by Vicki Matranga
Cooking Up Traditions for 100 Years
Remember your grandmother’s biscuits? Did your mom let you lick the mixer’s beaters when she baked a cake? What about that platter you inherited? You can thank a housewares company for such kitchen memories.
Some of IHA’s member companies continue to make great products that people love and use for generations. We will be posting stories about companies that have successfully created innovative products that meet the test of time.
West Bend® is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Founded as West Bend Aluminum Company in West Bend, Wisconsin in 1911, the company is one of the country’s best-known small appliance brands. With headquarters still in West Bend, WI, it is now a privately held company managed by Focus Products Group, LLC.
Learn about its legacy of innovation by traveling on the timeline. Classic recipes and cooking tips help today’s cooks with the latest equipment.
One of West Bend’s key products was its Kitchen Craft Waterless Cookware, a series of multi-vessel stovetop steamers that prepared a full meal in one pot.
This cookware promised convenience and a cool kitchen and saved time and money spent on food and fuel. Slow cooking tenderized cheaper cuts of meat and foods retained their flavor and nutrition. And in the Roaring 20s, when women were gaining greater freedoms (employment, voting rights, driving a car) and enjoyed more leisure, this cookware allowed them to prepare a healthy meal for their families and give them some time out for fun too!
Think your slow-cooker is a life-saver today? West Bend took this one-pot cooking concept to the next step with a line of slow cookers in the 1950s!
And if you’re a fan of vintage decor, watch for the Penguin Hot and Cold Server at summer garage sales. This chrome ball graced many a table and cocktail bar during patio parties in the 50s and 60s.
If you will be vacationing in beautiful Wisconsin this summer, head to West Bend, where the Washington County Historical Society hosts the West Bend Co./Regal Ware Museum. The displays tell the story of how these two giants in the aluminum housewares industry contributed to shaping American consumerism and women’s history.
For more historical housewares information you can contact Vicki at Vmatranga@housewares.org. To see more old photos of West Bend history and other old housewares cheack out our Housewares History gallery on facebook.