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The 1930s Gillette Popular model line (pics)

Northstonehill

Well-Known Member
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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 Aristocrat, 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.

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 set variations (I know)
In total I have so far counted only 8 set variations. For each of the 1938 and 1939 years the razor came in 3 different set versions, as also shown in this 1938 advertisement:

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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. And finally 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 (see separate picture below showing the differences). 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.

On top, the 1939 nickel razor also came in a beautiful red leather Travelers Set, coined the #4 set.

The unicorn
The 8th, 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 even harder 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.

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So far, I have been able to land 6 of the 8 set options, only missing the #4 Traveler and the 1938 version of the #46 set. And my 1939 gold plated razor is currently with Captain Murphy and Chris Evatt for a full refurbishment - as described in an earlier separate thread here on B&B. Half of my sets I’ve found matched but as such matched sets are rarely offered I’ve had to also look out for set pieces to get to where I am. Like if I’ve spotted a Popular case with a mismatched razor I’ve been quick to collect it and keep it until I’ve fallen into the correct razor to match a set. The true hard-to-find items are those loose bakelite bladeholders which typically have been binned many years ago unless part of an unused set sitting at the bottom of a drawer.

I hope that the future holds for me to find the last oustanding sets, so I can call my collection complete. Enjoy!

1938 Gillette Popular #45 set, nickel (blade banks sadly missing)
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1938 Gillette Popular #47 set, nickel
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1939 Gillette Popular #45 set, nickel/silver, dark blue bakelite case

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1939 Gillette Popular #47 set (silver replate)
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Case differences (left to right: Early Aristocrat #15, later Aristocrat #15, Popular)
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gvw755

SU-Patron Gold
Interesting thing about the Popular (and Aristocrat Jr) is that they were supposedly lower cost alternatives to their big brother Aristocrats, however they are harder to find than their big brothers. I see enough Aristocrat Jrs floating around, but not is as large a number as Gen 3 Aristocrats, though some I suspect are mislabeled as something else because they do not have that distinctive Aristocrat look. The Popular is impossible to find. I think part of the reason is that @Northstonehill bought all of them. :headwall1

Great collection just so I can see what I have to continue to seek. :daumenhoch
 

Northstonehill

Well-Known Member
Interesting thing about the Popular (and Aristocrat Jr) is that they were supposedly lower cost alternatives to their big brother Aristocrats, however they are harder to find than their big brothers. I see enough Aristocrat Jrs floating around, but not is as large a number as Gen 3 Aristocrats, though some I suspect are mislabeled as something else because they do not have that distinctive Aristocrat look. The Popular is impossible to find. I think part of the reason is that @Northstonehill bought all of them. :headwall1

Great collection just so I can see what I have to continue to seek. :daumenhoch

Haha, thanks Les :p I agree, these Populars don’t pop up often and when they do they are either presented as a matched set (and costs a bundle, I saw a nice #46 set go for 400 USD(!)). Or it is mis-labelled as something else. My most recent one, the 1938 nickel razor popped up in a matching but beat-up #47 case but with a generic Gillette title to it. It is probably a bit more seen on this side of the pond...
 

brit

Well-Known Member
Gorgeous #47 set you have there sir! Silver handle?

Also interesting, that the size of the Gillette lettering imprint in the lid is smaller than the one on mine... I wonder what that is about...
i believe the case to be a #88 1945 new rfb thin handle case.i originally got my '39 popular uncased.still building..silver handle,400631 baseplate
 

Northstonehill

Well-Known Member
i believe the case to be a #88 1945 new rfb thin handle case.i originally got my '39 popular uncased.still building..silver handle,400631 baseplate

No, your case is an original Popular case. The #88 case I believe has no knurling on the top of the lid :)

EDIT
Just checked mr-razor... well, color me wrong - I never saw that case with the New, but indeed it has knurling?! I stand corrected, good sir!
 

brit

Well-Known Member
No, your case is an original Popular case. The #88 case I believe has no knurling on the top of the lid :)

EDIT
Just checked mr-razor... well, color me wrong - I never saw that case with the New, but indeed it has knurling?! I stand corrected, good sir!
would this case be appropriate for the 39 popular? my new rfb thin handle came with it's original black bakelite case id'ed as a 1945 #77 on mr razor's site.near nos.this chrome case i found in europe by itself. my popular has 430 030 stamped on the handle but 400621 on the baseplate.it appears to be silver ..
 

brit

Well-Known Member
Yes. To me it looks like a matching case :D Like this:

View attachment 20451
ahh ok..i was getting mixed up with your 1939 silver replate pic early in the post, it has the gillette and diamond logo insert.gillette england could have used the leftover popular cases for the last new rfb sets produced in '45..i guess the populars were the beginnings of the aristocrat jr razors..
 

Northstonehill

Well-Known Member
Returned from Autumn vacation to a nice arrival. The 1938 #46 set arrived, wrapped in soft bubble wrap envelope(!), really scruffy looking so I opened with worry. A corner was chipped but could be glued back on, and thankfully no other new damages. But it has seen a lot of use, took a lot of cleaning and has an old but stable corner crack too. The razor has seen equally great use and strongly needs a new coat. But the mechanics are fine, and considering the rarity of the full package incl blade banks this is still an o.k. set to join its much nicer sisters.

Now I need to find the last remaining Popular set - the Traveller #4...

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