The ‘Early Kooka’ range of gas stoves was developed by Metters, a company established by Frederick Metters in Adelaide in 1891. The company originally manufactured fuel stoves and advertised as ‘stove and range makers, ironfounders, engineers, coppersmiths, sheetmetal workers’. The Early Kooka range was released in 1917.
The first design Frederick patented was the “top-fire” fuel stove, with a firebox located between the oven and the cooktop. The Metters company continued to make these until the 1970s, and in the 1990s a competitor acquired the original castings and produced them until 2009. The success of the fuel stove led to the company’s expansion, with a second factory being set up in Perth in 1896. In 1898, Frederick took on a partner, Henry Spring, and the organisation was named Metters & Company.
Over the next thirty years, the company expanded and diversified into other products including other domestic appliances, water tanks, agricultural machinery and enamelled bathtubs. New factories were built in New South Wales and Victoria and the firm acquired a business in New Zealand. In 1927, the holding company General Industries Ltd. was formed.
By the time the Metters Early Kooka was launched in 1917 gas stoves had been around in Australia for more than 40 years. The early stoves were cast iron, just like their wood-burning forebears, and nearly as difficult to clean. Improvements to design saw the stoves lifted off the floor on legs and advances in technology allowed the whole body of the stove to be enamelled.
In 1936 the Metters catalogue promoted the Early Kooka range which now came in many models and a range of colours: blue, green, grey or brown. As well as the upright models there was a “split level” model, with the oven on either the left or right-hand side of the cooktop. It seems that the famous kookaburra symbol on the oven door appeared for the first time in this range, although the name Early Kooka had been used for many years and had also been applied to the Metters wood-burning stoves.
The early stoves had no thermostat, with the oven burners needing manual adjustment to control the temperature. For some time thermostats were available as an option at extra cost, but in the 1930s a model called the ‘Thermett’, with a thermostatically controlled oven, was introduced. There was also a range of Early Kooka electric stoves.
Gas was the preferred method of cooking until the 1950s when electric cooking began to be promoted as quicker, cleaner, better and cheaper to operate.