Moustache cup

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a moustache cup in the Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo

The moustache 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).

Moustaches flourished throughout the Victorian era. Often, moustache wax was applied to the moustache to keep it nice and stiff, with every hair in place. And therein lay a problem that cropped up when steaming hot cups of tea or coffee were carried up to the mouth for sipping: the steam melted the wax and sent it right into the cup. Another problem soon became apparent. Sipping hot tea or coffee, moustaches also often became stained. Finally, Harvey Adams, an innovative Englishman, in 1860 came up with an unusual invention, "the moustache cup". This had a ledge, 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. 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 silver moustache cups made in the U.S., it is nowadays extremely difficult to find an authentic Victorian moustache cup bearing an American pottery mark. Moreover, between 1920 and 1930, moustaches progressively began to go out of fashion and hence moustache cup production trickled down along with the then dwindling numbers of the once-popular hirsute appendages. Today though, these examples of Victorian male elegance are coveted and collected by a growing number of enthusiasts.

In James Joyce's Ulysses, Leopold Bloom drinks his tea from a moustache cup he received from his daughter Milly for his 27th birthday.[1]

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  1. ^ Joyce, James (1934). Ulysses. Modern Library. p. 694. 

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