Saturday Snapshot invites bloggers to share photos. My husband has several collections. This week is about his most unusual one.
Andy learned about Burma-Shave from a social studies teacher when he was 13. It was love at first jingle.
Burma-Shave was a brushless shaving cream made by the Minneapolis-based Burma-Vita company from 1925 to 1963. But the brand was best known for its humorous rhyming roadside signs.
Burma-Vita and Burma-Shave entertained travelers, had the entire country penning new jingles, and helped farmers weather The Great Depression. They even sent a man to Mars (Moers, Germany).
Andy began his collection in 1998 when he discovered Ebay. More than a few of his acquisitions were obtained from the widow of Steve Soelberg, who had the world’s largest Burma-Shave collection at the time of his death. These include three of the items shown below: the wooden sign, the subway sign, and the Bomb.
Andy’s only Burma-Shave sign is the fifth sign from a set of six.
The complete jingle (from 1938) is:
Say, big boy
How’d you like
A whiskered wife?
One of the most common embossed jar designs.
One-pound and half-pound sizes.
A couple nice tubes of shaving cream, and a really nice box.
The first Burma-Shave aerosol can looks like a baby bottle. It’s rare to find a Bomb, especially in this condition.
The Burma-Shave Shaving Kit. Along with lotion and talc, it includes a boxed jar of shaving cream.
The Burma-Shave jingles were not confined to roadside signs. Here is a printing plate for a newspaper or magazine ad that touts the precious minutes one can save by using brushless shaving cream:
“Every shaver now can snore six more minutes than before.”
Burma-Shave Jingle Book #3, copyright 1932. Andy believes they were included with jars of Burma-Shave. They’re tiny, being just a couple of inches tall. He has seven issues out of (at least) twelve.
The ravenous Burma-Shave advertising campaign depended on a constant influx of new jingles. The Odells couldn’t keep up with the demand, so they held contests. Because these contests are such an integral part of Burma-Shave history, Andy was very excited to acquire a letter sent to the winner of one. Alas, Elmer Kadel’s entry was not deemed worthy to adorn a set of signs. But he did win two dollars.
Note the map in the bottom left corner—each dot represents the location of a set of signs.
Burma-Shave jingles were also featured on cardboard subway/bus signs.
My husband had wondered if this could be the only surviving paper label Burma-Shave jar, given that the owners of two of the world’s largest Burma-Shave collections had never seen one before. But a second has recently shown up on eBay. Andy suspects Burma-Vita briefly departed from their embossed glass design as a cost‑saving measure during the early years of The Great Depression, and that the extreme rarity of paper-label jars is the result of the label not faring well under the wet conditions of shaving.
Below is a seven-minute video about Burma-Shave. Jump to 4:08 for an introduction by Clinton Odell (son of Allan Odell, who created the famed Burma-Shave advertising campaign) of Steve Soelberg, then the owner of the world’s largest Burma-Shave collection. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, some of the items in Andy’s collection came from the Steve Soelberg collection. If you want to see a HUGE Burma-Shave collection, watch Steve’s part of the video.