OBJECT HISTORY: Penguin Server

Image of a penguin server, silver with wooden handles

Produced in West Bend, Wisconsin, in the 1940s, the Penguin Hot and Cold Server is an iconic object of postwar American culture. Designed to insulate both hot and cold foods, and to keep ice cubes chilled, the Penguin highlights the resurgence in home entertainment after the war, including popular leisure activities like outdoor grilling and cocktail parties.

Serving Bowl, Ralph N. Kircher for the West Bend Aluminum Company, patent US2349099A. Image from www.google.com/patents.
Serving Bowl, Ralph N. Kircher for the West Bend Aluminum Company, patent US2349099A. Image from www.google.com/patents.

It also offers a prime example of industrial design, changing technologies, the shifting role of women in the workforce, and the rise of a postwar consumer-driven society.

Lastly, the Penguin is a reminder of Wisconsin’s former position as the center of the aluminum cookware industry.

In 1941, inventor Ralph N. Kircher drew up the plans for the West Bend Penguin Hot and Cold Server. Taking the form of a sphere with a flattened base, the vessel’s central decorative band depicts a colony of penguins, one waddling behind the other. The shiny and reflective surface of the server (available in chrome or copper-plated steel) creates a contrast between the cover’s knob and the vessel’s handles, the latter mimicking the curvature of a penguin’s flippers.

Listen below to the Penguin Server’s segment on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Wisconsin Life.

 

 

 

Written by Ann Glassock, August 2014.


RELATED STORIES

The West Bend Aluminum Company

The Aluminum Industry and Wartime Demands

Cocktail Parties


READER’S RESPOND:

“We collect these Penguins and give them out like Trophies.
We use ours strictly for Ice Cubes when we refill our Cocktails.
I was surprised to see how much thought went into the actual blueprint for The Penguin.
Ralph N. Kircher is a Genius.”

Clifford Lueck


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Learn more about West Bend and the Penguin Server at the Washington County Historical Society.

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