- Posted March 30, 2014 by
Kansas City, Missouri
The Crock Pot: True Origins of an American Appliance Icon
The man who invented the modern Crock Pot was my neighbor and I was a best friend of his son.
I grew up in a suburban, private lake community. One of my first friends there was a kid named Steve, just down the street and around the corner. Steve and I were buddies since we were very young. Steve's dad was the vice-president of Engineering at Rival Manufacturing Company. In the early 1970's, I was hanging out at Steve's house quite a bit, and noticed some strange ceramic "pots" in the basement. I was told by Steve that they were a "special project" his dad was working on, and they were "secret". I noticed the pots were being heated on hotplates, and that there were several different designs and shapes. I never really gave it much thought until about a year later when the first Crock Pot was introduced by Rival.
Rival Manufacturing acquired the Naxon Utilities Corporation of Chicago in 1970. Naxon had developed the "Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker". Rival re-introduced the old bean cooker under the "Crock-Pot" name in 1971.
In 1974, Rival introduced removable stoneware inserts for the cooker, and the true Crock Pot was born.
My friend's dad was busy in his basement, trying to test different types and sizes of stoneware inserts that would eventually become the famous Crock Pot. What a small world. I guess I could say I grew up around the corner from the birthplace of the Crock Pot.
Sales skyrocketed in the first few years. The Crock Pot posted sales of $2 million in its first year, leaping to $10 million in 1972, doubling to $23 million in the next year, totaling $57 million in 1974, and topping at $93 million in 1975. Like any buying craze that takes over the country, sellouts were common at retail stores. One retailer planned a major promotion of the Crock Pot, but canceled all advertising after its employees bought every Crock Pot prior to the store's opening (source Answers.com).
This appliance has served us all well because we can throw a bunch of stuff in one in the morning, set the dial and return after work to the great smell and flavor of a slow-cooked meal. My friend's dad helped to make that all possible, and I saw the original "experiments" in his creepy old basement. That was cool..
Rival Manufacturing is still around, but the brand is obscured by so many acquisitions and corporate changes. My dad worked there as an industrial design engineer for several years, designing various Rival "O-Matic" products including electric knives, can openers, ice crushers and blenders. Rival was eventually swallowed up by the Sunbeam Corporation which was devoured by Holmes Products Corporation in 1999, which was then acquired by the Jarden Corporation in 2005.
Crock Pots are still available everywhere, but the original Mr. Crock Pot who lived around the corner is long gone. His name was Robert J. Scott. He deserves the credit for his hard work and the famous slow cooker we all know and love.