Born January 5, 1855 in Wisconsin, his family soon moved to Chicago where he grew up.
His family was hard hit by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Blessed with the gift of salesmanship, he ended up as a salesman for the Crown Cork and Seal Company in the 1890’s.
There, he realized the bottle caps he sold were thrown away after the bottle was opened.
This made him recognize the value in building a business on a product that was used a few times, then discarded.
At the time, razor blades were relatively expensive, and dulled quickly. Razor blades required continuous sharpening, so he came up with the idea for a razor whose blade could be thrown away when it dulled. He realized this could meet a real need and likely be profitable.
Razors and blades
The most difficult part of developing his concept was engineering the blade. He needed a thin, cheap material and steel was difficult to work with and sharpen. This accounts for the delay between his initial idea and the product’s introduction.
Gillette changed the company name to Gillette Safety Razor Company in July of 1902. He then obtained a trademark registration (0056921) for his portrait and signature on his packaging.
Production began on his high-profit margin stamped steel razor blade with the Gillette company selling a total of 51 razors and 168 blades in 1903.
The following year, Gillette sold 90,884 razors and 123,648 blades, thanks in part to lower prices, automated manufacturing techniques and good advertising.
By 1908, his corporation had established manufacturing facilities in the United States, Canada, England, France and Germany.
Razor sales reached 450,000 units and blade sales exceeded 70 million units in 1915.
Gillette’s razor retailed for a substantial $5 (about $134 in 2006 dollars) — half the average working man’s weekly pay — yet they sold by the millions.
In 1918, when the U.S. entered World War I, the Gillette company provided all American soldiers with a field razor set, paid for by the government.
Gillette spent large amounts of money on property. He also traveled extensively and was universally recognized from his picture on the packets of his razor blades. People were surprised that he was a real person rather than just a marketing image.
Then the “crash” began came on October 24, 1929 (Black Thursday). Gillette lost most of the value of his corporate shares as a result of the Great Depression.
King Camp Gillette was almost bankrupt when he died in Los Angeles, California, July 9, 1932.
The Gillette Company has continued to sell products under a variety of brand names including Gillette, Braun, Oral-B, and Duracell until 2005, when the company was sold to Procter & Gamble for $57 billion USD. It is now known as Global Blades & Razors, with the Gillette (brand), a business unit of Procter & Gamble.
Now WE know em