The Gillette company and brand originate from the late 19th century when salesman and inventor King Camp Gillette came up with the idea of a safety razor that used disposable blades. Safety razors at the time were essentially short pieces of a straight razor clamped to a holder. The blade had to be stropped before each shave and after a time needed to be honed by a cutler. Gillette's invention was inspired by his mentor at Crown Cork & Seal Company, William Painter, who had invented the Crown cork. Painter encouraged Gillette to come up with something that like the Crown cork, could be thrown away once used.
While Gillette came up with the idea in 1895, developing the concept into a working model and drawings that could be submitted to the Patent Office took six years. Gillette had trouble finding anyone capable of developing a method to manufacture blades from thin sheet steel but finally found William Emery Nickerson, an MIT graduate with a degree in chemistry. Gillette and other members of the project founded The American Safety Razor Company on September 28, 1901. The company had issues getting funding until Gillette's old friend John Joyce invested the necessary amount for the company to begin manufacturing. Production began slowly in 1903, but the following year Nickerson succeeded in building a new blade grinding machine that had bottlenecked production. During its first year of operation, the company had sold 51 razors and 168 blades, but the second year saw sales rise to 90,884 razors and 123,648 blades. The company was renamed to the Gillette Safety Razor Company in 1904 and it quickly began to expand outside the United States. In 1905 the company opened a sales office in London and a blade manufacturing plant in Paris and by 1906 Gillette had a blade plant in Canada, a sales operation in Mexico and a European distribution network that sold in many nations, including Russia.