Every so often I pull out this bread pail that was my grandmother’s. She mixed bread in it for her family of six children, plus two of her husband’s younger siblings who lived with them during the Depression. I think at one time she owned several of these, but this one is the only one I know about that’s still left in the family. I continue to use it, but obviously I don’t make as much bread as she did.
The bread pail’s official name is the Number 4 Universal Bread Maker by Landers, Frary & Clark of New Britain, Connecticut. It won a gold medal in the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. Winning a gold medal at the World’s Fair was a big deal — Landers, Frary actually put it on the front of the bread pail itself. This particular World’s Fair celebrated the centennial anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase (1803), one year late. You can read lots more about it here if you’re interested.
Anyway, the bread “machine” was one of many products that came out around the turn of the twentieth century, all of which were designed to make women’s home-making jobs easier. According to the National Housewares Manufacturers Association (see this reprint), the company who manufactured my bread pail produced goods under the trademark “Universal” from the 1890s until GE’s Housewares division acquired it in 1965. In addition to the Universal bread maker, they produced a new type of food chopper that chopped vegetables as well as ground meat, and even more significant for us caffeine lovers, they designed the “Universal” coffee percolator. Remember, electricity was just becoming available to the masses at that time: the first percolators were designed for the stove, and they made coffee that tasted better than people had ever made at home before. [Read more…]