The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

An Adams Family Razor

Among the other recent interesting finds our Preservation Librarian Kathy Griffin has made in the Society's pre-1900 archives is a 25 June 1860 note from Dr. Charles G. Greene of Boston, which accompanied his donation of a razor used by John and John Quincy Adams:

"A razor, purchased in Paris, (France) in 1778 or 9 by John Adams, afterwards President of the U. States; used by him & by his son John Quincy Adams, on their august faces; transmitted by the latter to his kinsman, Mr. --- Greenleaf, of Quincy, & by him to his son Wm C. Greenleaf, an intimate friend & chum of the undersigned. In 1829 Wm. C. Greenleaf presented it to me.

Through the varied phases of its existence, it has been in constant use in smoothing the faces of its different owners, & though costing, originally only one franc, was worth a hecatomb* of the best razors, ever manufactured by the celebrated makers of Barber, Greaves, Butcher or Westleholm."

Our Curator's files describe the razor as "steel blade, incised with partial maker's mark on one side: STY...REFINED, with protein based handle (horn, baleen or antler) having three small brass inlays on front side." They also suggest that Dr. Greene's description is not quite accurate: the razor is English, made around 1780.



* hecatomb - OED says this properly means "an offering of a hundred oxen," but loosely was used to refer to "a large number or quantity."

permalink | Published: Tuesday, 26 October, 2010, 10:11 AM


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