This item’s brand name is The Graduating Strop, and it is a tool used by barbers, mostly during the first half of the 20th century, to sharpen their razors. It has its original box, which is marked with the brand name.
In order to keep their razors and scissors sharp so as to avoid cutting their customers, a barber would use a leather strop. The blade would be pressed onto the flat leather surface of the strop, then slid back and forth, turning the blade over at the end of each slide, so as to sharpen both edges. Some strops were simply a length of leather that the barber would attach on one end to a work surface, and hold the other end while stropping, to maintain the required tension. This particular item, however, has rigid metal rods inside, which would keep the leather flat and taut. It has a wooden handle, so the barber could use it away from surfaces, anywhere he wanted to in his barber’s shop.
This particular item looks to have been manufactured in the 1940’s/50’s, judging by the style of the printing tooled into the box. The fashion in this post war era was for gentlemen to be very clean cut, with short, slicked back hair and very little facial hair. Some styles of moustache were popular, but very few beards were to be seen in “celebrities” of the time. So barbers were in high demand. Modern electric razors were beginning to have an impact – with men being able to achieve a close shave in the comfort of their own homes – but traditional barbershop shaves were still extremely popular.