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Thread: H. J. Herskovitz Sheffield pre-1891 mirror finish?

  1. #1
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    Default H. J. Herskovitz Sheffield pre-1891 mirror finish?

    Hey Fellas, well, I joined the site about six weeks ago. I started shaving with a straight 27 years ago and gave it up up after a few years. Now I'm back! I had my first truly sweet straight shave yesterday after canning my first 12k Guangxi stone and getting a better one....

    anyway, today I bought this crazy nice Sheffield razor at this nutty junk joint in my town.... Maybe you've been to a similar place: literally dirt floors, puddles to step through, and everything from buttons to ancient mixers, saws, axes, fishing reels, any kind of tool imaginable, cigar boxes, iron fences, restaurant signs, furniture, coffee machines... I had been in last month and he said he had sold everything he had in straight razors to the local hot towel barbers. Well, when I walked in today, he said he just got one in and that it was pretty nice....

    it took a while to find it, as his wife had put it in a case where he wasn't accustomed to looking. When he pulled it out, I thought that I must be looking at a fake! It looked almost brand new! Sure, there were a few scratches from honing, but the thing was so shiny, the letter stamping so unbesmirched, I thought, "hmmmm......this must be a newer blade, replacement scales?" But the blade doesn't indicate England, only Sheffield, which, from what I have read, implies that it is pre-1891. So I bought it...for 15 bucks! It is 12/16ths and I think it has a great potential to be one of my new favorites!

    I found a few threads on the forum mentioning the maker, but not much. Any details on the maker and member's appreciation of the quality ( or lack thereof) would be welcome.

    Thanks

    david w
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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    The price on the razor is $3.00 usd, so it was sold in the US. That means that H. J. Herskovitz was not necessarily a Sheffield maker, but an american importer.

    There is a Herman J. Herskovitz born in Romania in 1870 who became a US citizen. He arived in the states in 1886, was naturalized in 1891 and on the form he gives his profession as 'businessman'. In 1920 he applied for a permit to visit England, the reason being business.

    Not saying he is your man - just that we could be looking for an american importer.

    Regards,
    Neil
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    Historically Inquisitive Martin103's Avatar
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    The White-Orr's Reference Register 1818-1919, listed under Cutlery Importers and manufacturers.
    Name:  New york city cutlery manu1.JPG
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    Neil seems to be right on the money on this one again that Mr Herskovitz was an American Importer.


    Heiman Herskovitz that is by this advertisement from 1922
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    Wow, okay

    Profuse Thanks to Neil and Martin for going to primary sources for research!

    I must point out that the box that the razor came in may not be the original box as it does not have a maker or importer name on it. Also, it says extra-hollow and this razor is more of a semi hollow to 3/4 wedge by my eye...the only image of a Herskovitz razor online that I could find with this box was an ended ebay listing by the guy I bought the razor from. The actual razor and box i hold in my hand.

    more questions:

    were these razors actually produced in Sheffield, England? If so, why don't they say England? I havent been able to find a single photo of a herskovitz razor that says England.

    was it common during this period for unscrupulous businessmen to stamp razors "Sheffield" simply to up the asking price? I am pretty sure that the practice was common with the name Solingen...

    Finally, are there members out there that have any experience shaving with these blades? I mean, in the end, the history is interesting, however it is the shave quality that matters. I will hone this one up today and see how it handles!

    David

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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    Yes David, I think its safe to say that the razor was made in England.

    Although the US insisted that the origin of foreign goods be stamped on them post 1891, there were ways around the tariff act. Martin posted a good article on the use of 'wash stamps' once, where the stamp was really a con, made from some gummy substance with pigment in it that hardened, good enough to fool the authorities for a while, but easily removed with spirits. The result of the McKinley Tariff Act, as far as imported cutlery and similar items is concerned is that prior to this american made pocket cutlery could be bought for just a little less than the best imported English cutlery. Whopping a huge 46% tariff on imports soon changed this, in more ways than one. Really it was a thinly-disguised act of Protectivism, passed to protect domestic sales by making imports too high to favourably compare. Most americans did not like the tariff act for obvious reasons.

    Your razor either evaded the Act somehow, or more likely was part of a stockpile already in the US or is of pre-1891 vintage.

    There were attempts to use the 'Sheffield' name, particularly notable is one in which an americam firm registered the name as a brand mark - contested by Sheffield, England, of course!

    Regards,
    Neil
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    thank you again, Neil.

    Fascinating stuff. People have been doing whatever it takes to make a buck for ever, I guess...

    I am in the process of honing it (had to lap my stones first) and hope it makes me happy.

    I will post a report!

    regards

    David

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fiddlehead View Post
    Also, it says extra-hollow and this razor is more of a semi hollow to 3/4 wedge by my eye...
    I might be (shudder) wrong, but looking at vintage Sheffield razors of bygone days, I see many stamped "extra hollow", "full hollow", and so on, that we would consider 1/4 or 1/2 hollow. The Solingen folks perfected hollow grinding in the 1870s IIRC. This is why you see razors from the subsequent period stamped "Ground in Solingen of Sheffield Steel." The early 'hollow ground' razors were not as fully hollow as those made as the technology advanced.
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    Makes sense, Jimmy, and interesting that competing locales would seek eachother's help. Then again, it seems that some of the producers were operating in both places

    The razor itself gives no imprinted indication of the grind. The box says extra hollow, but we don't know whether it is original.Technologies progress and there is always room for subjective labels, like the range one might experience in a product such as "hot sauce." Also, in comparison to most guys here, my experience level is low in judging the grinds of different areas. I do know I have other razors from both Sheffield and Solingn which are way more hollow than this razor, but labels change as standards change. Standards change as technology brings new possibilities.

    Ah, jeez, I could end up on this forum all day!

    David

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    BTW, the razor took a pretty sweet edge. I shaved with it tonight wtg and atg. I am still chasing the perfect zen shave, but it's a good shaver...

    Thanks again to everyone

    David
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