Emily Ruth Verona
Weird History: Victorian Mustache Cups
A mustache cup is exactly what the tittle suggests: it's a cup that takes into consideration the care of an expertly styled mustache. During the 19th century, mustache cups were a thing and here at Frightful we are just thrilled about such a delightful, non-poisonous innovation during a very dangerous age.
The Victorian era saw men paying extra attention to their facial hair, combing and styling with wax to create crisp curves. But much like lipstick today, it wasn't always easy keeping those mustaches looking fresh and flawless all day long. Especially when it came to beverages.
According to the Rosenberg Library Museum, the mustachioed encountered two problems when it came time to sip tea. The first was steam. The wax which had been applied to help the mustache hold its shape would begin to melt as soon as steam rose from a cup. The second issue was dye. Some men dyed their mustaches/bears during this time and, wetted by the tea, this dye would drip into the cup as the drinker sipped. Not tasty.
Cue... (drum roll)...the mustache cup!
The mustache cup is believed to have been invented in the 1870s by a British potter named Harvey Adams. Usually a ceramic mug or tea cup, this crafty innovation featured a curved (almost bat-shaped) ledge built into one side of the cup with an open space for drinking. As you sipped, your mustache would sit undisturbed on the the steam-blocking ledge. No mess. No fuss. Some of these mugs had gilded edges, while others featured a mustache illustration on the ledge for reference.
Unfortunately, mustache cups could not last forever. The need for them faded as the popularity of the robust mustache waned. Commercial shaving was introduced in the early 1900s and facial hair trends were evolving by the 1920s. Still, mustache cups were a charming innovation with more whimsy and less arsenic than most of our lessons on the Victorian age have to offer. And that is something to celebrate.
Want more? You can watch a set mustache cups from around 1900 valued on Antiques Roadshow in this 2015 clip.
[Image Credit: advertisement via Wikimedia Commons and illustrations via Wikimedia Commons]