In 1919 Frank Shields, an Indianapolis chemical engineer, began manufacturing a brushless shaving cream, naming it Barbasol after red-bearded medieval German emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Two years later Shields and partner L. R. Wasey incorporated the Barbasol company. Shields developed the shaving cream for “men with tough beards” but sensitive skin.

A tube of Barbasol is leaning against the box it came in. The box reads "Overseas Special: offered only to the armed forces of the U.S.A."
World War II packaging for Barbasol, a standard issue for combat troops, ca. 1941-1945 Credit: J.accurate via Wikimedia Commons View Source

Popularized through early radio broadcasts by “Singin Sam, the Barbasol Man” and his theme song “Barbasol, Barbasol, No Brush, No Lather, No Rub In,” the product sold well. The product earned celebrity endorsements from athletes, actors, and musicians, including Knute Rockne, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Babe Ruth. Despite the Great Depression, by 1936 Barbasol occupied four buildings at Senate Avenue and 9th Street and employed 400 people.

During World War II, Barbasol was a standard issue for combat troops. To keep up with increased demand the company employed 700 to 800 people on day and night shifts, with a special shift for housewives. In addition to shaving cream, Barbasol also manufactured razor blades, hair tonic, toothpaste, and cosmetics.

When Shields died in 1946, he left his estate in Martinsville to the state of Indiana, with the provision that it would become the official governor’s residence. The state declined the offer because the Indiana Constitution requires that the state’s chief executive must reside in the state capital. Shields’ land first was developed as a game preserve and then became Foxcliff Estates. His 30-room English Tudor mansion serves as the development’s clubhouse.

Barbasol originally was formulated as a thick cream. During the 1950s, Barbasol introduced a new soft, fluffy foam to accommodate aerosol cans. The first aerosol cans featured the iconic barber-pole design, which became the signature trademark for the brand. In 1962 Wasey’s heirs sold Barbasol to Charles Pfizer & Company, a drug manufacturer, which moved the business to New Jersey.

In 2001, Perio, Inc., headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, purchased the company. Barbasol regained popularity through advertising and through new product development. Perio built a new manufacturing facility for Barbasol in Ashland, Ohio, in 2013. At the time of the product’s 100th anniversary, the company introduced a new non-aerosol shaving cream, “Barbasol 1919,” harkening back to the original product that was hand-packaged in Indianapolis.

Revised February 2021

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