Records of a family-owned manufacturing firm, best known for kitchenware products including the Bundt Pan and Micro-Go-Round. The collection richly documents the entrepreneurial spirit of the Minnesota firm and its history of product innovation through technical files, marketing materials, and administrative and financial records.
Scope and Contents:
The Nordic Ware collection consists of approximately twenty-eight cubic feet of records from the Northland Aluminum Company, most dealing with its Nordic Ware business. The Dalquist family recognized the importance of record keeping, and this collection documents very well the evolution of an entrepreneurial, family-owned American business from its earliest years.
Of particular interest for researchers may be the Pillsbury and Bundt Cake Pan dual marketing strategies, showcased mainly in Series 3, Marketing and Sales Records, 1948-2004, the introduction of ethnic cookware into American Culture through such dishes as the Rosettes and Timbales set and Taco dinner kit, the segmentation of product lines by price level to target consumers of differing incomes, and the issue of a trademarked term like "Bundt" becoming generic as seen in Series 6, Legal Records, 1962-1978. Series 4, Engineering Department Records, 1950-1994, provide in-depth documentation of the technical development of several of Nordic Ware's innovative products.
Series 1: Historical and Background Materials, 1940s-2006
These materials provide a history of Dave Dalquist as an entrepreneur and how this led to his ownership of Northland Aluminum Products and the Nordic Ware brand. There are histories put together by the company as well financial summaries for some years. The series contains The Nordic Ware Saga, a book edited and produced by the Dalquist family, and America at Home: A Celebration of Twentieth-Century Housewares. Both books have valuable background information on the company and how it fits into the housewares industry. There also are materials from the original business, Plastics for Industry. An undated marketing booklet, published about 1990, briefly describes the company's history and its product line and corporate structure. Additional company history is found in six installments written by Dave Dalquist under the title "From the Skipper" and covering the years 1946 to l985.
Series 2: David Dalquist Files, 1963-1993
David Dalquist, the president and founder of the company, kept these files in his office and home. Dalquist had no formal filing system and preferred to group records together as he used them. This order has been maintained as much as possible to the folder level. Several files contain information and notes from Dalquist's attendance at the National Housewares Shows and the meetings held there with his sales representatives. The annual Housewares Shows in Chicago were key events in this industry and Nordic Ware made them a high priority. The sales meetings materials include speeches Dalquist delivered. This series reveals Dalquist's involvement with every aspect of the company. It portrays an entrepreneur who began with an engineering degree, very limited capital, and no business experience. Dalquist built a multi-million dollar company while insisting on high ethical and business standards.
The several companies owned by the Dalquist family are documented in these files. There is a merger agreement between Northland Metal Finishers and Northland Aluminum. The records show the company went through several phases and had several brands besides Nordic Ware, including Minnesota Ware, DuNord, and Norcast.
Series 3: Marketing and Sales Records, 1948-2004
The Marketing and Sales Records focus mainly on the promotion of the Nordic Ware Brand and the sale and distribution of products, especially to the retail trade industry. There is evidence of how Nordic Ware presented its products to the industry and of other types of promotions to build brand awareness. These records are divided into three subseries: Subseries 1, General and Department Records, 1967-1995; Subseries 2, Promotional and Trade Sales Materials, 1958-2004; and Subseries 3, Public Relations, 1948-1992
Subseries 3.1: General and Department Records, 1967-1995
Dave Dalquist initially handled most of the company's marketing and sales, but as the company grew, a separate department was created. Among other things, this department created sketches of new product ideas that employees submitted as part of the New Product Idea meetings periodically scheduled by Dave Dalquist. Several files contain this artwork and a design notebook. There are also the files of Doug White, a Vice President of Marketing and Sales. Other art renderings, such as line art used in catalogs, are in this series.
Subseries 3.2: Promotional and Trade Sales Materials, 1958-2004
This subseries consists both of advertising geared towards the trade industry and that aimed at the consumer to promote brand image and sales. A 1970s scrapbook is a record of cross-promotional offers in which Nordic Ware and other firms advertised their products together in a single advertisement. The scrapbook also documents Nordic Ware products offered as sales premiums. The advertisements are organized by the brand co-featured in the advertisement. The Bundt Pan was the predominant Nordic Ware product in these advertisements. The Pillsbury file is especially important as it shows the building of the dual marketing arrangement which allowed Bundt Pans to be packaged with Pillsbury mixes. Nordic Ware received national publicity that it would otherwise have been difficult to generate. The Bundt Pan was integrated into magazine recipes and articles and included in mentions of other brands. These records document the remarkably brief time in which the Bundt Pan achieved national recognition.
