These items at Smith’s Tavern are a tin shaving mug and brush set. It was mostly likely a personal versus a professional’s equipment. The mug is made of tin, a round container for the soap and a rectangular slot for the storage and drying of the brush. The wooden handled brush has rough bristles (make unknown).
Long before shaving cream and electric razors, men relied on a badger-hair brush and shaving mug to get them through their facial regimen. Used in tandem with round bars of soap that fit neatly into the bottoms of these mugs, gentlemen would vigorously scrub the bars with their brushes to generate a mug full of thick lather for smooth, straight-razor shaving.
So-called “wet shaving,” as this technique is known, is an art unto itself, and when beards went out of style following the Civil War, many men preferred to put their sensitive cheeks in the hands of professional barbers. As patronage increased, tonsorialists needed a way to ensure cleanliness for their customers, so many set aside individualized mugs and brushes for their regular clientele.