The 1938-1940 Gillette Popular model line

Discussion in 'Safety Razors' started by Northstonehill, Apr 11, 2021.

  1. Northstonehill

    Northstonehill Active Member

    Bottom row: 1938 Populars, Upper rows: 1939/1940 versions. 1939 gold razor missing (undergoing refurbishment).

    THE GILLETTE POPULAR was a unique line in the British Gillette 1930s model offering, made alongside a.o. the 1st generation Aristocrat. The Aristocrat and Popular models were quite alike, both being TTO open combs and having the same head. But the Populars have a distinguishably thinner handle than the Aristocrats, and on top they have that unique quirky feature where the blade doors do not open automatically when you twist the knob (as they do one any other Gillette TTO). Instead you have to twist the knob open but then manually flip the doors open either by turning the razor upside-down or by simply flipping the doors open with your fingers.

    The Populars were made in 1938 through 1940, as far as I know.

    Gillette Popular advertisements - First in 1938 version, second in 1939 version
    9F57A127-32D6-464D-AAAF-6E674032F9F4.jpeg 7CE00196-0900-45DD-AF08-1F4D9B70E726.jpeg

    1938 and 1939 razor differences
    The dead give-away difference between the 1938 and 1939 models is that the 1938 model has Rocket style handle knurling whereas the 1939 version has the gorgeous barberpole handle pattern also seen on the British Aristocrats.

    The 8-9 set variations (I know of)
    In total I have so far counted only 8-9 set variations. For each of the 1938 and 1939 years the razor came in 3 different set versions, as also shown in the two pictured advertisements (notice above how one advert depicts the 1938 model and the other the 1939 model).
    • The #45 set held a nickel plated razor (some were all nickel, some had a silver plated handle) in a dark blue bakelite case.
    • The #46 set held a gold plated razor in a similar but white bakelite case.
    • The more expensive #47 set also held the nickel plated razor (again, some with silver plated handle) but in a bright nickel polished case. This nickel case incidentally was almost identical to the #15 Aristocrat set case but was unique to the Populars as it had a different pattern on the top of the lid. And like the Aristocrat the case came either with the diamond logo imprint or with an all-block letter imprint. Both shown here, notice how large the block letters are.
    • A French mixed #45/#46 version exists too of the 1939 model, with nickel razor but in a white bakelite case, both marked “Importé D’Angleterre”.
    • On top, the 1939 nickel razor also came in a beautiful red leather Travelers Set, coined the #4 set. Today this is actually the very rarest of all, I believe less than a handful of specimens are known to exist today.
    • And finally...
    The 1940 unicorn
    The 9th, final, and to me most unique set variation came in 1940, according to mr-razor: A white bakelite case holding an only-once-seen razor with a bright nickel head and a black anodized nickel handle. A stunning model with that handle color which was only seen during the same era on some Rotbart models. This set is quite hard to track down today as it seeemingly was made only for the French market, with both case and razor engraved/embossed ‘Importé D’Angleterre’. As far as I understand, we don’t know today which # moniker this set was given.

    The 1940 black handle Popular

    My 1939 #46 wreck currently undergoing restauration. Apart from missing plating the razor is actually in great shape (mid-process pic from Captain Murphy)
    90A4DB6A-415C-4EBA-90ED-90EAE2AD01C1.jpeg AB261D13-72F4-4438-8ED8-6335F040ACD6.jpeg
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2021
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  2. swarden43

    swarden43 "It's your shave. Enjoy it your way."©

    WOW! Beautiful collection you have there, Sir!!
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  3. Enrico

    Enrico Popcorn

    As much as I like to see the razors in pristine condition, I really enjoy seeing a severely neglected razor go through a restoration.


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  4. Northstonehill

    Northstonehill Active Member

    Thank you guys! - And yes, rescuing a beat-up specimen like this makes one feel really good. And it was beat up indeed, I don’t know how it could get this bad in the plating, must have been sitting somewhere moist for decades. But still, as I could also see from the seller pics the razor was 100% free from pitting and the teeth were straight (which are the worst threats to a nice end result), so I hoped it could be resurrected.

    4A58ACE7-711E-469C-AFA1-066E1C8C32CA.jpeg 1C6F4005-3860-4E48-9D54-C16EDF600937.jpeg
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  5. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

    In that case that certainly is a restore it type of razor. It really isn't usable or displayable to a collector otherwise.
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  6. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

    Note on patents stamped on the razors. The ones made between 1938 - 1939 will have 400 621 stamped on the base plates. The ones made from 1939 - 1940 have 400 030 on them. They follow the same patent number change over as the British Aristocrats in 1939. That also allows us to determine if ones with the barber pole knurling were produced in 1939 only or 1939 and 1940 depending what patent number it has.

    Knowing that we can say the black anodized ones were produced in 1939 for sure since at least one is documented with 400 621 patent number on them on mr-razor's web site. I haven't seen any with the other patent number so the 1940 date may not be correct. A documented one with the 400 030 patent will confirm the 39 - 40 date range and one might be in @Northstonehill collection here.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2021
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  7. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

    Here is an ad showing them being sold still in 1940.
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  8. gorgo2

    gorgo2 geezerhood

    Was the Popular aka the Senator?
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  9. Northstonehill

    Northstonehill Active Member

    Mine also has 400.621 on the baseplate. I dated it 1940 based on mr-razor.

    I believe the Senators and Populars were different razors, but others will know more.

    And many thanks for posting the ad - Great! - I did not have that one :)
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021
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  10. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

    No, shaved with both before and can say they are not the same razor.
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  11. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

    If you look carefully there is a Popular on the site with the 400 030 patent on the base plate dated to 1939. We know for sure the 400 030 patent stamps on base plates came afterwards so either that one is wrong and should be 1940 or a black popular razor with a 400 621 patent on it should be 1939.

    Based on what I know about the British Aristocrats my take is the black anodized one is dated wrong unless what I do know about them is incorrect.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021
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  12. brit

    brit in a box

    awesome ..:cool:
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  13. tonich

    tonich Well-Known Member

    Nice collection!
    I wish it was mine. :happy096:
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  14. Northstonehill

    Northstonehill Active Member

    Well, you helped me build it, good sir, thanks!!
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  15. Northstonehill

    Northstonehill Active Member

    Thanks a bunch, Gary!
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  16. brit

    brit in a box

    fine shaver.1939 popular,400621..
    today's endeavor
    brit popular
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  17. Northstonehill

    Northstonehill Active Member

    Just checked all my Populars. They all have 400.621 on the baseplate.
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  18. dangermouse

    dangermouse Well-Known Member

    This is a fantastic thread. Great information and a stunning picture of all the Popular models. Thank you.
    brit likes this.
  19. Northstonehill

    Northstonehill Active Member

    Thanks so much for your kind words, warmly appreciated Sir :thanks:

    Let me know if you want close-ups of some of the individual razors. I have them already, haha.
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  20. Chad-jaja

    Chad-jaja New Member

    Beautiful sets. Not a huge fan of the shave with them though. Going to move on my #4 traveler set with the nickel Barber Pole handle Popular.

    Not sure of it's value trade wise for a good #15 aristocrat set etc. If only a handful truly exist its value should cover that and a bit more.

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