The trade market was critical to Nordic Ware. The Sales Guides, 1982-2004, were given to regional sales representatives with information on sales promotions and incentives to representatives for sales of Nordic Ware products in specific markets. The Guides also have product descriptions, so that each representative was fully familiar with the products. Along with these guides, Nordic Ware put out trade catalogs, also found in this subseries. Although there is no master list of the catalogs, many have been hand-dated by Nordic Ware employees. Many of the models in the catalogs and the advertisements were members of the Dalquist family, neighbors, and other acquaintances.
Subseries 3.3: Public Relations, 1948-1992
These materials mainly document a series of campaigns created by Sara Jean Thomas, a public relations contractor. She worked with the marketing and sales department to build the Nordic Ware brand and to create a series of television and radio product promotions in the form of household hints. Several scripts are included here along with details of the overall campaigns. There also are files documenting the reach of these promotions. Other materials include a press kit for Chef Tell, a celebrity chef who represented Nordic Ware products for several years and who made appearances at its booth at the National Housewares Shows. New product press releases (with photographs) and general public relations files (1986-1989), along with the Marketing Communication Plans (1987-1989), give details on the planning of other public relations efforts. The trade press clippings scrapbook documents mentions of Nordic Ware and its products, competitors' advertising, and general developments in the house wares industry. Trade press clippings also are found in Series 8, subseries 4.
Series 4: Engineering Department Records, 1950-1994
The Engineering Department was vital to the success of Nordic Ware. Records in this series reveal the process by which a new product idea was developed, built, tested, and turned into a saleable product. Museum staff members selected the records in this series, occupying about five cubic feet, from a much larger group of files, roughly twenty-five feet in extent. The criteria for selection included substantive information on the design development of new products, especially those requiring substantial engineering work, and on product re-design to create cost efficiencies and resolve product problems.
Subseries 4.1: General Records, 1969-1992
These records deal with general departmental business and include incoming and outgoing correspondence and general files kept by individual engineers. They also provide operational information such as source for production materials, work orders processing, and treatment of employee issues in the department.
Engineers in the department kept these notebooks mainly for developing design ideas and working out the technical logistics of bringing the designs into production. The notebooks also served as evidential records for patent disputes. The engineers signed and dated the pages of their notebooks as proof of when ideas were conceptualized and who recorded them.
Subseries 4.3: Product Files, 1976-1993, undated
These records originally were organized by product number, but no index to the numbering system accompanied the records so files of like products were grouped together. The Micro-Go-Round, Oven-Aire, and Wok are the most thoroughly documented. The records include blueprints at various stages of the products development, work orders for research and development, outside quotations, invoices, quality control tests and guidelines, memoranda to and from other company offices about product development, and other types of operational materials. Most of these products had multiple versions, and evidence of ongoing testing and modification is seen in the records.
These records document some of the innovation that made Nordic Ware an important presence in the housewares industry. The Micro-Go-Round was a particularly revolutionary product at the time, and the records show how the company recognized a need for the product and did what was necessary to develop it, although it had little or no experience with microwave technology. Micro-Go-Round records also are found in Subseries 5 of this series. The Oven-Aire required extensive development efforts to bring to fruition. The idea behind this product was to make conventional ovens cook more evenly and operate like a convection oven. The records include photographs of the original working model, tests done in some of the engineers' home kitchens, and comparison photographs of foods cooked with and without the device. Though the product never took off in the market, the invention and development process is documented here from the perspective of the several parties who worked on it. To a much more limited degree, records for some of the other products -- like the Popgun Popcorn Popper and the Supremer Ice Creamer --demonstrate the design and development process. There is even information about packaging design for some of the products.
Subseries 4.4: New Product Ideas Files, 1976-1993
These records document Nordic Ware's efforts to identify and develop a stream of new products and to involve employees in that process. They include product ideas submitted from outside the firm but primarily relate to New Product Meetings at which employees shared their own ideas. The meetings often included voting for the best ideas and for those that would be most feasible to manufacture. Most of the files contain original artwork, usually brought to the meeting by the marketing department. They also include lists of product ideas and who submitted them, ballots for the voting on the best ideas, and notes taken at the meetings. Several files have memoranda to the employees encouraging submission of ideas outside the annual meeting cycle. Related materials are found in Series 3, Marketing and Sales Records, 1948-2004, Subseries 1, General and Department Records, 1967-1995.
