There you are, sitting at your favorite bar, sipping a delightfully cool and refreshing fruit smash. You notice the bartender is looking at you a little strangely. Then he leans over and whispers “Pardon me, sir, there’s something in your mustache.” How mortifying! You pick up a napkin and nonchalantly wipe your mustache and sure enough, there is a piece of strawberry now on the napkin. “Someone should invent some kind of shield to eliminate this embarrassing scene from playing over and over again”, you think. I’m sure this situation happened many times in the second half of the 19th Century. And it presented enough of a problem for industrious and creative individuals to invent solutions for the problem…the mustache shield, mustache guard, mustache protector, mustache cup, mustache spoon. One of the earliest patents that I have found for such a device is the following 1873 patent for a mustache shield:
Followed by this one patented three years later:
You’ll note that some call it “mustache” and some call it “moustache” but whatever it is, good minds were trying to guard, shield and protect it.
In other posts I have mentioned that scalloped shaped julep strainers were often served with a fruity iced drink to keep fruit and ice away from the lips, teeth and mustache of the imbiber (if the imbiber did, indeed, have a mustache). In the search for julep strainer patents, I came across these mustache related patents.
I found three patents for 1879. The one shown below has two inventors. I can almost see Mssrs. Thatcher and Decker sitting at their favorite saloon, discussing how the old moustache guard can be improved. Theirs had a slide element to it so that it could be adjusted to fit various size glasses.
The following was the last of the 1879 patents found. This was simply called a “drinking-cup attachment”. The target audience was thereby expanded to include women and non-mustached men, protecting their lips and teeth from ice and other things floating around in their drink.
There was a long dry spell in the decade between 1879 and 1889 as I couldn’t find any mustache related patents for those years.
Many of these designs were remarkably similar.
And another from 1890:
In 1891, however, a spoon with a mustache guard appears. This will certainly help keep those pesky noodles off a mustache!
This one from 1892 kind of looks like a straw.
I don’t really follow how this J. Frampton guard works…
This C. Bruun design is nice and simple.
The 1896 Vandersall patent shown below is innovative. Mr. Vandersall’s design is for a cup and a mustache guard. The guard has three “mouthways” and the round opening in the center is a “receptacle for the nose of the drinker”. He mentions this could be used as a communion cup or ordinary drinking cup. I wouldn’t think a gentleman would mind having the remnants of a little communion wine in his mustache but what do I know. The benefit of this cup, as I see it, is that three mustached men can share a drink at the bar. Wow!
And another from July of 1896:
The protector shown below looks like it is adjustable not only to the width of the glass but also the depth of the glass.
And one of 1898:
The strange looking soup spoon in the following patent looks like it might be good for cream soups or bisques as it doesn’t appear any sizable solid piece could pass through it.
D. B. Hubbard’s mustache guard illustrated below screws on to the cup for ease of cleaning.
The next is another simple design patent.
And this last patent, from 1909, has two sheets of illustrations:
The illustration above shows how the guard is to be used and the one below shows the more technical details:
Many potters produced mustache cups in the late 1800s. The following cup was most likely produced by Thomas Elsmore. The patent for the transfer design was registered to Elsmore & Son of Tunstall, Staffordshire Potteries on May 14, 1878. The pattern name is “Oriental”, a lovely example of aesthetic Japanesque themed images.
And the interior view of the above cup. Looks like a simple and effective design. This cup is available at my Etsy shop here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/187577657/mustache-cup-19th-century-transfer
And that’s my little foray into the world of antique mustache protector gadgetry. What I really want to know is did you carry your mustache guard or spoon around with you in your pocket when you were out and about? Or did bars and restaurants supply their own. Something to ponder.
The article above came from the 1883 The Youth’s Companion magazine….
UPDATE 1/7/16: Since I wrote this original post, more interesting articles and patents have come to light. I’m inserting them below in chronological order of their original issue:
The patent for the “beer cup” shown above is one of the oldest mustache strainer patents I’ve come across.
Another version of the ever popular mustache spoon is shown above.
The mustache guard above looks a little intimidating but it looks like it can be fitted on an spoon.
A generic “ice shield” patent shown above…no mention of mustache.
Another mustache spoon patent shown above. Looks like maybe a noodle or two could pass through.
The captioned is a humorous little snippit from the 1895 Home Furnishing Review regarding a portable mustache protector.
The illustration above came from an 1888 bartenders’ manual. It shows a julep strainer being served in a “fancy brandy smash” supposedly to keep the ice, mint and whatever away from the imbiber’s lips and teeth. I hate it when you have to pick mint out of your teeth after a couple of hours at the bar. But the configuration of the strainer and placement in the glass doesn’t really leave much room for a nice, healthy mustache, does it? It would be crushed against the strainer or so I think.
Most julep strainers have a bend in the handle close to where it meets the bowl. You can see it in the illustration above. When the strainer is sitting bowl side up, the bend is upwards. But I’ve come across some antique julep strainers where the bend is reverse, the bend dips “down” instead of the usual “up”. See the photograph below.
The strainer in the middle above is the ususual “up” configuration of the bend. The strainers on either side have bends that dip down. This design has puzzled me for quite some time. I have several of these strainers and it does not appear they were tampered with…it looks like they were made that way. But why? Why? And then I had a eureka moment. Ahah! It was so that the strainer could be served in the drink with the bowl side up! It would still keep the ice, mint and fruit away from the imbiber’s mouth but at the same time it would provide some room for a robust mustache. What do you think?
I have several of these mustache julep strainers for sale at my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/queenofsienna