Old, Weird Tech: Mustache Guard Edition


Mustaches can do a lot more than just tickle. They can interest, inspire and intimidate, according to Aaron Perlut, chairman of the American Mustache Institute, which released a list of the 20 mustaches that changed history to The Atlantic.

Mustache3.jpgA mustache does not have to be a simple tuft of hair above the lip and below the nose. In the 19th century, mustaches assumed all kinds of forms thanks to the holding power of wax. They were personal works of art.

The wax, however, was not perfect. For one, it could be melted or mussed by steam or hot liquids. That spelled trouble at tea time. But never fear, the relentlessly inventive 19th century tinkerer devised a solution: the mustache protector.

Originally invented by English potter Harvey Adams in 1830, according to Allan Peterkin's "One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair," mustache guards were so popular that many others were quick to claim their own patents.

While drinking, a man would rest his majestic mustache on the guard that stretched across the inside of the cup. The ledge would block hot drinks from melting his mustache out of shape.

Mustache4.jpg"The invention of the mustache cup spread over Europe, until most potters featured a product with a similar design," according to the Rosenberg Library Museum in Galveston, Texas, which recently displayed a pair of 19th-century mustache cups as their Treasure of the Month. "Between the years 1850-1900, famous manufacturers such as Meissen, Royal Crown Derby, Imari, Royal Bayreuth, Limoges and others created their own versions of this masculine tableware."

Mustache cup production slowed after 1920, but there are still fans. A quick tour through Ebay and Etsy, those online rabbit holes, will result in dozens of options you can buy now. Below, one of our favorite mustache cup enthusiasts walks you through the basic design of what is undoubtedly his most prized possession.

Apparently it bears a German phrase meaning, "This great beautiful cup was designed to go with your beautiful mustache." Seriously.

Images: 1. The Daily Mail; 2. Google Patents: J.O. Hibbard, Mustache Protector (July 30, 1889); 3. Google Patents: A. Schenck, Improvement in Mustache Cups and Glasses.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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