History of Blenders: Teenagers, Polio and Infomercials? Learn the Connection!

Photo from cakespy
Photo from cakespy | Source

Blender Connections

If you're like me, you love your blender! The latest incarnation of this popular household appliance is called the Magic Bullet, and I personally could not live without my Bullet. The Bullet allows me a one-minute breakfast that is chocked full of nutrition, and lets me make up milkshakes as an inexpensive treat for the teenagers in my home. If you love your blender, too, you may have wondered where this kitchen appliance has its origins, and what great mind invented it. Well, so did I, and I will share my discoveries with you.

What I found was that the blender has a strong connection to some significant cultural milestones. The lowly blender is connected with the development of the modern day teenager, with hospital food, the cure for polio, and with the infomercial. Who knew? Let's find out more!

The blender's predecessor, a mixing machine, was patented in 1885, and resembled today's appliance very little. It was a mixing apparatus, with blades, but was not connected to any container. Nevertheless, this was the first apparatus with a motor used for mixing food or drinks.


Thanks to Fifi LePew for use of this photo.
Thanks to Fifi LePew for use of this photo. | Source

Blenders and Teenagers

The next major development in the history of the blender was a patent filed by inventor, Steve Poplawski in 1922. Steve had his own electric company, and he was hired by the company, Horlick's, to find a better way to make milkshakes. Well, he did so, and continued to perfect his creation for the decade or so. His patent was for the first machine with spinning blades on the bottom of a container.And his invention was sold by Horlick's to drugstores and malt shops for making milkshakes. Before this invention, the milkshake as we know it today, was more like our eggnog. Poplawski's invention allowed for the frothy concoction we know recognize as our beloved milkshake.

The rise of the milkshake in popularity during the period from the 1930s to 1950s took place in drug stores and malt shops across America, where the famous black checked floor and funky juke box made it a very hep place to be. The increasing popularity of these shops was a part of the rise of a new subculture in North America: the teenager demographic.

Teenagers did not really exist as a demographic until the 1930s. Before then, they were either kids, and then adults that had to earn a living. The Depression of the Dirty Thirties meant it was much harder to find work, and more and more young people from 13-18 were encouraged to stay in school. These half-kids, half-adult creatures began to develop their own identify, as high schools filled up like never up before. 1

Into the forties and fifties, this demographic group began to also have some disposable income, and to spend it on music, clothes and hanging out. Were did they hang out? The bars were out, due to age, and pool halls were those of ill repute, so these folk needed a place to call their own. Thus, the drugstore counter, and the malt shops became theirs. Drinking alcohol wasn't legal, so what to drink for some wholesome fun?

The milkshake, made with milk, ice cream, flavoured syrup, and sometimes malted milk, filled the need. This hangout is immortailzed in the television show, Happy Days , in movies such as American Graffiti , and even in the comic series, Archie , where the gang love to hang out at "Pop Tate's" and eat burgers and fries, while sipping on milkshakes.


Archie Comics Video Showcasing Pop Tate's Milkshakes and Hamburgers

Hospital Food

Thanks to gurms for use of this photo.
Thanks to gurms for use of this photo. | Source

Blenders and Hospital Food

Blenders were first created to meet a need for a food with largely entertainment value, a luxury item, but another much more serious use for this product came into being with the use of blenders for patients in hospitals.

From 1939 -- 1941, medical practitioners saw that this appliance would be perfect for grinding up food for patients who could no longer chew properly, due to strokes, dental problems or other conditions. The push for a blender to use in this institutions came from the next big name in blender history: Fred Ware.

Fred Ware, for whom the Waring Blender is named, saw the blender, rightly so, as a great entrepreneurial opportunity. He was the money behind the brains of Fred Osisus, who patented a new development on the blender in 1933. A famous story says that Osisus came to Ware's dressing room and talked Ware, an American singing sensation, to invest in his blender. Ware eventually took over, kicking Osisus off the project and hiring someone else.

In 1937, Ware's company introduced the product for home use, to the Chicago Home Show, and it retailed for $29.75. He is quoted as saying that "this mixer is going to revolutionize American drinks." By 1939, he had the California medical authorities on board, and blenders were brought into hospital and embraced by private practitioners. Fred Ware had the vision, the name and the money to make blenders a household name.


Blender and the Cure for Polio

The growing use of blenders, or mixing machines, as Ware called them, in medical settings, grabbed the attention of a one Jonas Salk, who was working on a vaccine for polio in his laboratory, to mix up solutions.



Video of Fred Waring

Blender and Informercials

This increasingly popular appliance was being developed by several different companies at once. In 1937, a business owner named W.G. Bernard added the blender to his line of kitchen products, and he called it the Vitamix Machine.

The problem was that American housewives were not yet familiar with this strange machine, so what better way to explain it to them, than by the world's first informercial, which ran for the Vitamix Machine for several years, as a thirty-minute segment, and helped to cement the mixer as a staple in American kitchens.

