My Favorite Collection Object

By Susan Ison, Cultural Services Director ~

Ali’s blog article last week is a good segue into what I would like to feature this week—my favorite object.

I have been Cultural Services Director for many years, but when I first started at the Museum I was Collections Curator for a year. At that time there were many objects in the collection that were unidentified (and still are—see Ali’s blog for a recent example) and many were on loan. The collection began in 1930 in Harold Dunning’s downtown shoe shop. In 1946 the collection was turned over to the City, and the Museum became an official department of the City. When I arrived in the 80s there were decades of objects still unidentified.

My initial focus was to try to find the owners of the objects on loan. For many years, people used museums as free storage. They’d loan a family heirloom—such as Grandma’s grand piano—if they didn’t have a place to put it, then pick it up years later. (This really happened to us.) Needless to say it became a big problem for museums and the practice has not been acceptable for a long time. Collection items are only accepted as gifts now.

Sorting through the collection was a great way to become familiar with the collection, which is when I discovered my favorite object—a Kriss-Kross Stropper. A stropper is a device used to sharpen double-edged razor blades. I found the same one we have on an antiques website with this description: “Kriss Kross” Safety Razor Blade Stropper in Box. Includes new blades in package. OPERATION: Insert blade in arm holder, turn crank handle, leather strop rotates to strop blade. While cranking, blade holder automatically raises and turns over to strop the other blade edge. Really a neat unique items that still works great! It sells for $85.00 today.

The back of our stropper says it was made by Rhodes Mfg. Co. in St. Louis, MO, first patented in 1921. The box top has a printed message inside: NOTICE TO USERS RETURNING FOR REPAIRS. Send 25c postage or coin for return parcel post and handling charges. Print name plainly in upper left hand corner to insure prompt return to you. Don’t take machine apart.

The stropper appeals to me for several reasons, including the fact that turning the handle is a simple pleasure—it’s kinetic, I can watch it do its job and it’s just as functional today as it was in 1920, even though the culture of convenience has led most people to use disposable razors.

And now for a demo…