Kelling-Karel Co. / Kelling Nut Co., est. 1906

Museum Artifact: Squirrel Nut Cracker, 1910s

Made By: Kelling-Karel Company / Double Kay / Kelling Nut Co., 217 W. Huron St., Chicago, IL

“The ‘Squirrel’ Nut Cracker is suitable for all kinds of table nuts, and is so designed that it cracks the shell but not the kernel. It is adjustable for different sizes of nuts—pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, etc.. Are all easily cracked with it.

Olson Rug Company, est. 1874

Museum Artifact: Olson Rug 75th Anniversary Calendar, 1949

Made By: Olson Rug Co., 2800 N. Pulaski Rd., Chicago, IL

No other manufacturing business in Chicago ever had a headquarters quite like that of the Olson Rug Company. From 1935 to 1965, the sprawling Olson factory campus at the northwest corner of Diversey Avenue and Pulaski Road—with its stunning man-made waterfalls, rock gardens, sculptures,

Bloomfield Industries, est. 1933

Museum Artifacts: Cast Iron Fry Cutter (1930s) & Stainless Steel Ice Cream Scoop, (1960s)

Made By: Bloomfield MFG Co. / Bloomfield Industries, 3333 S. Wells St. and 4546 W. 47th St.

Some men have lived and learned through living
Some men have learned by seein’ true
You cannot judge from what they’re sayin’
It’s real clear from what they do
—lyrics by Michael Bloomfield from the song “Good Old Guy,”

Ekco Products Co., est. 1888

Museum Artifacts: EKCO Miracle Can Opener 885 (c. 1960s) and EKCO Helmet Bottle Stopper (c. 1940s)

Made by: Ekco Products Co., 1949 N. Cicero Ave., Chicago, IL

“We taught your mother a new way to open chicken soup,” read the presumptuous tagline of a 1965 advertisement for the Miracle Can Opener—arguably the most recognizable of the thousands of utensils produced by the EKCO Housewares Company.

Chicago Hardware Foundry Co. & Harper Supply Co., est. 1897

Museum Artifact: Cast-Iron Dog Tray Nut Cracker, 1899

Made By: Harper Supply Co. (40 Dearborn St, Chicago) / Chicago Hardware Foundry Co. (2500 Commonwealth Ave., North Chicago, IL)

“It is a fact that the successful sale of any product is dependent upon the genuineness of the need for which it is manufactured.” —Earl P. Sedgwick, co-founder and president of the Chicago Hardware Foundry Company

While Mr.

Indestro MFG Co. & Duro Metal Products, est. 1917

Museum Artifact: Indestro Bottle Capper, 1920s

Made By: Indestro MFG Co., 3429 W. 47th St. / Duro Metal Products, 2649 N. Kildare Ave.

When Gertrude McNaught Odlum died in 1992, aged 96, she was widely remembered as an award-winning breeder of dairy cows, owning a pair of multi-million dollar farms in the Chicago suburbs (“Rolling Acres” and “Odlum Farm”). Far less publicized,

American Family Scale Co., est. 1928

Museum Artifact: 25 LB Kitchen Scale, c. 1950s

Made by: American Family Scale Co., 515 S. Laflin St., Chicago, IL

A television metaphor might not be entirely apropos for the time period, but when the American Family Scale Company was established in 1928, it was essentially a “spin-off” of Chicago’s venerable American Cutlery Company. In fact, all the classic hallmarks of a TV spin-off were there:

1—The original,

Albert Pick & Co., est. 1857

Museum Artifact: Silver Coffee Pot (Sheridan Plaza Hotel), 1920s

Made by: Albert Pick & Company, 1200 W. 35th Street, Chicago, IL

“The Sheridan-Plaza Hotel Cafeteria operates from 8 o’clock in the morning until 12 o’clock at night and is always busy. The management of the Sheridan-Plaza, having made thorough study of conditions in the surrounding neighborhood, knew that a cafeteria operating all day and night would be a success.

White Cap Company, est. 1926

Museum Artifact: Vapor-Vacuum Jar Cap Opener, 1950s

Made By: White Cap Company, 1819 N. Major Ave., Chicago, IL

If you want to start a successful business, invent a solution to one of mankind’s great conundrums. If you want to stay in business, be ready to fix all the new problems your solution creates.

Back in 1930, a small Goose Island start-up called the White Cap Company introduced its “Vapor Vacuum” lid sealing system—a revolutionary new steam-based method for preserving the freshness and flavor of bottled commercial foods.

Bersted Manufacturing Co., est. 1924

Museum Artifact: Bersted Electric Toaster No. 74, c. 1932

Made By: Bersted MFG Co., 5201 W. 65th St., Chicago, IL

The toaster of the future! The toaster for all times! The apex of toasterdom!

Looking like a miniaturized attraction from the “Century of Progress” World’s Fair, this majestic creation by Chicago’s Bersted MFG Company was actually a bargain basement brand for its day;

Triner Scale & MFG Co., est. 1903

Museum Artifact: Triner Precision Postal Scale, 1910

Made By: Triner Scale & MFG Co., 2714 W. 21st St., Chicago, IL

It’s a rare treat that an artifact from the Made In Chicago Museum can actually introduce itself in its own words, but such is the case with our Triner “Precision” 4LB postal scale. When this design was first patented and sent to market in 1906,

VAL-A Company, est. 1932

Museum Artifact: VAL-A Egg Scale, c. 1930s

Made By: VAL-A Company, 700 W. Root St., Chicago, IL

Weighing a hundred eggs one-by-one on a galvanized metal doohickey might seem crazily inefficient, if not entirely unnecessary. But for any humble farmer / chicken coop owner of the early to mid 20th century, egg scales like this one were must-have tools of the trade. Today, they can pass for intriguing modern art pieces.

Geo. W. Diener MFG Co., est. 1899

Museum Artifact: Automatic Fire Extinguisher, 1920s

Made By: Geo. W. Diener MFG Co., 400-420 N. Monticello Ave., Chicago, IL

Sometimes a lamp is just a lamp. Other times, it’s an early 1920s soda-acid fire extinguisher—which then became a lamp. I suppose it would be ironic if our extinguisher lamp started an electrical fire, and then—having been gutted of its old chemical contents—was completely useless in helping the situation.