One of the most popular artefacts within our collection is the moustache cup that is exhibited on the desk in the Library. The novelty behind its existence, the built in moustache shelf, delights all ages when our interpreters reference it, and is among a favoured treasure in our collection among our staff and volunteer interpreters, as well.   I do not know much about the origins of the cup. There is no hallmark or provenance associated with the cup and saucer.

The invention of the moustache cup is attributed to Harvey Adams,  an English potter, c. 1860. Adams made his fortune developing a high class china company, Harvey Adams and Co., which became Hammersley & Co, after Harvey’s retirement in 1885.

 

Novel to the 2015 consumer, the moustache cup was a huge success in the Victorian world due to the fact that moustaches were en vogue. Take a look at any photograph of the era, and you will see all sorts of fancy whiskers and moustaches adorning the faces of men.  Even among my own archives, take a look at this early 20th century photograph of the McLaughlin men., on the right.father with three sons

 The necessity and popularity of accessories for the moustache becomes quite understandable. Add to the popularity of the moustache the requirement of the British Military who make the moustache compulsory between 1860 and 1916, since the moustachioed man imparted authority,

Command No. 1,695 of the King’s Regulations read:

  The hair of the head will be kept short. The chin and the under lip will be shaved, but not the upper lip…”

“Although the act of shaving one’s upper lip was trivial in itself, it was considered a breach of discipline.     If   a    soldier were to do this, he faced disciplinary action by his commanding officer which could include imprisonment, an especially unsavory prospect in the Victorian era.”
Military Moustache

So, why the cup?  The moustache cup is a cup designed with a small lip on the inside intended to protect the drinker’s facial hair from whatever beverage they happen to be drinking.  In an era where the moustache was either a must have or a want to have item, gentlemen came up with a number of ways to make sure that their moustaches were maintained. One of the more popular ways to style a moustache during this time was to use wax, some men also liked to dye their moustache to give it a more vibrant appearance. The problem with both of these methods of moustache maintenance was that neither held up well to hot liquid- dye would run and wax would invariably melt and cause unsightly moustache droopage the second it came into contact with something like hot tea or coffee.
This concern also applied to soup, and eventually the moustache spoon also became a much needed item in any well appointed home.  We do not have a moustache spoon in the collection, but I bet there are a few museums that do!

By the turn of the 20th century, the invention of the safety razor led to a change in grooming habits that made moustache cups obsolete for the vast majority of men. As a result, production and sales of moustache cups slowly dried up. By 1930, this formerly commonplace item was almost unheard of.

I think at any age RSM would have been happy to have his moustache cup handy.