Allison's Book Bag

Snapshot Meme #59: My Husband’s Burma-Shave Collection

Posted on: February 21, 2015

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.

bs01

Andy’s only Burma-Shave sign is the fifth sign from a set of six.
The complete jingle (from 1938) is:

Say, big boy
To go
Thru life
How’d you like
A whiskered wife?
Burma-Shave

bs02

One of the most common embossed jar designs.
One-pound and half-pound sizes.

 

bs03

A couple nice tubes of shaving cream, and a really nice box.

 

Burma-Shave Bomb

The first Burma-Shave aerosol can looks like a baby bottle. It’s rare to find a Bomb, especially in this condition.

 

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The Burma-Shave Shaving Kit. Along with lotion and talc, it includes a boxed jar of shaving cream.

 

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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

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.

 

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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.

bs09

Burma-Shave jingles were also featured on cardboard subway/bus signs.

 

Burma-Shave jar

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.

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26 Responses to "Snapshot Meme #59: My Husband’s Burma-Shave Collection"

Are the Burma Shave jars for sale

Sorry, none of the items in my husband’s collection is for sale. You might try Ebay. It’s a great site for finding Burma-Shave stuff. 🙂

As my wife explained, Burma-Shave jars can be found on eBay. Search for “burma shave jar” and then click on the Completed Listings checkbox (among the various filters in the left hand column) and familiarize yourself with prices. You will see that a great many Burma-Shave jars go unsold. Don’t waste your money on jars with no lids, or with rusted or chipped lids; even jars with lids in good condition can fail to sell for as little as $5. Once you get an idea of what you want, the price range, the kind of condition you can expect, and the different styles available, deselect the Completed Listings checkbox and go back to looking at current auctions.

The typical price range for one-pound and half-pound Burma-Shave jars is $5-$15; if they come with their original box, expect to pay more. The tiny Burma-Shave banks and sample jars go for $30 or more.

What a keeper. It brought me to tears seeing all those fun collectibles we gathered at every flea market and collectors show we could get to on the west coast…pre Ebay.
Mrs. Burma Shave Soelberg

Thank you for helping my husband expand his Burma-Shave collection. I love the excitement and delight Andy gets whenever he receives a new item for his collection. It’s been a wonderful experience!

Thank you for your support and generosity over the years, Mary. I would not have done well in the pre-Ebay years, with all the time and energy and patience required to build up a collection. I’m very thankful for Ebay (with which it has still taken me sixteen years for my collection to get where it is), and for your husband’s collection and for your frequent auction listings, and for all the other Burma-Shave sellers out there.

I’ve never heard of Burma Shave before. His pieces all look to be in great condition.

Thanks, Louise! I make a point to hold out for the best possible condition. I think that’s important for any collection. Better to have a few things in great shape than a collection full of dents and dings and rust.

Of course, that all goes out the window with the rare stuff. 😉

Oh, and another exception is my wooden sign. I had a few to choose from, but the ones that were in better condition had less interesting jingle fragments. I thought a cool phrase like “a whiskered wife” warranted taking a hit in quality.

Pretty cool! Love the Burma Shave jingles on the signs – and he;s got a good one!

Sue

Book By Book

The sign was a birthday gift from me to Andy. One day, maybe he’ll have a few more to display. 🙂

What an unusual collection. I hadn’t heard of Burma Shave before.

Until Andy started collecting them, I don’t think I had even heard of Burma Shave. Now I always enjoy when Andy discovers a new find!

What a great collection! I remember those signs on the freeway whenever we traveled, and we took a lot of road trips during the time those signs were in their heyday. Thanks for sharing.

Here’s MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT POST

You’re welcomed! I’m glad it brought back memories. Thanks for sharing photos of your daughter’s trip to Nashville. 🙂

I remember my dad pointing out a series of Burma Shave signs along a roadway in Texas when I was a child. “A poor shave lets you down faster than a strapless gown.”
What a fun collection and a great topic for Saturday Snapshots.
Sandy @ TEXAS TWANG

Unfortunately, I’ve never witnessed a single Burma-Shave sign in the wild. My favorite jingle, however, is:

With A sleek cheek
Pressed to hers
Jeepers! Creepers!
How she purrs
Burma-Shave

That looks like a great collection!

Here is my snapshot post!

Thanks for your visit! I enjoyed seeing the photos of your students.

I, too, have not seen any of the product jars and bottles and tubes. I guess I never thought past the jingle signs along the road.

The jingles and their history are fun in themselves. Too bad they aren’t still being made!

That is fun! I have seen Burma stuff around!

Andy has a few collections. His Burma Shave is the one that makes me the most proud. It’s different than the norm of coins, dolls, stamps, toys, etc.

Um, you make it sound like I also collect dolls. 😉

That looks like a great collection. I had heard of the Burma Shave jingles and signs in one of Bill Bryson’s books but had never seen any of the signs or products themselves.

Sean at His and Her Hobbies

When I asked Andy about writing this post, he initially didn’t think anyone would find it of interest. I convinced him that a lot of my visitors would be familiar with Burma Shave and so would enjoy it. Guess I was right. 🙂

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Summer Reviews

Books can take connect us with strangers, take us to unique places, and introduce us to new ideas. They can also offer hope in a chaotic world. And so I must share what I read!

Each week, I’ll introduce you to religious books, Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, or diversity books. Some I’ll review as singles and others as part of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression by Joni Eareckson
  • The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen
  • Brothers in hope : the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan–refugees by Mary Williams
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