A.T. Brown Award for Best Graduate Research Paper in 2014-15
Winner Hayley McNeill, for her paper “’Keep it Bright, Treat it Right’: The West Bend Aluminum Company and Manufacturing American Values, Stainless Steel Cookware, and Government Defense Products, 1941-1961” (written for History 940: Transnational Total War, taught by Prof. Winson Chu, May 2015).
For this paper, Hayley McNeill did outstanding research in the records of a Wisconsin company, West Bend Aluminum. These records are located in the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Milwaukee Area Research Center, which is housed in the UWM Archives. McNeill convincingly argues that West Bend Aluminum participated in a larger discourse about the Cold War and consumerism that linked the consumption of consumer goods such as saucepans to the military preparedness of the United States. McNeill concludes that the Company used “the same metals for cartridge cases and saucepans” as part of a larger transformation of consumption into a patriotic activity in the United States after World War II.
This unusual, delightful, and well-written paper masterfully combined exemplary archival research with methods and ideas drawn from cultural history, gender history, WWII and Cold War history, and corporate history into an engaging and original narrative. It is perfect example of how local historical research can tell stories of national and global interest.