Stand Mixers 100+ Years Later

The 20th century gave Americans the opportunity to expand their thoughts and approaches to housework. Always looking for a way to ease their household responsibilities, both men and women turned eagerly to the wonderful new stand mixer, quite possibly the most efficient, labor-saving appliance to be found in any kitchen, from home to the largest restaurant.

The 1884 design, invented by African-American Willie Johnson, of an eggbeater powered by a driving wheel, with an arrangement of gears and pulleys, was the inspiration for kitchen appliances made by Bosch, KitchenAid, and Sunbeam. These companies were quick to develop Johnson's idea; America seemed to be enamored with the concept of multipurpose gadgets for the kitchen.

The prototype electric mixer was massive and clumsy looking; it looked more appropriate in a commercial bakery than in the home. In 1908, Herbert Johnson, president of the Hobart Manufacturing Company of Troy, Ohio, watched a commercial bakers mix bread dough with a metal spoon, powered only by the baker's muscles. After tinkering with various designs, Johnson came up with a mechanical version. By 1915, his 80-quart stand mixer was standard equipment on all U.S. Naval vessels and in many commercial bakeries.
amilton Beach Classic Stand/Hand Mixer
By 1918, KitchenAid developers had begun testing the stand mixers in their own homes. The mixer was so popular that one of their wives declared "all I know is it's the best kitchen aid I've ever had." And the rest is history.

that same year, the Hobart Manufacturing Company was to metamorphose into KitchenAid. They expounded upon the wonders of the new "food preparer" (stand mixer) and its suitability for the home kitchen, hoping to increase sales. There were some problems with its size - 65 pounds - and its very expensive retail price of $189.50 (equivalent to about $2,000 in the early 2000s). Industrial designer Egmont Ahrens, by 1936, trimmed the stand mixer down to a manageable size and the price tag down to a much more reasonable price of $55.

Retailers didn't seem to actively display or support the KitchenAid mixer in its early days. In order to encourage interest in the hand mixer, KitchenAid mobilized a work force, of mostly women, to approach the public on a door-to-door basis, extolling upon the virtues of this new food preparation tool. KitchenAid especially praised the attachments, at this time including a citrus juicer and food grinder, in an attempt to make the mixer even more attractive to the public. The biggest selling point was a groundbreaking design known as "planetary action", which allowed the ingredients to be blended all the way to the edges of the bowl, eliminating the physically exhausting job of manually turning the bowl.
KitchenAid Bowl-Lift Professional 600 Series Stand Mixer

In 1937, KitchenAid introduced the brilliant concept of totally interchangeable attachments, an idea still in full force in the 21st century. A good example of this would be the 1919 pea shucker attachment. Even though the pea shucker is no longer available, it will still fit today's model.

Although KitchenAid was the first to produce the electric stand mixer, Sunbeam was the company which captured the most public acceptance. Sunbeam's product, the Mixmaster, was invented by Ivan Jepson, a Swede, in 1928 and was first mass-marketed in May, 1930. His streamlined mixer sold for only $18.25, a mere fraction of the cost of KitchenAid's model at $189.50.

Upon arriving in the United States in 1925, he found employment at the Chicago Flexible Shaft Company, the parent company of Sunbeam. The Sunbeam division was created to handle increased kitchen appliance manufacturing. By 1930, Jepson was Sunbeam's head designer.

Sunbeam's model M4A Mixmaster, with its sleek silhouette, became so popular its name "Mixmaster" became the generic for all stand mixers, no matter what the brand. "Mixmaster' was to stand mixers as "Jell-O", "Kleenex", and "Band-Aid" are to gelatin dessert, facial tissue, and any adhesive first-aid bandage.

Sunbeam advertised its Mixmaster as an amazing collection of attachments, totally interchangeable with one another. With the use of these gadgets, Sunbeam implied the Mixmaster could complete a variety of tasks.

In 1940, many years ahead of its time, the Mixmaster was able to complete many tasks: among others, the attachments could squeeze fruit juice, shell peas, peel fruit, press pasta, grind meat, and grind coffee beans. Also in its bag of tricks were attachments for opening tin cans, sharpening knives, and polishing silverware. Its most unusual attachment was a mayonnaise oil dropper.

  • The stand mixer can be used both as a stationary appliance and also as a detached mixer head (handle and motor) that can be used as a portable hand mixer.

  • It takes only 26 seconds to assemble the KitchenAid "Artisan" (probably KitchenAid's most popular stand mixer model) by hand in a factory setting.

  • The KitchenAid "Artisan" stand mixer is available in 22 colors in varying finishes. The color is applied with spray-on powder instead of paint.

©2011 Terry Kaufman, for
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