Electric kettles are discovered in practically every home that is connected to the electric main, but it wasn't always so. Early electric kettles were a status symbol that declared to the world what a modern and technologically competent person you were. The modern electric kettle comes in a plethora of shapes, colours and materials. Everybody knows what an electric kettle looks like, yet that knowledge can be as diverse as chalk and cheese. Collecting electric kettles reflects this journey from the exotic to the mundane yet taking in some fascinating design adaptations along the way.
Kettles were perhaps the first appliances to be 'electrified' that had their function completely changed as a consequence. Whereas kettles go back to ancient times, as a means of boiling water or more commonly keeping water hot in front of the fire, a process that could take several hours; the electrification of the kettle enabled its purpose to be changed to an appliance for the speedy heating of small quantities of water for more immediate use.
At the outset it is necessary to decide the question of just what does (or does not) count as an electric kettle. Recognising that the kettle was developed at the same time as other related heating and cooking appliances, a broad definition has been employed. This includes designs using non-immersed [‘under-floor'] heating elements, immersed elements (insulated or un-insulated); immersed electrodes; or heating by induction. It also includes products which depart more or less from the traditional copper-kettle shape, and which may have had other uses - apart from making tea!
As a working definition, any self-contained device intended to boil a small quantity of water in a container [for domestic purposes] by means of electricity' is accepted as a kettle.
History often generates claims for “firsts” - and existing publications contain a number of obviously conflicting stories about kettles. It is often easier to refute unjustified claims than to substantiate new ones - but whether the reader awards priority to the first published idea; the first practical demonstration, or the first commercial success of each feature, the first reference to a "container for boiling water" seems to belong to Mr Lane-Fox and dates from 1886.
The first patent taken out on a water heater was in1887. An article by David Cook records that Ferranti's induction current water heater was granted British Patent No. 700 on the 15th of Janury 1887.
By 1891 a number of patents for means of heating water, had been taken out on both sides of the Atlantic. And it is recorded that an "Electric kettle" was sold by GEC in London in March 1890.
1892 records the first photograph of an electric kettle. It was a Carpenter kettle, displayed in a shop window. Because of the printing process in use at the time the reproduction is very difficult to see clearly.
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