Mysteries of History: Let's Have a Cookout!
Written by Scott M. Cooper
Summer is the time of year when families get together to enjoy the weather and the atmosphere of the whole experience. Mom and Dad cooking on the grill, and the kids playing in the pool, enjoying their school break; Ah, the smell of hotdogs, burgers, chicken, and the lingering scent of barbecue ribs cooking on an open fire are, as American as apple pie.
People have cooked on an open flame since the beginning of time; the use of wood and the discover of fire made it all possible. During the early part of the twentieth century a cousin of Henry Ford, E.G. Kingsford, noticed that Ford’s automobile factory had large amounts of wasted wood, that they were only going to throw away. Kingsford talked with Ford and convinced him to utilize the discarded wood to manufacture charcoal and offer it through all of his dealerships. By this time in America, the average home could afford the most popular car on the road, the Model T. Those families were traveling to the lakes and state parks, and what they brought with them was the Ford charcoal briquets for their cookouts. The Kingsford Company was formed when E.G. Kingsford brokered the site selection for Ford's new charcoal manufacturing plant. The company, originally called Ford Charcoal, was renamed Kingsford Charcoal in his honor.
The American public was using the age-old method of a fire pit to cook their meals while out on their weekend excursions, but it was not until George Stephen, a metalworker, of Weber Brothers Metal Works decided to construct himself a homemade “kettle grill”. When he brought it home to try the new grill, his neighbors poked fun at it and dubbed it “sputnik”. The Weber Brothers Company manufactured metal buoys; George cut one of these buoys in half, welded metal legs to the bottom to stand it upright, and then reshaped the top half, mounting a handle, and made the lid shallower. The reason for this brain storm; he was tired of the ashes blowing around on his food from the hibachi-style grill he was using. Weber Brothers loved the innovation, and began to build many more. The first kettle grill sold under the Weber-Stephen Products Company in 1952.
In 1958, a man named Phillip Arnold, a sales clerk for a natural gas company in Wisconsin, took a challenge from his boss, to develop a way to use natural gas for another household product. The first thought that came to his mind was the backyard grill. Working at home, he cut an oil drum in half, the long way, down to nine inches, and borrowed some lava rocks from his wife’s garden to line the bottom of the drum. He then used the log lighter from the his fireplace and put them all together and the first backyard gas grill was born. Phillip was not completely satisfied with his new invention, knowing that it could be improved upon. He talked with Walter Kozoiol, the owner of Charmglow, which manufactured gas lighting, about the new invention. The two men teamed up and began production. The business was so successful that Phillip moved his family to southern California to sell their new product under the name of AEI Corporation.
The backyard grill has evolved since the 1950s, not only using the Liquefied petroleum (LP) gas, but now natural gas connections fitted to the household gas line. The grills of today have many modern conveniences, such as the base with wheels for easy travel and a slot to hold the LP gas tank; an electric motor for easy igniting; double and triple racks for cooking, and a rotisserie for slow cooking. Some of the larger models even have side burners and a smoke box for that deep southern taste.
About the Author
Scott M. Cooper, the author of "Mysteries of History," is a Massachusetts native, now living in Florida. Cooper, a freelance writer, is the owner of The Elegant Quill, which offers ghost writing, fiction, non-fiction, editing, and proofreading services. He may be contacted at email@example.com.