A Legacy of God & Beans
In 1936, Chicago was still in the midst of the Great Depression. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was crafting policy to change the way Americans lived. Chicago saw record cold with highs averaging 3 degrees that February. Things looked bleak for Chicagoans.
Over the past three difficult years, residents of this great mid-west city saw the end of prohibition and the jailing and death of Al Capone and John Dillinger. They lived through another catastrophic fire in 1934: one that broke out at the Chicago Union Stock Yard, the second major fire in its history, and the biggest since the historic great fire of 1871.
Many people in the city were unemployed and became dependent on food hand-outs in order to get by. For some, crime was the only answer. It was a difficult time for workers, business owners and entrepreneurs. Many struggling musicians came to the city and found solace in the blues and jazz in the clubs as a way to cope with their grievances.
Though billiards were considered to be a popular commercial sport for blue-collar workers, the number of licensed billiard parlors in Chicago diminished from 2,244 (1920) to 580 (1936), due, in part, to the staggering economic times Americans were experiencing.
Death and destruction seem to lead the news stories in the mid-30s in Chicago.
That same year, a young inventor, still wondering what he was to do in life, was motivated and curious. Irving was born in 1902 in Jersey City, NJ, the youngest of three children. He joined his parents, his brother, Meyer and his sister, Sadie. Irving’s father died when he was 2, and the family eventually made their way to Chicago.
Now the 34 year old had an idea and was excited. He applied for a patent for a food-heating device in 1936. His device consisted of an insert, held up by a case that held a heating device, which facilitated even heating of food inside the insert. The device was also portable.
By 1940, Irving got his patent for his invention, remarking that his Lithuanian mother, Tamara Kaslovski Nachumsohn, had inspired him and given him the patience and passion to create.
Irving’s immigrant mother had told him stories about a bean-based stew she used to make in her village bakery at home in Lithuania. The stew, known as cholent, is a traditional Jewish dish that cooks all day. It’s rooted in the Jewish Sabbath, the day of rest in which observant Jews aren’t supposed to do any work. The stew is supposed to go on the heat before sundown Friday night, when the Sabbath begins, and cook all the way until the end of Saturday services the next day.
Over half a decade, Irving’s invention changed the way women worked, cooked and played. Irving Naxon created the slow cooker because he loved his mother and her traditions. However, it forever changed how the world eats, cooks and lives. Today, his invention is in 83% of American households. How many CEOs would enjoy that type of market penetration? What would it take?
According to CNET Magazine, in the early 1970s, Naxon sold his design to Rival Manufacturing, who rebranded his Beanery and put it on the market as the Crock Pot. It was marketed toward working mothers who could put food in the pot before leaving for work and come home to a cooked meal; the Crock Pot sold millions through the ‘70s.
People tend to use the terms “Crock Pot” and “slow cookers” interchangeably, but they are not interchangeable. While all Crock Pots are slow cookers, not all slow cookers are Crock Pots. Crock Pots are to slow cookers as Kleenex are to tissues, or Band-Aids are to bandages. Crock Pot is a brand name.
According to the LA Times, a 1976 Crock Pot advertisement stated, “cooks all day while the cook’s away.” Sales died down a little in the ‘80s, perhaps coinciding with the rise of the microwave. Today, however, slow cooking is as popular as ever, as 83% of families owned a slow cooker in 2011, according to Consumer Reports.
The next time you throw some cut vegetables, broth and a chunk of beef into a slow-cooker, remember Irving Naxon. Remember his love for his mother and her cooking traditions. Remember his entrepreneur’s mind. Remember Irving Naxon’s legacy.
And remember, regardless of the economic times you are faced with, or the cultural views coming at you, you have the ability to create.
And this is why, Legacy Matters…
Featurette No. 2 . (c) www.legacyletters.xyz
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