Beginning with the invention of a new heating concept for a simple egg cooker, a company with deep Madison roots produced a line of domestic appliances that took it to multi-million-dollar success. The company’s products can still be found in many a Madison home.
The company’s name? Hankscraft.
The occasion for musing on it? The donation of a Hankscraft Egg Cooker ca. 1933, by Gretta Wing-Miller, documentary filmmaker and Eastsider. Thanks, Gretta!
The first egg cookers were heated by an alcohol lamp, but that was far from efficient. Inventor Marshall Hanks, working for Westinghouse at the time, developed a unit which used water as a conductor of electrical current. The water touching two electrodes closed the circuit and heated the water. When the water boiled away the circuit was broken and the unit shut off automatically. The amount of water used governed the cooking time.
Other products soon followed, and Hankscraft became a trusted household brand selling a wide variety of baby products such as bottle warmers, vaporizers, and humidifiers. (They also created small motors for display animation and industrial use.)
The company’s first office spaces were rented from the French Battery Co. on Winnebago Street in 1920. (Later Ray-O-Vac, this site is now the vacant Union Corners lot). The company built a factory at 1007 E. Washington Ave. in 1938. In 1949,unable to find space to grow in Madison, the company made its final move to its present location in Reedsburg. Acquisitions and diversification have kept the company as strong as an incredible, edible egg…
If you have memories or memorabilia related to Hankscraft, please comment on this post or contact the Club!