Hear the name Remington mentioned and we automatically think of high quality men’s shaving products – razors, electric shavers, shaving foam etc. The Remington name is generally considered to be one of the best in the business when it comes to male grooming. But it didn’t always used to be this way. Believe it or not, Remington began its life not as a manufacturer of shaving products, but as a maker of firearms.
The business was first established by one Eliphalet Remington almost two centuries ago, when he set up a small gunsmith forge business at his home in Ilion Gorge, New York. For the first thirty years of its existence, Remington remained steadfast to its firearms business, only later experimenting with the manufacture of other device and products when Eliphalet’s sons become more involved with the business.
It took almost sixty years for Remington, now known as E. Remington & Son, to come up with its first significant success outside of the firearms manufacturing industry, when in 1873 the company developed the first commercial typewriter featuring Christopher Sholes’ QWERTY keyboard. The Remington Number 1, as the keyboard was known, helped ensure that the QWERTY keyboard remains the standard keyboard layout used today, thanks to its durability and its relative affordability.
Such was the success of the Remington Number 1 typewriter that in 1886, this part of the business was sold to the Standard Typewriter Manufacturing Company Inc. As part of this deal, Remington & Sons also agreed to let the name ‘Remington’ continue to be used on these products. Shortly afterwards, Remington & Sons changed its own name, becoming Remington Arms and focusing solely on its firearms business.
Standard Typewriter Manufacturing Company Inc., continued to develop in the latter part of the century. The company gradually established itself as one of the most popular typewriter manufacturers in the United States, changing its name to Remington Typewriter Company in 1902, before expanding and becoming a leading player in stationery manufacturing. In 1927, the company changed its name again, becoming Remington Rand Inc., following a merger with Rand Kardex.
As Remington Rand Inc., continued to expand its stationary business , it also became something of an innovator, experimenting with various other products – some which failed miserably, others which achieved some degree of success, notably its farming equipment.
It was this thirst for innovation which led the company to make its first foray into the personal care products industry, back in 1937. They wouldn’t have known at the time, but this would turn out to be a move that would revolutionize not just the company, but the way in which men all over the world looked after themselves.
Remington began with a range of personal care products, but achieved its first successes when it branched out into the revolutionary electric shaver for men, with the Remington E model, also known as the Close Shaver. Following two years of development, the company introduced its new product at the New York World Fair in 1939.
The Close Shaver proved to be an instant hit – the novelty of being able to dry shave, which was cleaner and less time consuming than wet shaving, immediately caught on and led to massive sales of the new device.
Remington were quick to realize that they had stumbled on a product that offered enormous potential, and immediately seized on the opportunity. The company followed up the Close Shaver with the release of the Remington Dual, the world’s first two-headed electric shaver, along with the famous advertising slogan “Two heads are better than one!”
This design was improved upon just one year later, with the development of the Foursome – the first multi-head electric shaver to come with an attachment, allowing men to not only shave but also trim their beards.
The 1950’s saw yet another merger, as the Sperry Company acknowledged Remington’s considerable successes and its growing potential. Sperry absorbed Remington to create the Sperry Rand Corporation. Then, in 1960, Sperry’s new Remington Shaver division rolled out the world’s first cordless electric shaver, known as the Lectronic. It was at this point that the company also looked further afield, targeting women for the first time with its Lady Remington Wet/Dry Shaver.
The key to long-lasting success in any business is innovation, and this is exactly where the Remington Shaver division continued to excel. The last forty years of the company’s existence have seen it go from strength to strength, rolling out the “Soft Touch” flexible foil shaving system and the “Slot Head” system in the mid 1970s, and continuing to develop these models to this day.
Currently, Remington is an industry leader with its latest Dual Foil/XLR and Triple Foil technologies, while its “Microscreen” system, which is able to lift hairs up to produce the closest shave yet, has kept it at the top of its game.
And then there’s one Victor Kiam, the man who uttered the famous words: “I liked it so much, I bought the company.” Kiam bought a controlling interest in the Sperry Rand Company in 1979, merging the Remington division with his own Remington Products company to form Remington Products Inc., the name which the company is known by today.