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.
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.