Subseries 4.5: General Research and Development, 1976-1993
This subseries mainly contains files on the development of microwave cookware products and the Micro-Go-Round. Dr. T.K. Ishii, a leading researcher in microwave technologies from Marquette University, served as a consultant to Nordic Ware. He advised on technical problems and explained processes to the Nordic Ware engineers to enable them to develop products. Other materials deal with the application and certification process for Underwriters Laboratories, an independent organization that tested products and certified them as meeting its safety standards.
Subseries 4.6: Patent Materials, 1950-1994
Many records in this subseries deal with the patent application process. An outside legal firm submitted Nordic Ware's applications and negotiated with the Patent Office. The records include correspondence surrounding patent disputes and sworn affidavits by engineers submitted as proof of their work. Several reference files of non-Nordic Ware patents are in this subseries. Many were sent by the law office to Nordic Ware engineers to keep them current on new developments.
Subseries 4.7: Trade Associations, 1977-1994
These records reflect the participation of Engineering Department staff in trade associations, especially The Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. Lloyd Keleny and several others were involved with the Microwave Oven Cookware Committee. The Society was concerned with the absence of standards for microwave ovens and the resulting problem that cookware used in these ovens was not always effective. The Committee gathered data and encouraged the microwave industry to recognize that consistency was needed. There also are files from the Frankfurt International Housewares Fair, 1994. Nordic Ware tried to build its presence internationally, and fairs such as this were opportunities to meet foreign manufacturers and distributors. They also enabled the company to see what was happening on a global level.
Series 5: Financial Records, 1948-1982
These records include financial information for Nordic Ware and other Dalquist interests, including Maid of Scandinavia Company, when it was still joined with Northland Aluminum Products, and the Minnesota Brand of Cookware. The intermixing of financial reports, invoices and receivables, petty cash receipts, and bank statements for the various enterprises demonstrates the close relationship of all of the beginning operations of the Dalquist family. There are many examples of consolidated financial information in the records including the balance sheets, combined financial reports, income statements, and the audit reports. Of particular interest is the accounting ledger (1949-1950) for Plastics for Industry, the Dalquist brothers' original company. It has handwritten entries and shows the company's simplified bookkeeping system. It also provides important financial data on the startup capital and the progress in the first year of business.
Reports created by the research firm Dunn and Bradstreet contain information submitted by the Dalquists to prove their credit worthiness to lenders. Several loan agreements document the company's practice of borrowing money on future earnings in order to meet operating expenses and finance innovation. Machinery owned by Nordic Ware is listed in several factory inventories. The firm also leased machinery instead of buying in order to save money. Inventory summaries (1950-1978) detail the numbers and value of the unsold product then on hand.
Though Nordic Ware stock was never traded publically, there was an employee shareholder plan that included profit sharing. Records in this subseries document the evolution and operation of the plan, including one employee's case for a public offering of the company stock. At some point Dave Dalquist did consider making the company public but decided to maintain private ownership. The emphasis on taking pride and ownership in the company was often repeated in memoranda that Dalquist wrote to employees about stock options. The records show that he was very conscious of morale and high standards of work within the company.
Series 6: Legal Records, 1962-1978
The bulk of these records deals with trademark issues, especially Nordic Ware's creation, licensing, and protection of the "Bundt" mark. Included are copies of correspondence with the law firms that handled applications to the Patent and Trademark Office and correspondence from that office. Correspondence and legal papers document licensing negotiations with Pillsbury and others. In several instances Nordic Ware took legal steps when the Bundt Pan trademark was being misused.
Series 7: Recipes and Cookbooks, 1966-2004, undated
This series is comprised of a large selection of cookbooks and recipe files maintained by Dotty Dalquist and reflect her active role in business activities. She did much of her cooking and experimenting in a test kitchen in her own home and was integral to the preparation of foods to be photographed in Nordic Ware products. These photographs demonstrated the use of the products and were included in the advertisements, catalogs, and product or recipe brochures.
Dotty Dalquist kept recipes, product booklets, notes, and other materials to aid in the development of her own recipes. She organized much of the material by food type, but she also had several files for specific Nordic Ware products. The Bundt Pan was a major product, and the files on it reflect that. As Nordic Ware sought new ways to promote the use of its products, Dalquist's development of new and inventive recipes was a major part of that effort.
Subseries 7.2: Bundt Pan Cookbooks, 1966-2004
Nordic Ware published several books by Dotty Dalquist to promote use of the Bundt Pan. Pillsbury and other firms also published their own books. Pillsbury incorporated its products into the recipes to promote the dual product relationship between the Bundt Pan and the Pillsbury brand of cake mixes. These books were sold in stores and added as premiums to go along with the purchase of the other products.
