Pardon me, sir, there’s something in your mustache…

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:

1873 Patent

1873 Patent J. J. Greenough

Followed by this one patented three years later:

1876 Patent

1876 Patent J. S. Horton

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.

1878 Patent

1878 Patent C. H. Barrows

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.

1879 Patent

1879 Patent A. Schenck

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.

1879 Patent

1879 Patent I. M. Thatcher and J. Decker

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.

1879 Patent

1879 Patent W. C. King

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.

1889 Patent

1889 Patent J. O. Hibbard

Many of these designs were remarkably similar.

1890 Patent

1890 Patent H. B. Chandler

And another from 1890:


1890 Patent L. S. Ware

In 1891, however, a spoon with a mustache guard appears.  This will certainly help keep those pesky noodles off a mustache!

1891 Patent

1891 Patent W. S. O’Brien

This one from 1892 kind of looks like a straw. 

478861 Howard 1892

478861 Howard 1892

I don’t really follow how this J. Frampton guard works…

1895 Patent Frampton

1895 Patent J. Frampton

This C. Bruun design is nice and simple.

1896 Patent

1896 Patent C. Bruun

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!

1896 Patent

1896 Patent A. Vandersall

And another from July of 1896:

1896 Patent

1896 Patent

The protector shown below looks like it is adjustable not only to the width of the glass but also the depth of the glass.

1897 Patent

1897 Patent J. F. Haygood

And one of 1898:

1898 Patent Iams

1898 Patent W. T. Iams

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.

1899 Patent

1899 Patent H. Stevenson

D. B. Hubbard’s mustache guard illustrated below screws on to the cup for ease of cleaning.

1900 Patent

1900 Patent D. B. Hubbard

The next is another simple design patent.

1901 Patent

1901 Patent H. J. Mier

And this last patent, from 1909, has two sheets of illustrations:

1909 Patent Steele

1909 Patent C. A. Steele Jr.

The illustration above shows how the guard is to be used and the one below shows the more technical details:

Second Page of the 1909 Patent

Sheet Two of the 1909 Patent

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.

1878 "Oriental" Pattern Mustache Cup

1878 “Oriental” Pattern Mustache Cup

And the interior view of the above cup.  Looks like a simple and effective design.  This cup is available at my Etsy shop here:

Interior View of Mustache Cup

Interior View of Mustache Cup

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. 

Article from 1883 The Youth's Companion

Article from 1883 The Youth’s Companion

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:

Patent 84242 1868

Patent 84242 1868

The patent for the “beer cup” shown above is one of the oldest mustache strainer patents I’ve come across.

Patent 195067 1877

Patent 195067 1877

Another version of the ever popular mustache spoon is shown above.

 Patent 411988 Harrington 1889

Patent 411988 Harrington 1889

The mustache guard above looks a little intimidating but it looks like it can be fitted on an spoon.

Patent 563640 Bauer 1896 ice shield

Patent 563640 Bauer 1896 ice shield

A generic “ice shield” patent shown above…no mention of mustache.

Patent D19926 1890

Patent D19926 1890

Another mustache spoon patent shown above.  Looks like maybe a noodle or two could pass through.

1895 Home Furnishing Review, Vol 6 pg58

1895 Home Furnishing Review, Vol 6 pg58

The captioned is a humorous little snippit from the 1895 Home Furnishing Review regarding a portable mustache protector.

The New and Improved Illustrated Bartenders' Manual - Or How to Mix Drinks ... - Harry Johnson 1888

The New and Improved Illustrated Bartenders’ Manual – Or How to Mix Drinks … – Harry Johnson 1888

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.

Backwards Bends

Backwards Bends

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:

Search “mustache”.

This entry was posted in aesthetic, bar, barware, Elsmore Staffordshire, moustache, mustache, mustache cup, mustache guard, mustache julep strainer, mustache protector, mustache spoon, mustache strainer, Oriental Pattern, transferware and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Pardon me, sir, there’s something in your mustache…

  1. KerryCan says:

    What a completely fascinating and thorough look at this bizarre world! Those folks took their mustaches seriously–I never knew! I do wonder what could’ve been accomplished, had they turned all this creative energy to a real problem, like keeping chocolate from melting in summer heat, for instance! 😉

  2. Rob says:

    Check out these, some of which apply directly to the mustache or head:

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