Vintage 101: Swing-A-Way

This past weekend I thrifted this vintage jar opener, mostly because it had a red handle (meaning it goes with the kitchen decor), but also because I was curious to see if it really worked. I know this will sound girly, but I frequently ask the "Honey, can you open this?" question when I'm cooking away in the kitchen (I blame the years of working on a computer for weakening my hands).

When I got home, I had my husband take a jar from the fridge and tighten it as much as he could, just to test this tool properly. And I tell you what, this little thing worked like a charm! I was so enamored, in fact, that I started researching the company who made it, called Swing-A-Way, and it turns out it's a company that's still in business, and it's located about three blocks from where we live here in St. Louis. (What?!)

True to most companies that are more than 50 years old, it has no website, no Facebook page, no Twitter, nothing to give you a glimpse into its history; the only thing I could find online was this newspaper article by Cheryl Wittenauer of The Associated Press, written for the Southeast Missourian in 2005.

After reading it, here is what I learned:

> The company started back in the late 1930s by Idus Rhodes, whose first product was the Kriss-Kross blade sharpener for men's razors (the product was shoved out of the market once disposable blades were invented).

> Swing-A-Way's original product was a wall-mounted can opener.

> We can all thank this company for the "gear-driven cutting wheel" we now use to open cans. Swing-A-Way brought this idea into its products in 1945, thus "revolutionizing" the industry.

> In the 1950s, it introduced its first handheld can opener.

> The company went on to produce ice crushers, jar and bottle openers, seafood and nut crackers, peelers, ice cream scoops and a corkscrews.

> Swing-A-Way is probably the best-known brand for openers in the culinary/domestic kitchen world, and as such it is still going strong in today's economy.

Pretty cool, huh? I guess St. Louis can be considered the Gateway to Can Opening, too! :)

Be sure and click through to read Cheryl's full article and learn more tidbits about the company. Then keep an eye out for a future post here, because I'm going to put my journalism skills to use and take a trip to the company's office with my jar opener. Maybe they can tell me when mine was made, and perhaps I'll get some more snapshots into the company's early days. Vintage field trip! :)

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