Moustache cup

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A moustache cup in the Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo

The moustache cup (or mustache cup) is a drinking cup with a semicircular ledge inside. The ledge has a half moon-shaped opening to allow the passage of liquids and serves as a guard to keep moustaches dry. It is generally acknowledged to have been invented in the 1860s by British potter Harvey Adams (born 1835).[1]

Historic context[edit]

Moustaches flourished throughout the Victorian era. In fact, from 1860 to 1916, the British military actually required all of its soldiers to sport a moustache for the authority it imparted to the moustachioed man.[citation needed] Often, moustache wax was applied to the moustache to keep it stiff, with every hair in place. When drinking hot liquids, steam from the drink would melt the wax, which would drip into the cup. Sipping hot tea or coffee would also often stain moustaches.[2]


In 1860, Englishman Harvey Adams came up with an unusual invention, "the moustache cup". This had a ledge or shelf, called a moustache guard, across the cup. The ledge had one semicircular opening against the side of the cup. The pampered moustache then rested safe and dry on the guard while sipping a hot beverage through the opening.[1]


The new invention spread all over the European continent and soon, every famous potter was making the new cups. A multiplicity of moustache cups were made by famous manufactories such as Meissen, Royal Crown Derby, Imari, Royal Bayreuth, Limoges and others. Each potter created his own version of this masculine tableware and the news of that invention soon spread to America.

A collection of cups from the tea museum at Mariage Freres, Paris

Although many moustache cups were made in America, the earliest were marked with names which led buyers to believe they were actually manufactured in England. This was due to the popularity of English-made ceramics. Therefore, with the exception of the quadruple silverplate moustache cups made in the U.S., it is nowadays extremely difficult to find an authentic Victorian moustache cup bearing an American pottery mark.

Decline and resurge[edit]

Between 1920 and 1930, moustaches progressively began to go out of fashion and hence moustache cup production trickled down. Today though, these examples of Victorian male elegance are coveted and collected by a growing number of enthusiasts.[1]

Moustache cups are becoming highly collectible as their popularity has increased in recent years due to a resurgence of men's facial hair styles, particularly ones calling for moustache wax.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

In James Joyce's Ulysses, Leopold Bloom drinks his tea from a moustache cup he received from his daughter Milly for his twenty-seventh birthday.[4]

In the opening scene of the 1931 short comedy Be Big!, Oliver Hardy, while packing for a trip to Atlantic City, coyly asks his wife if she packed his moustache cup.

In Episode 15 of Season 4 of The Andy Griffith Show, Aunt Bea receives one as a gift from a local Farmer, Mr. Frisby.

In Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind chapter 9 Scarlett O'Hara thinks of the painted China moustache cups she made for the bazaar.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Frost, Natasha (May 31, 2017). "A Look Back at the Mustache Cups That Kept Tea-Drinkers' Whiskers Dry". Atlas Obscura - Stories. Atlas Obscura. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  2. ^ [1] Kovels - moustach cups
  3. ^ [2] My Moustache Cup - History
  4. ^ Joyce, James (1934). Ulysses. Modern Library. p. 694.

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