This past weekend Valerie and I finally stopped by 1601 Overbrook Road at what seems to be a clearing house for estate sales. What you see above is what I bought; a (likely) late-40's Gillette Super Speed razor. I haggled the price down to $3 and we went on our merry way.
Behold the nickel-plated glory.
I purchased a pack of razor blades (also pictured above) and decided to see whether the old-school man tool was barbaric compared to modern shaving implements. After some house work and a good hot shower my face was ready for a clean, smooth, and fresh feeling, so I lathered up my jaw and put blade to skin (don't worry, I sterilized the entire shaver razor by steaming for 5 minutes). I guessed at the proper angle for holding the razor and dragged the head down my left cheek. Other than the light pressure against my face I barely felt anything, so I did a double-take in the mirror wondering whether I'd merely succeeded in wiping shaving cream from my face and little else. Closer inspection, however, revealed a close and even shave where I'd traced, so I finished up.
Shaving my entire face took no longer than a Gillette Fusion or Shick Tracer or what-have-you, and it was certainly more comfortable - and I have very sensitive skin (that is, I can't shave every day without shredding my face, usually). I'm convinced at this point that Gillette switched to cartridge-based systems to increase profit margins.
The whole device is a glorious piece of design, too. You twist the slightly-thicker base of the handle to open the head which opens with a sort of butterfly motion, and lock the blade inside by twisting in the opposite direction. The weight and balance are just right, and the smooth polished surface glides pleasantly across the face. I think my next step is to procure a good shaving brush and some old school shaving cream :-)
Oh, and how could I not share the sweet little artifact that is the instruction manual? The directions are clear, short, and helpful, all in a two inch wide strip of two-color printing (I scanned both sides - there was only one piece of paper):