REAMERS: The Great American Kitchen Collectible

NRCA/Membership Info /Categories/Books on Reamers

Reamers, also known to many as orange juice squeezers or juicers, are one of the fastest growing collectibles in America today. The main reason for this is time and efficiency. They have been replaced by electric juicers which perform the function of squeezing juice faster, and frozen concentrate which makes providing juice to a busy family in today's society an easier task.

The reamers were invented over 200 years ago out of necessity when it was discovered that citrus provided a cure for diseases like scurvy. The first reamers were all producted in Europe. Major china companies such as Bayreuth, Miessen, Royal Rudolstadt and Limoges produced reamers for some of the finer tables in Europe.

The first reamer was patented in the United States around 1867, after the Civil War. It was a hand held reamer. Next came the one piece reamer with a small saucer and a cone that was meant to fit on top of a glass. These were quite messy as they slid and slipped off of the glass. In the 1880's a glass rim was added to the bottom of the saucer to help keep the reamer on the glass. Around the same time, wooden squeezers with a press action were also being used. Two-piece sets with measuring pitcher bottoms and separate reamer tops did not come along until the mid 1920's.

The biggest boom for reamers came in 1907 when a a co-op named the "California Fruit Growers Exchange" was formed. This co-op marketed the name Sunkist to sell fruit to the east coast. Sunkist reamers were produced as a promotional item. However, not until 1916 when the "Drink an Orange" campaign was launched, were reamers marketed to the masses.

Sunkist reamers were manufactured in a variety of colors, like green, pink, blue, yellow, black and white. White was the most commonly producted color. There were many variations of the basic colors which are sought after by collectors today. Three different glass companies manufactured the Sunkist reamer from 1916 till the early 1960's.

The first colored reamer was actually introduced in 1922 by the Fry Glass Co. It was called "Pearl Glass" and was so popular, it prompted the company to add colors such as pink, green, amber, white milk glass and finally jadeite, delfite and vaseline colors up through 1928. This prompted many other glass companies, such as Cambridge, Anchor Hocking, Jeannette and McKee to join the color bandwagon. They produced a variety of shapes and colors, with green being the most popular. Jeannette made the last of the well known glass reamers under the Jenny-ware line in pink, jadeite, delfite and ultramarine.

American pottery companies like Redwing, Corns China Co., McCoy, Universal Cambridge, Crooksville and the Hall China Company also produced several reamers. Even the Coors Bottling Company produced a series of reamers in coorsite porcelain.

By the mid 1930's, trade agreements were entered into with the Japanese. This opened the door for a glut of Japanese goods, including reamers. The limited number of American pottery companies could not compete with the flood of cheap Japanese pottery reamers pouring into the dime stores and variety stores, and eventually they stopped their production of reamers.

Also, in the 1930's, the electric juicers became popular, taking a bite out of the glass and ceramic reamer sales. By 1940, the introduction of frozen concentrate slowed the demand even more, making the reamer almost extinct.

Not much has happened in the reamer manufacturing arena since 1940. Some ceramic reamers are still produced in Japan, but very few get to the US. Gone is the heyday of the wonderful reamer.

Reamers come in all type of materials -- woods, glass, metal ceramic, pottery, and most recently, plastic. Shapes vary from round, square, oblong, triangular to figurals, such as clowns, animals and people. There are one piece, two piece and three piece reamers. They come plain, fancy, engraved, embossed, frosted, handpainted and trimmed in gold and silver. There are advertising reamers, souvenir reamers and regular utility pieces. The number of once available reamers range to the thousands.

The popularity of reamer collecting is attested by the number of "reproductions" starting to show up, using the old molds. Some of these are being reproducted in the original colors, causing devaluation of the original pieces and overpriced reproductions being sold. New collectors need to be aware of these pieces, as many dealers unknowingly represent these as old. Membership in the National Reamer Collectors Association can help a reamer collector keep abreast of new information on old and new reamers.