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Hoarder's trove of 1950s gadgets

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 22, 2014

By Dan Shaw

  • Alan's Bino-scope glasses

  • Did you ever have a toaster like this 1950s model?

  • This travel iron is still in working order after 60 years

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THESE pieces from the 1950s would not look out of place in a museum but they actually belong to Alan Carter of Woodsetton, Dudley, who admits to being something of a hoarder.

Alan writes, "I have been having a clear-out and thought that the following items might be of interest to Bugle readers.

"The first item is a Bino-Scope, which the box states 'are high power lenses and sunglass lenses". It also states that they are an ideal gift for football, wrestling, boxing, racing, hunting, theatre, opera, movies, television and close viewing of everything.

"The other two items I uncovered are both electrical.

"First is an electric toaster in its original box. It is a Swan brand, the box specifying Bulpitt and Sons Ltd., St George's Works, 122 Icknield Street, Birmingham.

"It is operated by firstly plugging the appliance to the power source to heat the two elements. Opening the side panels, using the two black knobs on each side, the slices of bread to be toasted are placed on the opened side panels, exposing a face to the hot element. When toasted the slice is turned over to toast the reverse side. The completed toast is then removed and the toaster closed up and switched off.

"The final item is also electrical and in working order. It is a Smoothie Portable Electric Iron, from the box it was sold in, it was made by Lucas Holder Ltd., Coventry. It still has its original lead and its plug, which was for connecting to the light fitting."

Do you remember bino-scope glasses? We think they were made in Hong Kong and with their plastic frames and adjustable lenses, they were meant to make viewing sporting events at a distance more comfortable.

The Swan electric toaster may be more familiar to you. The company Bulpitt and Sons began as brassfounders in Birmingham at the end of the 19th century. In the early 20th century they began making household items, kettles, pots and pans and jelly moulds, in polished aluminium and they registered the Swan brand name for these products. In the 1920s they started making household appliances and developed the first submersible electric element. This meant that housewives could boil six pints of water in around ten minutes, a domestic revolution in the 1920s. The technology was not just used in kettles but was also applied to steamers and coffee percolators. Over the following decades the Swan brand built a solid reputation in household appliances.

In the 1970s the business was taken over by BSR, the Black Country makers of record turntables. They established BSR (Housewares) Limited and under its umbrella Swan was joined by Goblin Ltd, makers of the "Teasmade", vacuum cleaners and other appliances, and another famous Black Country name, Judge Houseware. However, the late '70s and 1980s were a difficult time for BSR as it faced stiff competition for its products from Far East manufacturers. BSR made their last turntable in 1985 and in 1988 sold BSR (Housewares) to the French company Moulinex. But they too were under pressure from the Far East and 13 years later, in 2001, Moulinex went bankrupt with many of its brand names being bought by its French rival Tefal.

And what about the Smoothie Portable Electric Iron? Did you have one of these and take it on holidays? It could be used anywhere there was a light fitting.

Alan tells us that he tested both electrical items with a meter and they both appear to be still in working order after all these years.

Have you any interesting old household appliances still in use, perhaps even older than Alan's '50s pieces? Send us a picture or contact dshaw@blackcountrybugle.co.uk

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