History Nebraska Blog

The 20th Century chest that can cook

What do you think this object carried or stored? At first glance, it appears to be a simple chest with a hinged lid, and wheels that allow it to be easily moved.

On closer inspection, you will see that interior is lined with metal, and it has two large cavities. 

This curious object is the Thermator fireless cooker, and it was manufactured right here in Nebraska.

Fireless cookers were popular in the early 20th century, and slowly cook food using less fuel. Food was heated in pots on a stove or fire, and placed in the fireless cooker. Soapstone or metal heating plates were also heated and placed under and over the pots. The cooker was tightly closed to retain the heat and not reopened until the food was presumed cooked. Recipe books gave general guidelines for cooking times.

The Thermator fireless cooker was made by National Manufacturing Company in College View. The company was founded around 1917, and manufactured fireless cookers early in its history. National Manufacturing later made many different products including bomb shelters, airplane parts, test kitchen equipment, and lawn-care implements. One of the company's best-known products was the walking sprinkler. 

History Nebraska staff recently recatloged this object and hundreds of others as part of a grant project to rehouse and recatalog furniture and large artifacts. You can view this object and more in History Nebraska’s online database at nebraskahistory.pastperfectonline.com
This project was made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services IMLS number (MA-30-16-0329-16)

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