Thank you, internet and Pittsburgh steampunk acquaintances, for showing me an actual Victorian invention for men with facial hair who drank tea- the mustache cup!
|image source: tumblr|
From what little I can gather online, the cup seems to have been invented in the 1860s by Harvey Adams to alleviate the problem of gentlemen over for tea who were sick of worrying about getting their waxed, curled, dyed, or otherwise fancified mustaches wet from drinking tea. Not only could the styled mustache lose its shape, but the dyes used in the 'stache could end up in the tea, causing quite an embarrassment for the gent and a drawing room crisis for the host or hostess.
Soon others were mimicking the design to save whiskers all across the Occident!
|image source: Silver Collection|
According to the teeny Wikipedia entry on the topic, James Joyce's novel Ulysses has a character that drinks tea from a mustache cup, while eBay and other antiques sellers have this guide on how to tell a mustache tea cup from a shaving cup- which was not used to protect mustaches from beverages at all, but was rather a shelf for a barber to lay a razor across.
|image source: Lefty's Left-Handed Store|
So next time you see these in a store or online, remember: the Victorians invented it.