Modern Day Vitamix Informercial

The Blender

The blender, first seen as close to its present form in 1922, hasn't changed too much since then. Milkshakes have lost their hold as the "it drink," for teens, but we still use them for smoothies. And they are still invaluable for medical diets in nursing homes and hospitals. And yes, Vitamix still runs an informercial explaining why their machine is highly superior to other blenders on the market.

The Magic Bullet, the latest innovation in blender technology, is unique in that it offers a drink size mixing container. Popularized by late night infomercials, the product is known for allowing customized drinks for every guest. The simple design also makes it easier to clean, and offers a lid for transport.

So, that is a little bit about the history of the blender. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a smoothie to make. With my Bullet: I couldn't live without it!

Footnotes

1. Hine, Thomas. The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager. Harper Perennial. 2000.

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Please Comment and Vote Up If You Liked This Hub! 20 comments

workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

Nice hub, prairieprincess. When I published by hub about blenders, I couldn't believe that no one had chosen that topic yet. Little did I know, yours was waiting in the wings! Glad you mentioned the Magic Bullet, since I left it out of my hub. I've always been curious about that particular little machine, but I haven't bought it yet. Might have to try it! :-)


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 5 years ago from Canada Author

mom, thank you so much! That's funny, because I looked when I chose the topic, and no one had it yet. I kept wonder if someone would, and then when I went to post my link, there you were! Well, I am glad our hubs are quite different, and complement each other with certain details. Mine is more theme-based, while yours gives more chronological order of events.

I would highly recommend the Bullet ... love mine! Thank you so much for dropping by and commenting. Nice to meet you!


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

great hub. I too love my blender and cannot imagine being without.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Super Hub! I had no idea how the Waring blender got its name, although I knew about Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians. I'll bet there's a big story about how and why he booted the brains, Osisus.

What a treat to read, and now I want a smoothie, too.


SJerZGirl 5 years ago

I have a blender, but I don't use it often. My daughter has the Bullet and WOW it's noisy! Noisier than any blender or food processor I've used. I prefer food processors, but there are things that can be made in a blender that I food processor just won't work as well for (drink, anyone?) But, I would never get rid of it. I used it recently to grind coffee beans I'd forgotten to have ground at the coffee shop (and quickly lost my receipt to take the bag back, of course). Everything finds its niche!


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 5 years ago from Canada Author

Sally, I agree! There probably IS a great story behind that. I actually tried to find out some research on that, but was not able to find out the whole story. Apparently, he blamed Osius for it not working, but I don't know any more of the details. That's neat that you knew about Fred Ware... I had never heard of him before this hub.

Thanks so much for commenting and stopping by!


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 5 years ago from Canada Author

Susan, thanks so much! It was fun to write. Take care!

SJ Girl, thank you so much for commenting. Yes, the Bullet is very noisy! I am aware of it when I use it for my smoothie at 6 a.m. when the kid is still in bed!

That's neat that you use a food processor: I've never had one but I am sure they come in very handy!

Thanks for commenting and have a wonderful day!


crystolite profile image

crystolite 5 years ago from Houston TX

Excellent hub.promising to use my blenders often


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 5 years ago from Canada Author

crytolite, thank you so much for the comment. Glad it inspired you to use your blender! Take care.


lisa.bom 5 years ago

I love stuff like this. Thanks it was fun to read


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 5 years ago from Canada Author

Lisa, thanks so much for stopping by. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Take care!


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago

Nice hub and full of info I never knew. Thanks for sharing. Rated up and awesome.


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thank you so much for the wonderful comment, toknowinfo!


rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 5 years ago from NY

Excellent Hub on the history of blenders. I need to get one, I sadly admit I am without a blender.


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 5 years ago from Canada Author

rpalulis, you need to get one! :) Thanks so much for the wonderful comment. Take care!


hamilton 5 years ago

am working on a blender machine that works with electricity please i would need a good where i can get literature review,


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 5 years ago from Canada Author

Sorry, Hamilton. I don't understand your question. Could you rephrase?


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Blenders are great yes, but love the historical connections you've highlighted for us. :)

Makes one wonder about a lot of things...

Where would we be as a nation if teens had been encouraged to become real live, hardworking entrepreneurs instead of to hang out?

What happened to Fred Osisus?

What would life look like today if medical breakthroughs had not brought doctors in to the point in the 1950s to proclaim that antibiotics would end disease in the world?

All that to think about, sure, but yes, yes, yes, on liking what today's blenders do for life! :)


shea duane profile image

shea duane 5 years ago from new jersey

Wow, you did a great job tracing a piece of Americana into the 21st century. What you said about teens as a demographic was really new to me. So interesting! (I love my blender also 8-) )

great hub!


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 5 years ago from Canada Author

@RT, those are excellent questions! Yes, where would be be, indeed? I think there's a lot of energy sitting around playing, when they could be changing the world! Thanks for such a thought-provoking comment and yay for blenders! Take care.

@Shea, thank you so much. It was a lot of fun to look at the connections with this little machine. I am so glad that it gave you something new. Thanks again for coming by!

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