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December 31, 2004

Fred Waring blended music, gadgetry

Arizona Republic (AZ):

What does a celebrated 1930s through '60s band and choral leader have in common with one of our most popular kitchen appliances? They both are associated with Fred Waring, a household name of his generation. Like others before him, Waring has been inadvertently credited with something not of his creation. Instead, Waring took an unperfected commercial blender, improved it and successfully marketed it.

As often happens, the true inventor is consigned to obscurity. Such is the case of Steven J. Poplawski. While with the Horlick Corp., Poplawski worked on an electric beverage mixer for a soda-fountain malted-milk drink for which Horlick was famous. In 1922, after nearly seven years, Poplawski received a patent for his blender. Eventually, the John Oster Co. took over the manufacturing of Poplawski's improved blenders.

Fred Osius, once a partner in the Hamilton Beach Co., had been working on improving the Poplawski design since 1926. In 1933, he received a patent for a prototype device. Short on capital, Osius contacted Waring through an associate in the Waring organization. (Waring had been an architectural and engineering student at Pennsylvania State University, and he always had been fascinated by gadgets.) Fascinated by Osius' blender, Waring agreed to a partnership. After six months and $25,000, the blender was no closer to coming to market. Waring asked Ed Lee, an associate, to solve the blender's problems. The rest is history.

Waring introduced his new $29.75 Miracle Mixer at the 1937 National Restaurant Show in Chicago. Initially intended for the commercial restaurant and bar market, it was touted as a better way to mix frozen daiquiris and other drinks. An inveterate showman, Waring, who for a short time called his band and choral group the Waring Blenders, aggressively marketed his new product on his radio programs and at concerts. Combining the growing popularity of the Blendor, as it was peculiarly spelled, and the name recognition of Fred Waring, it wasn't long before department and specialty stores were selling the Waring Blendor directly to consumers.

By 1954, the Waring Blendor became a staple in the American home. More than 1 million sold in less than two decades. Never one to rest on successes, Waring introduced the first colored blenders, ice-crushing and coffee-grinding attachments, variable speed and timers. Waring died in 1984, at age 84, after a stroke. His Blendors continue to sell.

Posted by acapnews at December 31, 2004 12:03 AM