||J. Wiss & Sons Co.
Jacob Wiss founded the company in 1848 as Jacob Wiss Cutlery. The earliest mention of razors is this Newark Business Directory 1853-54. The 1911 catalog claims that the Wiss razor has been the standard of razor excellence for 60 years. Production of Wiss razors ended in the latter part of 1923. Wiss razors with tangs made by Wade Butcher and other European (e.g. German) manufacturers appear on eBay. Apparently after production stopped they continued to fill orders for razors with tangs made by others. Razors no longer appeared on the 1924 price list. The 1925 catalog lists razors on the cover, but they are not shown within. The market for straight razors collapsed after WWI. They gave all the GIs safety razors, and they returned home in 1919.
Vulcanized rubber was patented in 1844. Bowling balls and hockey pucks are made from vulcanized rubber. The early Wiss razor scales were all vulcanized rubber. Celluloid was invented in 1869. It took a few years for it to get into production. Bakelite was first produced in 1910. Some Wiss brand razors made after Bakelite became available are Bakelite. Bakelite is very hard and is very shiny.
A razor with aluminum scales appears as Style Y in 1907. Earlier Style Y was dark blue on the outside and white on the inside. The first aluminum smelter was in 1889 in Switzerland and the second in 1896 in Scotland. I have never seen this style.
Catalogs With Razors
- The 1907 catalog has 23 pages on razors on p. 37-59. It lacks the models starting with 2.
- The 1911 catalog has 31 pages on razors and strops on p. 46-76.
- The 1912 catalog has 25 pages on razors on p. 46-70, and 6 pages of strops on p. 71-76. This catalog debuts the Automatic Razor Stropper on p. 71. And the Safety Razor Sets in boxes on p. 82.
- The 1917 catalog has 19 pages on razors on p. 54-72, and 13 pages of strops on p. 73-83 and p. 89-90. This one pictures 39 different strops, including the auto-strop. The most strop pictures of any catalog. Plus two strop display units. This is the first catalog to show the razors with names on the tangs. It is the first with pictures of the models starting with a 2. This, and the next, have the best pictures showing the different blade styles.
- The 1919 catalog has 20 pages on razors on p. 62-81, and 10 pages on strops on p. 82-91. It is down to 22 strops and not the auto-strop. Down to one strop display unit.
- A 1921 catalog with razors is in the Smithsonian American History Museum Library. This is the last catalog with razors. Price lists for it are on the 1920s page.
Wiss Razor Ads
Collected Pictures of Wiss Razors
- I started harvesting pictures of Wiss razors that passed through eBay in March 2008. With the catalogs I have tried to match them against their style names. The best example of each variation was selected for here. There are 65 split up into:
Once into the pictures section you will be able to scroll around to all of them. Or they can be accessed All On One Page.
- Razors With Etched Names. The models with names etched onto the blades only came in one configuration. Some of the models included a leather case. There is no pattern to the names and what you get. And they changed. Names in 1907 are completely different razors in 1911. Then after 1912 the names switch again. This section also includes a few that have names and were not found in the catalogs.
- Razors with Plain Black Rubber Handles. By far the most popular were Oval and Flat Black Rubber Handles. These are actually part of the Style Letter group, but are letterless and only have a number from the below charts stamped on the tang. This is where all the single shoulder razors are.
- Razors with Style Letter. They went through the alphabet twice for these. For the second there is a 2 stamped before the letter on the tang. Some Style letters were dropped along the way. These were sold by the dozen. You picked your handle and then had a choice of 48 regular blades (3 concavities, 4 sizes, 4 points).
- Unidentified. These are the ones I could not find in the two catalogs that I have, did not have an etched name, and had a handle with style. With the auctions passed I can't ask about a letter stamped on the tang. Update: The 1919 catalog has eight razors with the names stamped on the tangs. Some of them are in here. [To be reorganized.]
- Sets. Wiss sold weekly sets and travel sets. The offerings varied over time. Pictures include a sales assortment canvas pouch and a full seven day set.
- Strops and Safety Razors. Wiss sold many different strops, including an automatic one. There are very few pictures here. The strops probably deteriorated and were never really collectibles. There are six pages starting on page 71 in the 1915 Catalog. And there was a safety razor and blades, presumably towards the end.
Wiss Blade Variations
In the razors with the Style letters you picked your handle and matched it with your choice of blade.