Mustache Cup Artifact Highlight #27

This mustache cup was donated to our collection in 1948. The white porcelain background is decorated with a butterfly and floral design, along with raised white beading and gold-colored trim.

A white “mustache guard” is attached to the lip of the cup. No maker’s marks were discovered on this piece. “1883” is signed on the bottom of the cup, which may or may not be the date it was manufactured.

Facial hair was a symbol of masculinity and a fashion statement during the 19th century. Men styled their mustaches with waxes and oils using combs, trimmers, and curlers.

Drinking tea or coffee when one had a styled mustache was problematic, because the wax and oil that came in contact with the hot liquid caused the mustache to lose its shape and made the drink detestable.

To solve this problem British potter Harvey Adams invented the mustache guard in the 1860s, which allowed a mustached man to drink through an opening between the guard and the lip of the cup while keeping the mustache dry.

The Boston Globe, 8 December 1889

The cups quickly became a hit in America. They were a popular birthday or Christmas gift sold at Sears and other retailers for as little as 15 cents (about $4 today).

The cup was donated by Guy and Adeline Gilchrist of Dutch Flat. Guy Gilchrist was an oil executive.

Dedication of the Emigrant Gap Landmark. June 1950. Adeline Gilchrist is second from the right.

His wife Adeline was the president of the Placer County Historical Society in the 1950s. Both were dedicated to preserving history and worked on placing historical markers throughout Placer County.

Auburn Journal May 2, 1963