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Toaster; H C Urlwin Ltd; c.1935-1945; 2001/060.013

Toaster; H C Urlwin Ltd; c.1935-1945; 2001/060.013
Toaster; H C Urlwin Ltd; c.1935-1945; 2001/060.013Toaster; H C Urlwin Ltd; c.1935-1945; 2001/060.013
About this object
The simple stepped design of the black Bakelite base and handles of this rectangular, chrome electric toaster gives it an Art Deco look. The four handles are distributed between the two drop-down sides, which open to reveal the element and place for the bread. Each side is impressed with the brand ‘Speedee’ in the upper left-hand corner.

The upper corners of the toaster are rounded and each has a wide vertical slit. A wire toast rack sits on top of the toaster, while a cloth-covered electric cord is attached to one end. ‘Made in New Zealand’ and voltage and catalogue numbers are moulded into the plastic on the bottom of the base.

Date Made
Medium and Materials
Inscription and Marks
On bottom: ‘230 volts 600 watts – Cat. No. 68 – Made in New Zealand’
Height: 18 cm
Length: 20 cm
Width: 14.5 cm

Subject and Association Keywords
Henderson, Winifred Gladys, 1904-2001
Subject and Association Description
A 1939 article in the New Zealand Railways Magazine (Vol. 14, No. 6) claimed that, “there would be difficulty in naming a household article that the electrically-minded housewife could not get in the ‘Speedee’ list.” ‘Speedee’ was a brand name of H. C. Urlwin Ltd., a Christchurch-based electrical firm founded in 1921 by Harry Urlwin. Urlwin had run away at age 16 from his home in London and worked his way to New Zealand where, after serving in WWI, he became a registered electrician.

Urlwin first opened his business in a garage on Woodham Road, Christchurch but by the mid-1930s had a Speedee Appliance manufacturing plant in Waltham, Christchurch. He later opened additional branches in Auckland and Wellington.

In 1935, Urlwin sent Robertson (Bob) Stewart, his former apprentice, to England to research developments in plastics manufacturing. Upon his return, the company purchased New Zealand’s first plastic moulding press and began producing Bakelite components at the Waltham factory. This toaster, which belonged to Winifred Gladys (Wilson) Henderson (1904-2001) of the Geraldine/Temuka area, was probably made around this time.

Although Stewart left the company in 1947, he later bought out H.C. Urlwin Ltd. through PDL Industries Ltd., another firm he had recently purchased. PDL still has branches in New Zealand today.

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