The History of Electric Kettles

Written by maureen katemopoulos
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The earliest known kettle-shaped vessel was found in Mesopotamia and dates back to between 3500 and 2000 B.C.E. It is made of bronze and has a decorated spout. However, apart from its comparable shape, experts do not believe that it shares any similar functions with the kettle that has evolved over the past 200 years.

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Early History

The history of the electric kettle is linked with that of early iron and copper kettles, which were originally used for cooking. Kettles for cooking eventually evolved into tea kettles, which took different forms in various countries. The elegant Russian samovar, made of metal, is thought to have originated in Persia. In England, silver kettles became part of the English tea tradition during the 1700s. Up to this point, kettles were still placed over a flame, and this practice continued until the end of the 19th century, when the drudgery of boiling water began to change dramatically.

First Electric Kettle

The Carpenter Electric Company of Chicago introduced its first electric kettle in 1891. It had a heating element in a separate compartment beneath the water. The same year, a British inventor, R.E.B. Crompton of Crompton and Company in the United Kingdom, developed a heat radiator concept for the electric kettle. When the Carpenter Electric Company exhibited its electric kettle at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, the company had incorporated Crompton's heat radiator concept.

Built-in Heating

In 1922, The Swan Company introduced the first electric kettle with a built-in heating element. The heating element was encased in a metal tube that was housed in the water chamber of the kettle. This design grew in popularity in subsequent years. During the 1930s, metal kettles with Bakelite handles and lids were the fashion. With the outbreak of World War II, metal grew to be in short supply, and ceramic kettles took the place of the metal models of previous years.

First Automatic Kettle

Credit for creating the first automatic electric kettle goes to Russell Hobbs, a company established in the United Kingdom in the early 1950s by William Russell (1920 to 2006) and Peter Hobbs (1916 to 2008). Prior to this, electric kettles might boil dry if unattended, or cause electric shocks. In the automatic electric kettle first manufactured by Russell Hobbs in 1955, a bimetallic strip tripped the kettle's "off" switch when steam was forced through the lid aperture to the strip.

Inventors

It is interesting to note that through the years, inventors have continued to create improvements to the kettle. In 1923, Arthur L. Large of the United Kingdom invented the kettle's first fully immersible heat resistor. In the early 1930s, a kettlemaker named Walter H. Bullpitt invented the electric kettle safety valve. The British inventor and entrepreneur John C. Taylor created and perfected the kettle thermostat, which ensures that the kettle switches off after the water is boiled. Taylor's company, Castletown Thermostats (later renamed Strix Ltd.,), sold hundreds of millions of these devices. Predating the kettle thermostat, a patent application in Wisconsin by female inventors Louisa and Agide Beaudette included an illustration of their "improvement in kettle covers."

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