Penguin Server

Defining Postwar American Culture

Serving Bowl, Ralph N. Kircher for the West Bend Aluminum Company, patent US2349099A. Image from www.google.com/patents.
Serving Bowl, Ralph N. Kircher for the West Bend Aluminum Company, patent US2349099A. Image from www.google.com/patents.

Produced in West Bend, Wisconsin, in the 1940s, the Penguin Hot and Cold Server is an iconic object of postwar American culture. Designed to insulate both hot and cold foods, and to keep ice cubes chilled, the Penguin highlights the resurgence in home entertainment after the war, including popular leisure activities like outdoor grilling and cocktail parties.

It also offers a prime example of industrial design, changing technologies, the shifting role of women in the workforce, and the rise of a postwar consumer-driven society.

Lastly, the Penguin is a reminder of Wisconsin’s former position as the center of the aluminum cookware industry.

In 1941, inventor Ralph N. Kircher drew up the plans for the West Bend Penguin Hot and Cold Server. Taking the form of a sphere with a flattened base, the vessel’s central decorative band depicts a colony of penguins, one waddling behind the other. The shiny and reflective surface of the server (available in chrome or copper-plated steel) creates a contrast between the cover’s knob and the vessel’s handles, the latter mimicking the curvature of a penguin’s flippers.

Listen below to the Penguin Server’s segment on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Wisconsin Life:

Learn more about West Bend and the Penguin Server at the Washington County Historical Society.

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Object history created August 2014.

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