Inspired by a baker mixing dough with a metal spoon, engineer Herbert Johnson with the Hobart Manufacturing Company came up with the idea of an electric stand mixer in 1908. Development of the product began in 1914 and shortly thereafter, the H Model was sold to professional bakers.
Perhaps surprisingly, the H Model was extremely popular with the United States Navy. In an effort to save time and feed a large number of people, the Navy incorporated the mixer on three of their ships: the California, the Tennessee, and the first dreadnought battleship in the U.S Navy, the South Carolina. The H Model improved efficiency so much that in 1917 it became a part of U.S. Navy ships’ standard equipment.
Advertisement for KitchenAid mixer. Author: KitchenAid. CC BY-SA 4.0
Hobart Manufacturing Company started working on a home model once they saw what a huge success the industrial version had been. The new model was introduced in 1918 and prototypes were given to the wives of factory executives and engineers. The product was named after one of the wives described the mixer as “the best kitchen aid” she had ever owned. In 1919 the company started selling the domestic H-5 mixer. It was smaller than its predecessor but initially not as successful. Many stores refused to sell the product so Hobart recruited a sales force where the majority of representatives were women who sold the mixers from door-to-door. However, the H Model was cumbersome and heavy (65 pounds, 26 inches tall) and also expensive ($189.50), so getting homemakers to invest in one was not easy.
A red KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer. Author: BenFrantzDale. CC BY-SA 2.0
Hobart solved the problem with a new G Model, which appeared in 1927. It was smaller, less expensive, and it was a huge success on the market, selling 20,000 units in the first three years. There were some very famous names among the users of this model including Henry Ford, John Barrymore, Ginger Rogers and Marion Davies.
A KitchenAid Model A “Kaidette” stand mixer, produced in the 1930s. It was a prototype. Author: Cindy Funk. CC BY 2.0
In the next decade, new versions of the mixer were produced, reducing its size and weight but the price remained quite high until Egmont Arens redesigned the stand mixer in 1937. Arens was famous for his consumer-oriented designs. This new K Model was the one that “captivated consumers” with its modern aesthetic. Arens believed that the product should be designed to be aesthetically pleasing as well as practical. KitchenAid, in their words, still has the same “virtually unchanged” design, which is a demonstration of Arens’ innovative skills. The shape of the mixer has been made a registered trademark in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
A KitchenAid Model K mixer and advertisement. Author: Cindy Funk. CC BY 2.0
From the beginning, KitchenAid mixers came with various attachments used for different tasks. There are dozens of attachments available today that can turn the mixer into a pasta maker, sausage stuffer, or food grinder, and many other things. All KitchenAid components are compatible with the front attachment hub of every mixer from 1937 until today. Even an attachment from decades ago–for example a can opener from the 1950s–will still fit and work perfectly.
KitchenAid mixer in Julia Child’s kitchen at the Smithsonian. Author: rochelle hartman. CC BY 2.0
Initially, the mixers were white until 1955 when they started being available in a variety of colors: Sunny Yellow, Island Green, Petal Pink, and Satin Chrome. The KitchenAid mixer was already popular but the new colors gave it aesthetic superiority over competitors’ products. The color palette was extended in 1994 following the increased popularity of the new models.
Gold plated 1,000,000 mixer at the KitchenAid museum. Author:Cindy Funk. CC BY 2.0
An aesthetically pleasing design isn’t enough to create such an enduring kitchen icon. The mixers were characterized by their amazing durability. In 1994, a contest was held to mark KitchenAid’s 75th anniversary.
Old models of mixers with different attachments at the KitchenAid museum. Author: Cindy Funk. CC BY 2.0
More than 7,500 entries were submitted in a nationwide search for the oldest working KitchenAid stand mixer. The winner was a 91-year-old woman from Pittsburgh with a Model “H” from 1919 she inherited from her aunt somewhere in the 1940s.
A range of modern KitchenAid stand mixers. Author: AngryJulieMonday. CC BY 2.0
Since the early 1940s, the KitchenAid stand mixers have been made in their factory in Greenville, Ohio. There is a factory tour conducted by the assembly line workers and known as the “KitchenAid Experience” that gives a behind-the-scenes look at the manufacturing process. The KitchenAid Museum displays early models and vintage product advertisements from KitchenAid’s long history.