The Moustache Cup, Harvey Adams, c 1860 - Object of the month

Cliffe Castle Museum

March 2017

Tony Carruthers, our Visitor Assistant at Cliffe Castle Museum chose our Object Of the Month for March.

"There are a number of weird and wonderful objects here at Cliffe Castle Museum, ranging from the bizarre two-headed calf, to strange musical instruments like the Harp-Lute, and the beloved Cliffe Castle ceramic bear. It was a tough decision to choose just one object, but in the end I have gone for a curious piece of china known as a moustache cup.

The moustache cup can be found along the entrance hall as you enter Cliffe Castle Museum, in a case containing a number of teapots and fine china.

At first glance, the cup appears to be another piece of rather fine china, but on closer inspection an interesting detail can be seen.  Across the top of the cup is a small ledge, with a small opening to allow liquid to pass through. This ledge, known as a moustache guard, was designed to protect the tea drinker’s moustache from becoming soiled by the tea.

Research indicates that the invention of moustache cups is credited to a potter named Harvey Adams. He invented the cups in the 1860’s, and they soon became extremely popular, with examples found all over Europe and America. A requirement of the British Army was for all officers to grow moustaches for the authority it imparted to the moustachioed man could have helped explain their popularity.

I chose the moustache cup as it is an interesting little curiosity and it highlights that male grooming was taken just as seriously, if not more so, in Victorian times as it is today. Perhaps there may be a resurgence of the moustache cup, with many of today’s men, myself included, growing beards and moustaches."

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