Hot or Cold-A Peek at Thermos

As a vintage collector, especially one that likes to collect vintage kitchen items, I run across lots of vintage thermoses. The one below was one I picked up a month or so back. I like the orangey-ness of it.

King-Seeley Thermos Wide Mouth (available at Vintage Eve’s)

I also have this one that I pour any left over coffee in the morning into and drag to work with me. I add my cream so I don’t need to find a refrigerator at work and it keeps my coffee HOT all day. I always find it amazing that if I open it the next day, the coffee will still be, if not hot, at least warm. How cool is that?!

My Favorite Thermos

The Thermos started with the vacuum flask invented by James Dewar in 1892. According to the BBC, Dewar was interested in cryogenics. He was the first person to make liquid nitrogen. He needed a way to keep very cold liquids cold. He experimented with a number of designs before developing his double-wall glass flask. He removed the air from between the two walls creating a vacuum. The liquids stay cold because there are no molecules through which heat can transfer. Adding a silver lining to stop heat from being directly transmitted was an innovation in the final design. Amazingly enough, he did not patent the vacuum flask.

Thermal Vacuum Flask Refill (available at The Biscuit Castle)

Burger and Aschenbrenner out of Germany were the first to adapt Dewar’s invention into a commercial venture. They formed Thermos GmBH in 1904. Funding Universe says that the name Thermos came about as the result of a contest. Looking for a name of their bottle that could keep items hot or cold, they ran a contest. A resident of Munich, Germany sent in the name “Thermos” which was derived from the Greek word “therme” meaning heat.

A Group of Thermoses (available at Circa810)

The name was trademarked in 1907 in England by A.E. Gutman. Gutman got distribution all through the United Kingdom and other countries. At the same time, William Walker was founding the American Thermos Bottle Company (Funding Universe). Walker set out to make the name “Thermos” a household name.

Thermos Brand Maxwell House thermos (available at Treasure Covet Adore)

It didn’t take long! By 1910 a thermos signified a bottle that could keep liquids hot or cold for extended periods of time. Thermos products went all over the world. Peary even carried one with him to the North Pole and one was in the Wright brothers’ packs during their aviation experiments.

Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Lunch Box (available at Retro Toys and More)

Unfortunately, being a household name has its challenges. Other companies began to call their products “Thermoses.” Just like “Kleenex” and “Aspirin” had started as brand names, Thermos became known as any bottle that had a vacuum flask for keeping items hot or cold. It even showed up in some dictionaries (Funding Universe).

Stanley Thermos Lunchbox (available at Laura’s Last Ditch)

They did start producing other products such as lunch boxes with popular stars like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and tents, bottle openers, lanterns and more. In 1962 it was declared by a judge that “thermos” was a generic word that could be used by other companies as long as it wasn’t capitalized. So the actual Thermos brand name is capitalized. Aladdin was another company that used the thermos name in all small letters.

Aladdin Thermos Land of the Giants Lunchbox (available at CalloohCallay)


If you want more information about how the company restructured some more through the 1980s you can check out Funding Universe. So that was the story of how an incidental invention became a household word!

I hope you enjoyed this look at the history of thermoses. I will be partying at the links to the right all week. Please join me. And, as always, have a great week!

I Was Featured on Vintage Charm!


Getting Gas Can Be Fun!

Anybody who is over the age of (ahem) 50 will remember your parents talking about saving green stamps. I “vaguely” remember my mom collecting them and the books that they went into. Believe it or not they are still around! But like everything else, they are now part of the virtual world. You can get gift certificates with them at the Green Stamps Website. But in the “olden” days, you collected them in these books.

Postcard of S & H Green Stamps Saver Books (photo courtesy of The Jelly Jar)

Green Stamps though, were not the only way to get stuff. Way back when, gas stations were trying to build brand loyalty and in order to stand out they offered premiums. You could get all sorts of things; knife sets, dish sets, toys, glass sets and all sorts of odd ball things … like cactus bowls.

Blakely Gas Promotional Bowl Arizona (photo courtesy of Happy Hoarder Hollow)

There were mugs that were handed out by Exxon.

Exxon Promotional Mug (photo courtesy of Auntie Qs Vintage)

Knife sets by Shell. If you saved the cardboard pieces, you could turn them in and get a carving knife to go with your set! The premise being that if you went there enough times (brand loyalty) you could collect the whole set before they moved on to another promotion. These ones below have a 5-year warranty! Don’t see that much anymore!

Shell Gas Promotional Steak Knife Set (photo courtesy of Vintage Eve’s)

There were pens.

Enron Promotional Pens (courtesy of Lost Treasures 2 You)

And needles.

Needles Compliments of Esso (photo courtesy of Offbeat Avenue)

And glass and pitcher sets.

Blakely Gas Promotional Pitcher & Glasses (photo courtesy of HH Quilts Collectables)

This advertising booklet for Mobil shows Finlandia Glass by Anchor Hocking. Not only did it promote the gas station but the companies that made the products were well-known, too.

Mobil Gas Premium Booklet (photo courtesy of The Old Milk Barn)

There was even a promotion for bar paraphernalia (a little mixed messaging there!)

Enco Gas Barware (photo courtesy of Brindle Dog Vintage)

I find it interesting that a lot of these promotions were geared toward women. The promotional items really began getting creative in the 1950s and lasted through the 70s and into the very early 80s. According to Automobile in American Life and Society, which was an interesting read, women really began to take off in the work force during that time. Coupled with people moving to the suburbs and the need to get to shopping centers and work, the car really became a second home to women.

Sunoco Birthday Candles (photo courtesy of CutieMart)

They needed to get around and shuffle their kids as American children began to get into organized after school clubs. It is an interesting progression. The freeing of American women as they made it through the 60’s created a driving force of women in more ways than one!

Sinclair Gas Promotional Glass (photo courtesy of Vintage By The Pound)

Well, that was a quick peek back at a fun spot in history. It was also a time when self-service gas stations were not the norm and you could get your windshield washed, your oil and tire pressure checked while you sat in your car with the air conditioner or heater on (depending on the time of year). Ah, different times.

I hope you have enjoyed this walk down memory lane (for some of us – for others it may be news to you – what?! they used to pump the gas for you?!). If you get a chance, leave me a comment. If you’d like to take a look at some more early advertising treasures, stop by Vintage Eve’s shop!

Have a great week!

I like to party at Adirondack Girl @ Heart!