In 1955, Jim Moran devised a stunt to promote the National West Virginia Axe Company, founded over 50 years before, but struggling to maintain their profits in the axe saturated capital of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Moran commissioned a photographer to photograph numerous prisoners in a local jail, shaving with axes made by National West Virginia Axe Company.
At first, the pictures caused a huge stir, as they frightened the general members of the public, thinking the prisoners were self harming. Moran succeeded in getting the pictures posted in numerous papers ensuring that this was not self harm, but instead a perfect way to shave, as far less strokes were needed and the axes were just as sharp as razor blades but wouldn’t cut you as easily as razor blades could.
Sales of National West Virginia Axe Company axes went through the roof, and were used not only for trees and carpentry, but many people tried to use them like razors because of the pictures in the paper. This was before the “don’t try this at home” adage. Eventually, the axe company had to be sold.
It had become so successful, the directors were offered a massive amount of money by a leading razor blade firm, an offer they couldn’t refuse. The directors gave Moran an almost unprecedented gift by agreeing to give him a percentage of the sale for all the profit he had brought the axe company.