
The shaving mug is nothing more than a container designed told a bar of shaving soap. It was a highly functional china porcelain item, which saw daily use. For decades the barber would use one mug to provide the lather for all his customers. Then, in the 1870's, a fungus known as Barber s Itch. This affliction was irritating enough that any barbershop known to have the problem was avoided, forcing that shop to close. This in turn gave birth to the need for barbers to encourage individual shaving mugs for each patron. Barbers then encouraged their customers to purchase their own personal, sanitary shaving mug. .
To further encourage the purchase of mugs, some barbers had the idea of placing an individual's name, in gold script, on his personal mug. The mug blanks were imported from Europe and made of high quality china. Mugs were then decorated at the barber's wholesale supply distributor. The barber himself would receive a commission on any mug that a customer ordered, Thus began the era of the American personalized porcelain shaving mug. This can be divided into three periods. From the 1870's to 1889 was the early stage, where the idea of personalized mugs spread slowly. From 1890 to 1914 was the golden age of American shaving mugs, a time of high artistry and great popularity. The period 1914 to the 1920's was the time of decline, when the safety razor, introduced to men during WWI military service, entered the market place. Shaving then became a matter for the privacy of one's own home, rather than being shaved at the barbershop daily, which had been the tradition for almost the preceding 50 years. .
These years were the age of great immigration to the United States. Many of the immigrants lived in squalid tenements, where indoor plumbing and running water were a luxury.