The Safety Razor Inventors—and its not who you think!

Two of the inventors of the safety razor are buried in a whimsical mausoleum in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York—and neither is King Gillette.  While King Gillette gained fame for his razor and is often mistakenly given credit for his razor being the first, he was not the first to patent a safety razor or get one to market. Though they did not garner the lasting name-recognition of Gillette, on June 15,1880, Frederick, Richard, and Otto Kampfe, three immigrant brothers from Saxony, Germany, filed an application for a patent for the first safety razor to be manufactured in the United States.  Their invention put the straight razor on a path to become a thing of the past. 

The safety razor was a huge success and made the family wealthy.  Two of the Kampfe brothers, Frederick and Otto, used some of that wealth to build a mausoleum in the Green-Wood Cemetery.  Their names are stamped in bronze and emblazoned on either side of the entrance.  The Kampfe family name is carved into a light gray lentil resting on two columns flanking the doorway. The heavy granite mausoleum itself looks a little like a container that could have been found in your grandma’s canister set with its round shape topped with a polished ball.  The patinaed bronze door of the tomb features a classically-dressed mourning figure carrying an oil lamp—literally standing at death’s door. A flickering flame can be seen coming from the lamp, providing light.  In funerary symbolism the light emanating from the lamp represents the pathway to Truth and to Knowledge.  The Bible verse, II Samuel: Chapter 22, verse 29, says, “For thou art my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness.”

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