The Great American Thermos Hoard. | A Continuous Lean.

The Great American Thermos Hoard.

Mar 20th, 2013 | Categories: Americana, Cleveland | by Michael Williams

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There’s a man in my hometown of Cleveland named Kyle Bitters who has been amassing a considerable collection of vintage thermoses. I recently learned about this collection of American vacuum bottles from another Clevelander (the talented photographer Eric Kvatek) who posted photos of all of these old thermoses on his blog. The significance of all of these thermoses was not lost on me, once I saw this place I quickly emailed Eric to find out more. The thermos guy, Kyle, who’s a retired air traffic controller, has apparently been collecting these since 1990 and has focused on metal bodied thermoses that don’t have characters or cartoons on them. His collection is greater than any I have ever seen. I’m sure someone in Japan would come and buy it from him for a considerable sum. Though, I’d have half a mind to make Kyle an offer myself.

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The reason that this caught my eye and the reason I am so enthralled by this collection (any of my close friends who know me and have been to my apartment know), has to do with the fact that I have collected thermoses on and off since I was in college. Granted I don’t have a 5000 square foot loft (oh to live in Cleveland), but I do have a bunch of these old things around all over the place. The thing is, I see the vacuum bottle as a very symbolic Americana treasure. The thermos is undoubtedly linked to workwear and America’s blue-collar roots. It’s also closely linked to road trips, outings, football games, the fall, booze and the enduring spirit of adventure for generations. That’s why I love it. And as you can see in Kyle’s collection, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of different producers and brands that are out there from before America hurled itself down the road of globalization and consolidation. The thermos is an unlikely symbol of America and our past.

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Comments: 23

23 Comments to “The Great American Thermos Hoard.”

  1. Kate
    on Mar 20th, 2013
    @ 9:32 AM

    Wow, looks like you’ve met your match.

  2. Makaga
    on Mar 20th, 2013
    @ 10:02 AM

    Wow, these are great. Thank you for sharing them. This collection remind me of the spray paint can collections some people have amassed. Similar shape, material, and colorways. Very fun.

  3. Pete
    on Mar 20th, 2013
    @ 11:58 AM

    Holy crap, who’s gonna dust all those?

  4. Wesley
    on Mar 20th, 2013
    @ 12:46 PM

    Awesome post, can still remember my grandfather carrying these around on his way to work. Representation of a generation’s work ethic.

  5. Micah Christensen
    on Mar 20th, 2013
    @ 12:51 PM

    These photos makes me happier than I thought thermoses ever could! After living in South America, I developed the daily habit of drinking yerba mate, which requires the constant companionship of a thermos. I’ve become very choosy about my thermoses; and have dozens lying around. I thought I was the only weird guy with a thermos fetish. It’s nice to know I am in such august and tasteful company.

  6. Timothy
    on Mar 20th, 2013
    @ 1:16 PM

    Finally! Somewhere to put my collection of vintage soup!

    Great to see the commitment and artful display of this collection.

  7. Bill Jones
    on Mar 20th, 2013
    @ 2:57 PM

    “The thing is, I see the vacuum bottle as a very symbolic Americana treasure”

    What the hell does a flask invented by a Scot and commonly named after its German manufacturer have to do with “Americana”?

  8. Michael Williams
    on Mar 20th, 2013
    @ 3:11 PM

    I just told you bill.

  9. Bill Jones
    on Mar 20th, 2013
    @ 4:05 PM

    The working class of every country in the west used it.

  10. Jahn Hall
    on Mar 20th, 2013
    @ 5:21 PM

    This is rad. When we first moved to the U.S., I remember my father leaving the house each morning with his thermos, later to be replaced by a briefcase when he was later promoted.

    We’ve got a pretty tiny collection ourselves (about 20 or so at this point) — had no idea you had a collection going yourself. I’ve even got two newer incarnations I use pretty regularly during the winter.

  11. Matt
    on Mar 20th, 2013
    @ 6:43 PM

    That collection is really quite beautiful. Never thought I’d say that about a wall of thermoses, but it really is quite extraordinary.

  12. Andrea
    on Mar 20th, 2013
    @ 9:58 PM

    I now feel better about my canning jar collection.

  13. Nick
    on Mar 21st, 2013
    @ 11:25 AM

    I wonder if my Johnny Quest thermos is in there.

  14. Benn
    on Mar 21st, 2013
    @ 1:33 PM

    Apparently symbolism, as well as the whole content of the article, is lost on the the literal Mr. Jones

  15. doug
    on Mar 21st, 2013
    @ 3:16 PM

    That is a nice example of an antique fire hose/wall cradle in the first picture. I could use that for my collection.

  16. Greg
    on Mar 21st, 2013
    @ 7:08 PM

    What a great find; it’s too bad Stanley makes their thermos in China now-bunch of sellouts. At least Liberty Bottleworks has started to renew this tradition.

  17. Noelh
    on Mar 22nd, 2013
    @ 7:30 AM

    Amazing collection. I could probably rival that with all the thermos I have broken over the years!!

  18. Panagiotis
    on Mar 22nd, 2013
    @ 11:38 AM

    I would be very interested to know how they are categorized! By year/manufacturer etc.?

  19. mat
    on Mar 23rd, 2013
    @ 9:38 AM

    whoa what a collection, now that’s some serious dedicated to the art

  20. John
    on Mar 24th, 2013
    @ 1:51 PM

    You should see his collection of dead hookers.

  21. Doug Fisher
    on Mar 25th, 2013
    @ 12:48 PM

    What a slick Collection for sure.

    In 2013 Stanley is quite a funny company. While they make all their vacuum bottle in China, they still have a incredible warranty. Which is nice I suppose….It just really fucking blows that I have to use the warranty so much. I have received my “new” Vacuum bottle under warranty only to have it not work right out of the package?!?! I email them and they just say “toss it!”. Yet I have one made at the old US factory and it weights about double, and has lasted over 30 years? It seems that some companies want to see the “broken” item when using a lifetime warranty ie: Le Creuset, to see what happen etc. Stanley just seems to acknowledged their products are junk and to just “toss it” and would rather just keep throwing new garbage at you till you give up and move on and by a used one.

  22. Baby Sokolowski
    on Mar 25th, 2013
    @ 5:22 PM

    How many times have I stared at this collection just shaking my head in disbelief? And then started to reminisce about my Grandpa coming to our house that my Dad was building with one of those thermoses filled with coffee to help paint the new walls. The smell of paint, coffee and Old Spice all mixed together was too wonderful. As much so as that metal thermos with the lunch box handle on it that accompanied my sweet Grandpa. Boy, I miss my Grandpa.

  23. Lauren
    on Mar 26th, 2013
    @ 3:51 PM

    These photos are fantastic. I remember sneaking into my grandpa’s work-shed and see a shelf of his thermoses, and tin lunchboxes, proudly on display besides tools and pieces of metal and things I’d never come to understand their significance. But this sheds some light and meaning. .