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1 Amana Side-by-Side Refrigerator

The latest model literally talks at you. The first side-by-side from the refrigeration specialist had considerably fewer features. The preponderance of evidence is that was in 1949, and it was an eye-catching convenience that caught on quickly.

Most refrigerator-freezers today are side-by-sides. They're usually less energy-efficient and have less capacity than machines of similar size with freezers on top or bottom. But the vertical accessibility of side-by-sides has made them them the national favorite. So has the option of a front dispenser to get ice and water without opening the door.

Amana was founded in 1934 to make commercial beverage coolers. The company diversified into freezers and then refrigerators for the home after World War II. With advances such as a patent for a frostless refrigerator, the side-by-side and eventually separate refrigeration systems for the freezer and refrigerator, Amana cemented its reputation as a refrigeration maker. The newest side-by-side is The Messenger, which tells you if a door was left ajar or a filter needs changing, and lets you leave voice messages for other family members. A half-century ago, talking was left to that new-fangled device, the television.

2 Big Ben Alarm Clock

Westclox developed the Big Ben alarm clock in 1905 and the brand name -- though owned by another company -- is still in existence today, making Big Ben one of the most enduring brands in home furnishings.

George Kern invented the clock -- known for its signature large face and bell alarms -- in 1905, and the company received a patent on it three years later. The first unit sold in 1909 for $2.50. In 1910, Westclox launched a major national advertising campaign in the Saturday Evening Post. The company sold 150,000 units that year, which was the same year the company launched the Baby Ben, a smaller version of the now-famous clock. This was also the year that the trademark name Westclox first appeared -- it was on the backs of the Big Ben clocks until 1917. Many collectors use this trademark to this day to identify antique units.

By 1917, the company was using the name Westclox in its advertising to make the brand known. By the 1920s the company had several styles of Big Ben in its assortment, including a luminous model and a Pocket Ben, as well as a model called Ben Hur. Westclox merged with Seth Thomas Clock Co. in 1930 and formed General Time Instruments Corp. In 1931, an electric version of Big Ben was introduced.

The company thrived through the rest of the century, but in 2001, the company closed its operations and several of the brands were sold. Salton bought the rights to the Big Ben name and has developed new models. Indeed, a reproduction of the stylish Moonbeam Clock -- a 1949 model with a faux-Bakelite finish -- is available from Restoration Hardware.

3 Bob Timberlake Furniture License

As HFN celebrates 75 years, Lexington Home Brands is celebrating 12 years of Bob Timberlake, the "best-selling furniture brand of all time," according to Lexington's Web site.

Capitalizing on the dynamic, yet homespun, personality of North Carolina artist and designer Bob Timberlake, Lexington introduced the first of five licensed furniture collections, The World of Bob Timberlake, in 1990, to no small response from dealers.

Over the next decade, Timberlake furniture made $1.6 billion at retail for Lexington and the license, surpassing all other licensed furniture brands in lifetime sales.

To describe the collection's initial success, Lexington invokes the Timberlake mystique: the emotion and passion of the designer almost physically applied to furniture that doesn't match but does share the common aesthetic of a collector's eye.

The Timberlake lifestyle furniture brand encompasses a range of styles, including 18th century, arts and crafts, and English and Irish cottage. The original collection was followed by a classic group, An Arts and Crafts Collection, introduced in 1997; Riverwood, a cottage series launched in 1999; and Bob Timberlake Lodge, a more rustic take on the original sent up in 2001. A youth collection, Bob Timberlake Grandkids, also appeared in 2001.

4 Broyhill's Fontana Collection

In an industry that loves blockbuster collections, Fontana started out modestly enough. Introduced at the furniture market in High Point, N.C., in October 1989, Fontana was a so-called "short group," a case goods collection intended to fill a price and style niche in the Broyhill line.

Buyer reaction at market was decent, but certainly not overwhelming. In today's instant-gratification environment, the collection might never have gone into production.

Through April 2001, Fontana had sold more than 3.5 million SKUs -- and almost $1.2 billion in wholesale numbers. It is perhaps the top-selling furniture collection ever. Chances are someone you know has a piece of Fontana furniture in their home right now.

The style is simple enough: "Inspired by European antiques and American farmhouse treasures," according to Broyhill. A mellow, light finish and gentle distressing make those clean country lines distinctly Fontana.

And it won't stop selling. The original introduction included master bedroom, dining room and occasional furniture. In 1990 Broyhill added entertainment and youth furniture, followed by wall systems in 1995 and home office in 1998.

5 Conair Hair Dryer

Though not responsible for the outright invention of the hair dryer, Conair is responsible for bringing the professional pistol-grip dryer from the salon to the home and creating a sensation that continues to this day.

According to Conair, salons had functioned as regular social centers in the early half of the 20th century. But when the 1960s came around, women began to rebel against, among other things, the tradition of the beauty salon, and hair styling was yet another task they were determined to handle on their own. That want of freedom was Conair's ticket to success, and women marveled at their newfound ability to style their own hair with a dryer in one hand and a brush in the other. They were further thrilled with the endless possibilities of styles that resulted.

Conair's lineup of hair care appliances has of course grown to include many other products, such as straighteners, curling irons and new creations like the Swizzlers and Quick Braid, but the company has by no means abandoned the item that made Conair a household name. Conair's extensive dryer roster now includes travel, wall-mounted, diffusing and ionic models. The brand name continues to top the list in consumer preference.

