In 1892, Sir James Dewar, a scientist at Oxford University, invented the Dewar “vacuum flask”, a glass liner separated from an outer metal layer by a vacuum, which allowed for a consistent cold or hot temperature to be maintained in the bottle.
By 1904, two German glass blowers had formed Thermos GmbH, renaming the vacuum flask Thermos — from the Greek word for “hot.” As other companies took over the trademark rights, Thermoses took on many identities, eventually becoming a standard item as picnics in the country, family road trips, and camping expeditions became common social activities.
Their exterior can be made of metal or plastic, while the interior consists of pottery, metal or even mercury glass. Stoppers may be cork, rubber or screw-on plastic or metal lids. There may be a top with a handle that functions as a drinking cup.
Some of the popular thermos companies were Aladdin, Stanley, Universal Thermos Co., the American Thermos Bottle Company; and the Macomb Manufacturing Company, which made the iconic insulated vessel called “The Little Brown Jug.” The manufacturer’s name and date can usually be found on the body.
Thermoses are valued for their collectability. Vintage-car enthusiasts buy them as an accessory for certain models of cars, along with a picnic basket and a quilt or blanket to sit on. They have wide-ranging appeal for collectors of such categories as nostalgia, vintage, school, picnic, TV shows, music, lunch boxes, drinkware, color groups and more.
Depending on age, size, composition, condition and source, vintage thermoses can range from less than $20 to triple digits. Thermos prices have risen to $15 for a 1950s quart-size Thermos and $25 for a gallon-size bottle.
I love this set of two vintage Universal thermoses with cork stoppers, and a graduated set of cups as a top for one of the thermoses, and a large metal top on the other…
This is my current favorite! I love the matching tote and sandwich box! I can hardly wait to take hot tea and cocoa to the cold baseball games we have coming up!