One of the greatest additions you can make to your country home is an authentic vintage Mirro tea kettle. While there's absolutely a slew of similar aluminum tea kettles available lining your local grocery store's shelves, they fail to compare to the many durable kettles designed by the Mirro Aluminum Manufacturing Company during the mid-20th century. From simple aluminum pots to beautifully painted enamelware, these streamlined tea kettles will keep your tea piping hot even all of these decades later.
Vintage Mirro Teapots Catch the Eye
Any time you visit an antique auction, you may discover a great variety of kitchen cookware by various manufacturers, dating all the way back to the cast iron relics of the 1800s and before. Toward the latter part of that century, aluminum became an inexpensive metal with properties that made it ideal for cooking and many other purposes. This technological breakthrough led to the creation of a number of companies, like Mirro, which specialized in making aluminum products.
The Story Behind Aluminum's Discovery
Since aluminum is a natural metal, it was never invented--it was simply discovered. However, there was an important invention that had to be created before aluminum-based mass manufacturing could occur, and this process paved the way for extracting the metal in an inexpensive way. Throughout the mid-19th century, various chemists discovered ways to produce aluminum, initially in small batches and then larger amounts. From these accomplishments, scientists started to determine what special properties this fascinating metal had. The simpler the chemical production process became, the cheaper the metal itself. Finally, on April 2, 1889, a young chemist by the name of Charles Martin Hall established a way to produce aluminum inexpensively and then patented the idea (patent #400,666).
The History of the Mirro Aluminum Manufacturing Company
Not long after the ink dried on Hall's patent, Joseph Koenig founded the Mirro Aluminum Manufacturing Company at a small warehouse in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. During the First World War, this company, as well as other aluminum manufacturers in the nation, pumped out many thousands of canteens, mess kits and other items for military use. The company produced the same sort of military products during World War II, but its production expanded to include airplane fuel tanks and landing gear.
The commercial side of the Mirro Aluminum Company really started to take shape in the 1950s, when it quickly became recognized as one of the leading manufacturers of cookware, toys, and other products made from this metal. After transitioning through a number of buyouts and mergers with other companies, Mirro was considered one of the largest manufacturers of aluminum cookware in the world.
Types of Vintage Mirro Tea Kettles
While Mirro might be a lesser known tableware manufacturer of the 20th century with modern audiences, their durable and modestly stylish tea kettles are coming back in fashion as design tastes turn back towards the rustic, cottage home vibe. A few of the popular tea kettles that they made include the following.
Traditional Mirro Aluminum Tea Kettles
The more traditional Mirro aluminum tea kettle is admittedly less impressive than its brightly colored counterparts, which were particularly 'groovy' thanks to their bright colors. Yet, these humble kettles bring a sense of practicality and sophistication to whatever kitchen they're added to. Although Mirro's aluminum teapots might seem to all look the same, their heights and shapes vary across the years.
Mirro Enamelware Tea Kettles
Although the older Mirro teapots make great decor for simple and rustic kitchens, more collectors seek out the enamelware that Mirro manufactured in the latter part of the 1950s and throughout the 1960s. You're likely to find one of these 1950s enamelware teapots on the top of your grandmother's stove next to the enamel pitcher, with a flip-top spout cover and a signature angular handle on the top. These teapots came in a variety of enamel colors, with the enamel covering the outside of the aluminum body. Cookware collectors are more interested in the enamelware Mirro teapots rather than the older, more rustic ones. This is largely due to the fact that vintage enamelware is highly collectible, regardless of manufacturer.
Mirro Whistling Tea Kettles
Mirro's slightly squat tea kettles from around the 1950s/1960s with a half-sized, covered spout were rather popular thanks to their multi-colored designs. They were shaped in Mirro's usual atomic-age style with a dropped, angular handle and sturdy round pot. What makes these pots all the more appealing is the fact that they whistle when the water is boiling, adding to the teapot's old-school charm. Of course, you can find these tea kettles in the typical mid-century color palette, such as avocado green.
How Much Are Mirro Tea Kettles Worth?
If you're in the market to buy a vintage Mirro tea kettle, you're in luck. These teapots are very inexpensive, and at most cost around $50, though they're usually listed for around $10-$15 each. Typically, age doesn't have much of a factor in these teapots' values; rather, their shape, style, and color are the factors that contribute the most to any price differences that you'll find. If you've got a Mirro tea kettle in your kitchen right now, look it over for a few characteristics to see what it might be worth:
- Is it plain aluminum or is painted/enamelware? Plain aluminum kettles sell for the least amount of money because they don't have much display appeal, while those coated in enamel or painted in bright colors appeal more to the modern buyer's aesthetic.
- Does it have a slanted handle or a typical, above the top of the kettle handle? Mirro kettles with slanted handles have a distinctively atomic age look that people are willing to pay a bit more for.
- Is it an unusual shape or does it resemble a 'normal' tea kettle? Vintage Mirro teapots that have unique shapes (things like unusually proportioned pieces or non-typical kettle shapes) are harder to find and can sell for more than those that look like your regular old teapot from Wal-mart.
Here are a few recently sold and/or listed vintage Mirro teapots that exemplify these trends:
- Traditional Mirro aluminum teapot - Sold for $15
- Painted whistling Mirro aluminum teapot - Listed for $39.71
- Asymmetric Mirro aluminum teapot - Listed for $39.99
- Hand-painted floral pattern Mirro aluminum teapot - Listed for $49.99
Best Places to Find Mirro Teapots
You can find vintage Mirro teapots and other aluminum products at almost any antique auction or estate sale that you visit. They're easy to recognize from the angular design of the handles and the thick, high quality aluminum stock that the cookware is made of. The older teapots have wooden handles on the top of the lid and the side of the pot, typically painted in black. Similarly, you shouldn't be afraid to dig through the bins and shelves at your local consignment shops or vintage stores since these common household appliances from the 1960s and up often make their way to stores like Goodwill.
However, if you're not having any luck in your local area finding the working teapot that you're looking for, you can always turn to the internet. Thanks to their domestic connections and practical purpose, items like mid-century tea kettles aren't typically sold in conventional auction houses or auction retailers online. Thus, your best bet when it comes to looking for these Mirro tea kettles is to head to ecommerce platforms like eBay or Etsy.
- eBay - eBay has a substantial collection of these Mirro tea kettles spanning the breadth of the 20th century. In various conditions and prices, you should carve out some time to scour through all of the ones listed there to see if any of them speak to you.
- Etsy - Etsy also has a collection of vintage Mirro teapots available, though noticeably smaller than eBay's collection. However, it's an easy-to-navigate option if you haven't found what you're looking for yet. All of the individuals sellers are constantly adding new items to their shops, so you should check back in rather frequently to make sure you're not missing out on any good deals.
The Tea That You Don't Want to Spill
Regardless of what type of aluminum tea kettle you pick up at the thrift store around the corner, odds are high that Mirro manufactured it. After over 100 years producing aluminum products for homes and businesses across the country, you'll be hard pressed not to find a Mirro product at the auction houses and on the shelves of the antique dealers around the country, and with a little bit of elbow grease and some time on your hands, you can add one to your kitchen cabinets, too.