Weber Kettle Charcoal Grill

After World War II, many newly affluent Americans flocked to the tropics, developing a taste for casual living and the distinctive local foods and drink. Returning home, they re-created these experiences in their new suburban backyards, with patios, tropical drinks, and the grill, where they cooked meals craved by a postwar meat-mad America. The outdoor patio created a new kind of space for American men.
The brick fire pits, huge in-ground pits, and giant community-sized grills customarily “manned” for traditional western and southern barbecues were not compatible with suburban back yards. Backyard barbecuers favored smaller, more portable tools like the new covered patio grills and Japanese hibachis. By the 1980s and ’90s, they were buying more elaborate grills and smokers, as well as specialized tools, serving paraphernalia, decorative items, and furniture for the outdoors, and American and Canadian manufacturers. By the late 1950s, American manufacturers and retailers were promoting the then-and-now huge market of goods to go along with grilled meals on the patio.
George Stephen, whose primary job was in a metalworks, developed the first Weber kettle grill out of a nautical buoy in 1951. The charcoal-fueled grill, which enabled users to control smoke and heat, became the iconic tool of suburban grill masters. The Weber-Stephen company, founded in 1958, developed an empire built on the many models of the original grill, but a variation on the original kettle was the mainstay and center of the company
Through the end of the century, consumers had their choice of many types of grills: gas, electric, and wood-fired, stable and portable. But for some enthusiasts, nothing beats the look—or the flavor—of the classic charcoal kettle grill. Some barbecue/grilling fans collect grills of all sorts, vintage and otherwise, but some specialize in a particular brand, even in variations on one model. Such an enthusiast acquired this Weber “redhead,” c. 1969-71, in 2011. He is one of many who collect Webers of every model, size, and color and share their cooking tips and recipes in newsletters and online. They share information about the different models and features of Webers to be found in the secondary market.
“America Bit by the Barbecue Bug,” Look Magazine, July 12, 1955.
“It takes just one summer season to turn a caveman into an outdoor chef in full 1955 regalia. A man takes over with few more tools than a primitive hunter: a fire, a stick or an old fork, some meat. After one bite of a frankfurter he has personally charcoal-charred, he is hooked as a cook. Spurred on by his family, he pores over grill ads as avidly as a gardener studies seed catalogues, voraciously collects barbecue recipes, and splurges on the fanciest cook-out equipment he can find. . .From little picnics, elaborate barbecues grow. . . and grow.”
Object Name
Weber kettle grill
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 29 1/4 in x 22 15/16 in; 74.295 cm x 58.26125 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Food Culture
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Domestic Life
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Robert Clark

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