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Kenmore: A Look Back

HOFFMAN ESTATES, ILL. – Kenmore appliances is currently celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2013 with the brand and Sears, and is hosting a retrospective on past products along with a look forward to what the company will be introducing this year.

The first product to carry the Kenmore brand name was what could well be a bullet-proof sewing machine. Made of heavy gauge steal and weighing in at about 40 pounds, the machine made its appearance in Sears’ stores and catalogs in 1913.

For the next decade Kenmore only made sewing machines, but this changed in 1927 when its first washing machine became available. By 1929 the initial model was developed into the barrel-shaped Gyrator. The machine promised to do a load of wash in three to seven minutes, and it came with a powered, top-mounted wringer. (Customers probably did not mind if it took twice as long considering they no longer had to scrub clothing against a washboard.)

The washer sold for $79.50, or about $1,864 in 2013 dollars. Kenmore’s latest washer, the Elite 5.1-cubic-foot model, carries a $1,399 suggested retail — not that much of a difference.

The next big step came in 1932 with the addition of the Kenmore revolving brush vacuum. And, according to a newspaper ad, Sears was offering $4 down and $4 per month on the $24.50 product.

Kenmore shipped its 1 millionth laundry product by 1936.

During World War II, the United States, and Kenmore, focused their manufacturing efforts on other areas, so the next new Kenmore device did not arrive until 1946. This is when the Kenmore ranges were reintroduced.

In 1949 the company rolled out its first automatic electric dryer, and the dryer and washers feature new designs and colors, including sunshine yellow, Malibu coral and aquamarine.

Kenmore added to its kitchen line in 1951 with the addition of its first dishwasher and the company followed that up with a combination washer-dryer in 1957.

That year also saw the 10 millionth Kenmore product sold.

Kenmore brought on Donna Reed, America’s favorite TV mom of the era, in 1963 to help promote the brand, and in 1969 President Harry Truman’s family bought a Kenmore washing machine.

1971 saw the introduction of Kenmore’s first microwave and ceramic cooktop ranges, and the 1980s saw the start of the digital age in appliances with the addition of solid state controls on Kenmore’s dishwashers.

By the 1990s, 25 percent of the major appliances sold in the country were Kenmore products.