By Vicki Matranga, Design Programs Coordinator
This elegant chrome-plated Maxwelton Braes Sunbeam COFFEEMASTER set, with brewer/server, table stove, circular tray, creamer and sugar, is a classic of Depression-era streamlined design. It was promoted by the Chicago Flexible Shaft Company in the late 1930s as one of the company’s glamorous tableside cooking appliances.
The Coffeemaster’s cylindrical coffee server/brewer could be used three ways: as a server for coffee prepared in the kitchen or for two brewing methods. In a standard drip method, with the table stove set at warming temperature, the user poured boiling water through the coffee grounds held in the removable “Brew-top”. For the vacuum method, popular in the 1930s and 1940s, the table stove was set on high to boil water in the server. Boiling water steamed up a tube into the brew basket to mix with the coffee producing a vacuum in the lower vessel. The condensing steam passed through a filter and the fresh coffee dripped down into the server.
The Chicago Flexible Shaft Company was founded in 1893 to manufacture horse clippers and entered the emerging home appliance business with an electric iron in 1910. Soon a wide variety of kitchen and household products, with the brand name Sunbeam (Sun + Best Electric Appliances Made) became standards of style and function. The company changed its name to Sunbeam Corporation in 1946. Sunbeam is now a brand owned by Jarden Consumer Solutions.
Why the coffee set was named Maxwelton Braes is unknown. Perhaps it was the Scottish heritage of M. W. McArdle, who patented the coffee server in 1934.
The Scottish song Annie Laurie, written in 1834/35 by Alicia Scott refers to the beautiful hills in Maxwelton where a man and his sweetheart pledged their love.
Maxwelton’s braes are bonnie,
Where early fa’s the dew,
‘Twas there that Annie Laurie
Gi’ed me her promise true.
Gi’ed me her promise true –
Which ne’er forgot will be,
And for bonnie Annie Laurie
I’d lay me down and dee.
Who knew? Romance added to coffee drinking!
Check out more on the Sunbeam Coffeemaster here!