Today is the 145th anniversary of King Camp Gillette‘s birth. Born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, King Gillette was a traveling salesman who came up with the disposable shaving razor. His goal was to get rich by creating a product people tossed into the trash after using (then they’d need to go buy another one, see?). He enlisted the aid of a machinist/inventor named William Nickerson, and by 1901 had founded the American Safety Razor company (changed a short time later to Gillette Safety Razor).
I wonder why they didn’t name the razor the Nickerson.
King Camp Gillette got rich all right, but after 1910 didn’t have a lot to do with running the company. Instead he retired and wrote books about his idea of a socialist utopia. You can read all of World Corporation (1910) and get some idea of his vision — a nationless world where “corporationists” (an elite group of 10,000 stockholders) have triumphed over war and poverty.
King Gillette’s plan that a worldwide corporation could end the world’s ills hasn’t so far worked out, although it looks like he got it right in predicting that “nations will be helpless in its grasp” and that “dollars, not individuals” will be the focus.
Now Gillette’s company is an international powerhouse. They’re in more than the razor business, too. They own the companies that make Duracell batteries, Oral-B toothbrushes, Papermate pens and Liquid Paper.
Maybe that legacy is why King Camp Gillette is considered by some to be a “hero of capitalism” despite his socialist dreams.
To read more about Gillette, try this brief profile, or go to this history of the Gillette Company.