Kitchen Appliances: The Manual Egg Beater, A Museum Piece
I thought I was getting old at about age 25 when I walked into the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and saw my mother's kitchen near the entrance, set up as an exhibit of "old days" kitchen décor and appliances.
After my pupils finished dilating and I stopped shuddering, I walked over and had a look. Same vinyl, chrome, and too-yellow wallpaper. No mistake in that.
Then I learned that the kitchen my mother had furnished and decorated in my childhood home was almost a direct copy of her own mother's and aunts' kitchens of the 1940s and 1950s, so I felt less ancient. The table and chair were still startling in their similarity, though.
Among the appliances in the Henry Ford kitchen exhibit was an old manual egg beater, much like the one my mother used. I'd learned to use one as well in high school cooking class, where we were taught about electric mixers and manual egg beaters "in case the power goes out." This was the same class that taught us that hot chocolate should be served with pizza - we never recovered from that one. But we did know how to use an egg beater in case we ever saw one.
The Eggbeater Museum
Darlene Gaglione and her husband operate the Eggbeater Museum and have also operated the Abracadabra Rubber Stamp Company in San Francisco. I recall purchasing some of their runner stamping products. They are now in New Mexico.
Darlene (Gaglione) is also a collector and archiver of everything Egg-Beaters (one of only 9 known collectors in the US), and her kitchen walls attest to that. From the first production egg-beater to a solid collection of child's play beaters, they are all represented here in all their one and two bladed glory!
The Eggbeater Museum
Video footage below is from Lowbrowser shot in San Francisco in 1986.
The Abracadada Egg-Beater Museum
Culinary Tool Inventions
I've used electric mixers, hand held egg beaters, and a wooden spoon with a bowl; and I must say I prefer the bowl and spoon for any mixing or beating of the culinary kind. Like Alton Brown, I've always wanted to use the fewest pieces of equipment and make sure they are all multi-use items. I like to eat out of one bowl, so I'd like to cook with one container, too, although that is not always possible.
I'd also like a table top that disposes of your empty meal vessels when you're done eating -- Just press a button and the items vaporize. A vent overhead could collect the vapors and redirect them to some other appliance that might recycle them into other items.
We are headed in such a direction with the plastic water bottles made from corn that disintegrate easily in landfills or can be recycled. Taco salad bowls are made of taco shells and soup in a bread bowl is entirely edible, so we as a people are approaching cup and plate extinction to a small degree already.
Eggs are Always Relevant
Regardless of inventions, we may always need something with which to beat eggs, whether it be a bowl and a fork, an egg beater, or a tightly covered mayonnaise jar that we can use to shake up the eggs.
We made butter in such a jar in the second grade, each child shaking the milk in the jar 10 times. At the last school desk in the last row, we had butter, although it was white. Then we boarded buses and went to visit the margarine and butter manufacturer in town to see the big process, including the coloring.
A 20th Century Egg Beater
US Patent Office Egg Beater Records
From the records of the US Patent Office, we find that a manual or hand-cranked "Improved Egg Beater" that featured two synchronized counter-rotating whisks is listed under a patent held by a Mr. Turner WIlliams of Providence, Rhode Island. This was accomplished on May 31, 1870, the year my Grandfather was born, and patented as US Patent #103811 (the link is to Patent Office page link).
This #103811 was not the first manual egg beater. It was a "better mousetrap" - an improvement on the previous single-whisk rotary egg beater. Now, whisks themselves are called egg beaters.
From the US Patent Office Classification Index
- Beater: Class 366, Subclass 343+
- Breaker or cracker: Class 99, Subclass 568+
From all this information and patent searching, we find that the egg beater was liklyl invented for US patent purposes in 1856, but that over 1,000 patent applications for egg beaters were made that same year. Antique egg beaters comprise a collectors' industry item as well. The Eggbeater Chronicles is a museum in a book that pictures dozens of egg beaters and discueses their invention and manufacture.
At some point, I think we'll find a much older "ancient egg beater" from the American Colonies or the UK, or Egypt. Perhaps Leonardo DaVinci invented one as well.
Principals of Tools - Kitchen and Construction
It has been several years since the shocking trip I made through the Henry Ford Museum, and I find myself anxiously awaiting the next opportunity to return.
Along with the peddle-operated sewing machines and the hand-crank calculators, I'll likely find an edition of my last computer. A future trip to the museum will be a golden opportunity to take a set of new photos.
Hand Cranked Egg Beaters are Best
These vintage egg beaters, hand cranked though they may be, are often as good to use as our modern electric devices. Many cooks even prefer the hand crank models.
© 2011 Patty Inglish