Photo Credit: NMAH
A Rival Crock Pot from 1974. It is now part of the National Museum of American History's collection.

Cholent on Shabbat in winter is a staple offered in many Jewish homes. It is often cooked on a slow temperature in an electrical cook-wear appliance known as a Crock-Pot that was invented by a Jewish American, Irving Naxon (born Irving Nachumsohn).

Irving Naxon and an early version of the Rival Crock-Pot.

Irving’s mother immigrated from Russia to the U.S. He was born in 1902 in New Jersey. After her husband’s death, Irving’s mother moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Nachumsohn studied electrical engineering through a correspondence course and later returned to Chicago where he started his own company, Naxon Utilities Corp. He worked on inventions such as the electric fry pan and the lava lamp.

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The slow-cooker, initially called the Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker, was manufactured in Chicago and designed to produce a bean dish. The cooker was a self-contained ceramic pot that was non-removable. It did not have control switches and was surrounded by a heating element that would simmer the food slowly for hours.

The idea behind this invention came from Naxon’s mother, Tamara Kaslovski Nachumsohn, who used to tell him stories about how cholent was produced in her town of Vilna, Lithuania. There, Jewish families prepared a stew of meat and beans in a pot that they took to the ovens of the towns’ bakery every Friday evening. At the commencement of Shabbat, the baker’s ovens would be turned off and the stew would simmer slowly overnight in the residual heat. The following day the family would return to the bakery to pick up their pots and take them home for lunch.

In 1936, Naxon based his invention on this theory. But his patent for the Naxon Beanery – a portable food heating device used as a cooking vessel encased in a heating element – was only granted on January 23, 1940. The appliance was first sold to the public in the 1950s.

Naxon’s “Cooking Apparatus,” patented January 23, 1940. (U.S. Patent 2,187,888)

In the early 1970s Naxon retired and sold his business to Rival Manufacturing Company from Sedalia, Missouri. Rival rebranded the Beanery, calling it a Crock-Pot. Not only was the name changed but the electrical appliance was also modified to appear in an array of colors and to cook an entire meal for a family. It now had a removable stoneware insert to make cleaning easier. The kitchenware product was marketed towards the working woman in assisting her to prepare a home cooked meal for the family while still being at work the whole day. All the mother had to do prior to leaving the house was to place the food into the pot and turn it on.

After the Crock-Pot was launched on the market in 1971, it hit $2 million in sales. By 1975 the figure grew to $93 million.

Over the years a variety of sizes and models have been produced. According to Consumer Reports, 80 percent of families in the U.S. own a Crock-Pot.

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