The “Vacuum Flask”, later renamed “Thermos”, was first invented for use in the field of Cryogenics.
In 1892 Sir James Dewar, a scientist at Oxford University, was preforming experiments while doing research in the field of Cryogenics. This is the scientific study of materials at extremely low temperatures. While working with the rare metal palladium, he needed a container; he formed a copper chamber and enclosed a smaller chamber inside connected at the neck. By partially evacuating the air, he created a vacuum. This provides insulation and prevents the cold (or heat) from transferring in or out. The Vacuum Flask became an important tool used by scientists to keep materials at a specific temperature for chemical experiments. Also known as the Dewar flask or Dewar Bottle, Dewar did not patent his device.
In 1904, two German glass blowers realized the potential of Dewar’s invention for the benefits of keeping beverages cold or hot for long periods of time. Renaming the device a “thermos”, the two Germans claimed rights to it and, in 1907, sold the trademark and rights to three separate, independent companies. Located in New York, Canada, and England these companies went on to make the thermos a very popular item. Further improvements using glass and aluminum were made over the years. In 1910, the invention of the glass filler increased product demand significantly. In 1912, The American thermos Company of Brooklyn, New York moved to a larger facility in Norwich, Connecticut.
The popularity of thermoses grew as many 20th century explorers and adventurers famously used a thermos on their expeditions. Robert E. Peary took it to the North Pole, Shackleton took it to the South Pole, Roosevelt brought it to Africa and the Wright Brothers took it on an early flight. After all, who doesn’t want the comfort of a nice hot or icy beverage on a long journey?
In 1962, after many court battles over the trademark name Thermos, the court ruled that “thermos” was now considered a generic name. The Thermos Company has been sold numerous times over the years and the facility in Norwich closed its doors in 1988. The thermos continues to be a favorite household convenience, loved and used daily by people worldwide.
The PAST Antiques Marketplace has a variety of antique and vintage thermoses available for purchase. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.
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