Mystery Objects: Shaving Mug and Angle Tool

Here are two mystery Hopewell artifacts, thanks to Doug Robbins – a shaving mug decorated with a confusing design, and an optical angle tool that we don’t understand at all.

Do you know more about these, or similar objects?

UPDATE (same day): Optical angle tool identified!

Angle tool ?
J. M. Ege shaving mug and brush

Optical Angle Tool

The first mystery is a foldable metal tool that seems to be used for measuring vertical angles.

It’s a heavy metal object that folds up in a leather case. Neither the object nor the case have any visible markings, although they are clearly worn from use.

So what is this?

The object does unfold, with a heavy weighted oblong piece on one end, a ring on the other end, and a circular portion below the ring.

However, if you turn the object on the side, there is a glass lens mounted through the circular portion.

And if you look through the lens, you see a scale with graduated markings.

So if you hang the object vertically from the ring (with the heavy weight holding it steady at the bottom), you see a scale in degrees. As you tilt down, you see degrees increasing from 0 to 5 to 10 on to 35, and as you tilt up, you see degrees decreasing from 95 to 90 on to 85.

And how do you measure with it? It hangs down from the ring, and your eye needs to be about an inch from the lens – so how do you sight with it, or mark the angle?


Thanks to Mary Ellen Hirst Devlin, this object has been identified as a clinometer (or clisimeter; clisimetre in French) – an instrument used for measuring the angle or elevation of slopes. The name is reported as derived from the Greek klinein, tilt / lean / slope, or klisis, inclination.

A wide variety of these instruments are now available, also known as inclinometers or tilt / gradient / level sensors. These measure the angle of slope, elevation, or depression of an object with respect to gravity (see Wikipedia).

Early versions like this used weights to determine the reference angle, and later versions use bubble levels and electronic sensors. These are often used in surveying and meteorology, as well as in forestry to measure the height of trees.

J. M. Ege Masonic Shaving Mug

J. M. Ege shaving mug and brush

The second mystery object is a shaving mug personalized with the name of J. M. Ege, and decorated with confusing Masonic symbology.

The associated shaving brush is marked as: “Set in Rubber / Strong Set / Trade Mark U.S.A. / Sterilized.” Vintage Strong Set brushes similar to this are available online. This brush seems to be well used, but may not be from Ege’s time.

These shaving mugs were an important sanitary device before the introduction of the safety razor for convenient shaving at home. Instead, men would go to a barber shop for a shave with a straight razor – and have the barber use their own personal shaving mug, along with their own cake of soap in the mug, and own stiff bristled brush to lather up the soap. [See]

These mugs were stored at the barber shop as a way of retaining loyal customers – In 1906, Harry Cox’s “tonsorial parlor” on Seminary Avenue had over 100 such mugs on the shelves!

The mugs often were customized with hand-painted decorations, including the client’s name and a design relating to their occupation.

J. Mason Ege

J. M. Ege Hardware Store

J. Mason Ege (1866-1919) was a well known figure in 1900s Hopewell. He ran a hardware store at 31 West Broad Street (later Rorer’s Hardware), founded around 1890. He also sold tinware, stoves, ranges, pumps, paints, oils, agricultural implements, and farmers’ supplies.

Ege was a busy guy – He also was an officer or director of local organizations including the water company, the telephone company, the Hopewell National Bank, and the Hopewell Fire Department – and was Hopewell representative of the Buick automobile.  [See Hopewell Herald Progress Edition, 1914 (PDF)]

The Symbols

J. M. Ege shaving mug – scimitar, crescent, and double-headed eagle

The symbols on the Ege mug turn out to combine two Masonic organizations, the Shriners and the Scottish Rite.

Masonry or Freemasonry are fraternal organizations that trace their origins to the local guilds of medieval stonemasons that built many of our castles and cathedrals (i.e., at least to 1646). [See United Grand Lodge of England]

Shriners International is a separate Masonic society that is distinguished by an enjoyment of life in the interest of philanthropy.

The red fez with the black tassel is one of most distinctive symbols of the Shriners.

The crescent and scimitar emblem on the front of the fez (and on the Ege mug) represents the characteristics embodied by the Shriners [see Shriners International]:

  • The scimitar (sword hanging above) stands for the backbone of the fraternity, its members.
  • The two claws (on the crescent) are for the Shriners fraternity and its philanthropy.
  • The sphinx (head on the top of the crescent) stands for the governing body of the Shriners.
  • The five-pointed star represents the thousands of children helped by the philanthropy each year.

However, the symbol on the Ege shaving mug does not have the five-pointed star of the Shriners emblem hanging under the crescent; instead it has a double-headed eagle.

The double-headed eagle is a symbol of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, another Masonic society with a progressive series of 32 additional degrees. Thus, the eagle has the number 32 in a triangle on its chest. [See NMJ Scottish Rite]

The double-headed eagle has been used as a royal symbol for perhaps 4000 years, back to the Bronze age and Hittites, and later in the Roman Empire and many other countries. More generally, eagles are a symbol of strength, courage, and immortality. The two-headed eagle, with heads facing different directions, can symbolize equal contemplation of both sides of a question, the dual nature of man, and the spiritual regeneration of oneself through the unification of opposites. [See Freemasonry Matters]

So these symbols on the Ege mug can be identified, but it’s still not clear why the Shriners symbol is modified to use the Scottish Rite double-headed eagle. Any ideas?

And does anyone have other examples of local shaving mugs?

1 thought on “Mystery Objects: Shaving Mug and Angle Tool

  1. […] Harry Lester Cox (1885 – 1945) was a Hopewell institution as a barber on Seminary Avenue from 1909 to his death in 1945. He was a farm laborer at age 16, became an apprentice barber at 20, and then opened his own shop after marrying at age 21. After only three years in business, the Hopewell Herald newspaper reported that the shop held 108 shaving mugs for his regular customers (see earlier post). […]

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