One of the beauties of the Internet is the potential it has for getting exposure for what would otherwise remain obscure topics. This site, devoted exclusively to the history of the Sunbeam Mixmaster, is a perfect example of such a niche subject. While the more decorative arts of the twentieth century have gained broad acceptance and popularity in recent years, it was through items such as the Mixmaster that the elements of modern industrial design were developed and exposed to the general public. This well designed site, chronicling the history of a utilitarian object, is remarkable for how it reflects the evolution of modern design from the 1930’s through the 1970’s.
This in-depth history of the machine, and the company behind it, is presented in a readable, well illustrated format, with just enough humor to make what could be a very dry recitation of the facts into a enjoyable read. The twenty or so pages are arranged in chronological order, with links to related sites and more in-depth information scattered throughout. There are nice touches, such as the inclusion of other images from various eras and links to vintage audio recordings at the end of each page, that epitomize the enriched learning experience that is possible through the Internet. This is easily among the best of the amateur sites we have visited.
Them Eat Toast…
This site is related to the preceding one in a number of ways, primarily in that it relates the history of a relatively commonplace home appliance, but also in the way it also serves as a chronicle of the evolution of industrial design, in this case across the entire 20th century. The site takes a more formal approach to its topic (The actual name is The Toaster Museum Foundation) but not without some humor, especially in the section about the history of toast and toasting, and in embedded links to related and not so related toast trivia. The Toaster Museum Foundation itself is the outgrowth of a collection of toasters assembled for a café where each table had its own toaster. From such humble beginnings this history of the toaster was born!
Organized into pages covering 20year spans, the informative text is extensively illustrated with some of the most unusual toasters you have ever seen (Until the advent of the pop-up toaster, which eventually became the standard, the history of the toaster is a history of innovation and ingenuity). Other sections of this site include an extensive page of FAQ’s (Including information on getting vintage toaster repaired), a "gallery" of toast and toaster related art, and probably the most fun, a collection of toast and toaster-related toys.
You’ve just got to love the name of this site, Jim’s Burnt Offerings; a "gallery" devoted to an enormous collection of cigarette packaging and related ephemera. What is most striking as one browses through the various pages is the artwork and elaborate printing on many of the early packs. For those of us who are familiar with the simplified graphics of modern cigarette packaging (Camel is the only remnant of these pictorial designs) it was all new territory. We will have to take the site owners word for it that there are 80 pages of images here but that certainly seems likely. Unfortunately the site is lacking in navigability with links to seemingly unrelated pages at the bottom of each page so you have to go back and forth repeatedly in order not to miss anything.
What it lacks in structure however, is more than compensated for by the excellent quality images (that load quickly for the most part) and the wealth of historical information, which is presented in a concise, readable manner.
The World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America, was among the pivotal events of the late 19th century. It had a profound impact on the arts, architecture, technology, and marketing that would last for decades (Cracker Jacks and the Ferris Wheel are only two of the things introduced at the fair which became staples of American culture).
This is a simply designed site comprised of what is essentially one single long page with links to other pages and sites offering more detailed information on selected topics. The main page is packed with information, ranging from the serious to the trivial, including historical information and some amusing statistics. Numerous vintage images compliment the well-written text, helping to bring the enormity of this event (which set a new standard for world expositions) into sharper focus.
Grant’s Tribute To Burma-Shave Signs is a trip down memory lane. Dedicated to these milestones in the history of advertising, the legendary roadside signs with their simple rhymes were fixtures of the American driving experience from their inception in 1925 through their demise in 1963. The site includes background information about the history of the product, its unique advertising campaign, and dozens of the rhymes themselves. Nothing earth shattering here, but worth a visit if only to get a chuckle out of this slice of Americana.