Sunbeam can trace its Australian history back to 1902 when the American Chicago Flexible Shaft Company (later the Cooper Engineering Company) set up a business to make shearing equipment in Sydney. The company became Sunbeam in 1946 and the first appliance they made in Australia was the Sunbeam Mixmaster. This American-designed product became famous in Australia and around the world. The Sunbeam Mixmaster was considered essential equipment for preparing that Australian classic, the pavlova. Sunbeam became Australian-owned in 1987.
The Chicago Flexible Shaft company was founded by John K. Stewart and Thomas J. Clark in the early 1890s. They initially made horse-clipping and sheep-shearing equipment, although Stewart went on to invent many other devices, including the speedometers used by Ford in its famous T-Model.
In the early 1900s, the company went into partnership with a British sheep-dip manufacturer, William Cooper & Nephews. The British connection gave them access to markets in Australia, South America, and South Africa and a manufacturing operation was set up in Sydney in 1902.
Chicago Flexible Shaft began making household electrical appliances in the early 1910s. These were the products, which would later carry the ‘Sunbeam’ brand name – a name that was promoted widely in America by 1925. The Mixmaster Stand Mixer, released in America in 1930, was the first mixer with two interlocking, detachable beaters.
The first Sunbeam Mixmaster released in Australia was the Mixmaster 9B. A new model released in 1950 boasted ‘Automatic bowl-speed control’ as well as beater-speed control. Advertising boasted that “One of the beaters on the New Sunbeam has a special button that contacts the inside bottom surface of the bowl, keeping beater-speed and bowl-speed uniform – automatically.”
The Mixmaster remains the ideal implement for whipping up the perfect pavlova.