6 Corelle Dinnerware

In the late 1960s, Corning scientists discovered a way to laminate glass, strengthening the fragile material in much the same way lamination strengthens wood. The result was a plate far stronger than anything on the market, yet one that looked like china, with the hard feel of glass.

When this new product, called Corelle Livingware, debuted in 1970, it brought a distinct brand identity to an everyday dinnerware field dominated by plastic and earthenware. Corelle tapped into a niche: Plastic at that time was durable, but looked like plastic. Earthenware chipped easily.

Corelle gave consumers dinnerware that was dishwasher- and oven-safe, durable, affordable and attractive. Within 18 months after Corelle hit the market, more than 40 million pieces had been sold.

Today, Corelle, now owned by World Kitchen, is the most recognized brand of dinnerware on the globe. Corelle dinnerware can be found in almost half of the households in America, is sold in 40 countries and has been released in 250 patterns and over 100 shapes.

In 1996, the two-billionth piece of Corelle was produced. In celebration of this event, a newspaper columnist wrote that it would be customary to wish for future good luck by breaking a Corelle coffee cup on the floor instead of a wine glass. It didn't work. Corelle was too durable.

7 CorningWare Cookware

It was a happy mistake when a Corning scientist discovered a material called Pyroceram by accident in the mid-1950s.

The ceramic-glass material had incredible thermal shock resistance and an ability to transmit radio waves. It was picked up by the American space program as nose-cone material before some clever soul thought to make cookware out of it. Corning introduced CorningWare in 1958 as the first glass cookware that could go from the freezer to a preheated oven and then to the table without cracking or breaking.

Public reaction was immediate and early orders exceeded forecasts. CorningWare became one of the most successful new product launches in housewares history, fueled in part by dramatic "fire and ice" demonstrations on television and in stores. One half of a CorningWare casserole was frozen into a block of ice and the other half was blasted by a blow torch. If that wasn't enough, a two-year breakage guarantee was also offered. (It still is.)

CorningWare quickly became the number-one cookware in the United States. Since its debut in 1958, more than 750 million pieces of CorningWare have been sold worldwide.

8 Cuisinart Food Processor

Invented by Frenchman Pierre Verdun, what came to be known as the Cuisinart Food Processor was discovered and brought stateside by retired physicist and culinary enthusiast Carl Sontheimer. Sontheimer had founded the Cuisinart Co. in 1971 with the intention of bringing quality French cookware to the United States, but that idea expanded when he spotted Verdun's machine at a French trade show. He purchased prototypes, secured U.S. distribution rights, dubbed the machine the food processor and introduced it at Chicago's National Housewares Exposition in 1973.

Oddly enough, that initial push was a difficult one. The food processor came with a suggested price tag of $140, a number that was hard for retailers to swallow, but that was soon to change. Sontheimer went the professional route; respected chefs like Julia Child and James Beard raved about the product's abilities, and the rest, as they say, is history. The excitement among such culinary luminaries sparked praises by the press and a boost in popularity that has remained through the years, and caused the general public to believe that any food processor is in fact called a Cuisinart.

Now under the helm of Conair Corp., Cuisinart has expanded to other kitchen electrics, but is still best known for its food processors, which the company continues to update.

9 Duette Honeycomb Shade

The concept for a honeycomb-structured window covering, introduced by Hunter Douglas in the mid-1980s, emerged from the energy crisis of the late 1970s. In 1985, this concept was transformed into soft, fashionable, yet durable fabrics pleated into individual hexagonal cells and named Duette honeycomb shades. Boasting a seamless honeycomb design, Duette shades provide superior energy efficiency because the air is trapped in the honeycomb pleats, thus insulating against heat, cold and even sound.

The Duette honeycomb shade soon became the most significant new window covering product to be introduced into the North American marketplace in decades. Prior to that, the market was dominated by aluminum horizontal blinds and vertical blinds. Retail sales of new Duette shades soared to an estimated $300 million by 1988. By 1989, Duette had captured about 60 percent of the pleated shade market, and Hunter Douglas became the leading company in the window covering industry.

The rapid growth of Duette was due in part to Hunter Douglas' marketing strategy that turned functional and energy-efficient products into fashion statements.

Line extensions and innovative specialty hardware that allows Duette shades to cover virtually any window -- whether sideways, curved, arched, angled or tilted -- have kept the product at the forefront of the industry even today.

10 DustBuster Hand Vacuum

On a par with Band-Aid, Jell-O and Kleenex, it's a category instead of a brand. People don't reach for a hand vac; they get the DustBuster. The ironic thing is the Black & Decker series isn't the leader in market share: that distinction goes to Royal's Dirt Devil, which is comfortably ahead in a category the two, along with Euro-Pro, lead.

There were hand vacs on the market, including the staid Royal Prince, when Black & Decker launched its marketing phenomenon in 1979. But the business was minuscule. One estimate put the total volume at the time at fewer than 250,000 units. DustBuster changed all of that in a hurry. It topped 1 million in its first year. In the ensuing decades, that figure has grown to more than 100 million worldwide.

Technically, the product came about because Black & Decker was a contractor supplying equipment for the Apollo moon landings. Its work on cordless technology had practical application for the company's home products. Today's DustBusters are dry and wet, regular and high-powered -- all stemming from the original grab-and-go convenience concept.
COPYRIGHT 2002 MacFadden Communications Group LLC
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Article Details
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Comment:[0] THINGS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD.(Brief Article)
Author:Quail, Jennifer
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 27, 2002

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