Subseries 7.3: Other Recipe and Public Relations Materials, 1970-1996, undated
Recipe contests and a cookbook were among the efforts to involve employees with the Nordic Ware products and to generate new recipes and ideas. These files include photographs and entries and correspondence about these employee activities.
A file of correspondence, mainly to and from Dotty Dalquist, concerns problems consumers encountered using specific recipes that she had published. Consumers also wrote about recipes they had tried on their own and could not get satisfactory results with a Nordic Ware product. Dalquist's problem-solving efforts were an example of the personal customer service in which Nordic Ware took pride.
Series 8: Non-Nordic Ware Reference Materials, 1940-2001, undated
The materials in this series were used by Nordic Ware as reference resources. They have been organized into subseries by type.
Dotty Dalquist collected cookbooks published by a wide range of manufacturers and trade organizations. The cookbooks are arranged in alphabetical order by the name of the sponsor. Many companies, such as Pillsbury and General Foods, put out these kinds of books to promote their own brands. This may have influenced Dalquist's creation of her own Bundt Pan cookbook.
Subseries 8.2: Product Guides (some with recipes), 1940-1992, undated
These product guides, for appliances and other items used in Dotty Dalquist's kitchen, include use instructions and, often, recipes. Nordic Ware often included recipes in the print materials packaged with its products and associated with its advertising.
Subseries 8.3: Home and Food Related Ephemera, 1950-1980, undated
These materials include booklets of general household hints, recipe cards published by various organizations, and information on food processes.
Subseries 8.4: Periodicals, 1967-2001
Several scrapbooks in this subseries contain clippings from various trade publications. Some focus on Nordic Ware and Northland Aluminum Products in articles or advertisements while others contain industry, including competitors', product advertisements. There are several issues of trade periodicals with Nordic Ware related stories. Trade press clippings also are found in Series 3, Marketing and Sales Records, 1948-2004, Subseries 3, Public Relations, 1948-1992.
Most of these newsletters were for reference use with Nordic Ware's microwave cookware projects. With its extensive line of these microwave products, there was an active effort to stay up to date with the field. The firm also tried to find different kinds of foods and recipes that could be prepared using a microwave oven.
Series 9: Photographs, 1940s-2006, undated
This series consists of a wide range of photographic prints re-housed in archival sleeves and assembled into a single binder. The photographs are arranged roughly by image content and document the Dalquist family and employees; factory and offices scenes, including a series of black and white images by Mel Jacobsen, a commercial photographer; and product displays at trade shows and other locations. The photographs also include a few images of Nordic Ware products and of baked foods and black and white images of plastic molds created by Plastics for Industry. Most of the photographs are undated and many are unidentified. There is a View Master viewer with one viewing card containing photographs assembled for Nordic Ware's sixtieth anniversary in 2006. Series 2, David Dalquist Files, includes five photographs of foods baked in Bundt Pans. Series 3, Marketing and Sales Records, Subseries 1, General and Department Records, 1967-1995, has photographs of a factory outlet store and product displays.
The collection is divided into nine series.
Series 1: Historical and Background Materials, 1940s-2006
Series 2: David Dalquist Files, 1963-1993
Series 3: Marketing and Sales Records, 1948-2004
Subseries 1, General and Department Records, 1967-1995
Subseries 2, Promotional and Trade Sales Materials, 1958-2004
Subseries 3, Public Relations, 1948-1992
Series 4: Engineering Department Records, 1950-1994
In 1946, the year he returned from Navy service in the Pacific, H. David (Dave) Dalquist (1918-2005) joined his brother Mark to launch a new manufacturing firm, Plastics for Industry, in Minneapolis. The two University of Minnesota graduates soon were making foundry patterns and industrial plastic products for area businesses, as well as aluminum consumer cookware. Among their earliest products were ebelskiver pans, krumkake irons, and rosette irons, essential kitchen tools for the area's large Scandinavian population. Their first employee, Donald Nygren, remained as head designer for many decades.
In 1950, the brothers bought Northland Aluminum Products, a small firm with a line of "Nordic Ware" products including griddles and steak platters. The same year, Dave Dalquist created a cast aluminum, fluted cake pan at the request of two local women, members of the Hadassah organization. The women sought to replicate a heavy mold used in Europe. Northland Aluminum registered the trademark "Bundt" for the new product and began to sell it to local department stores. (The women sold manufacturing "seconds" as a fund raiser for their group.) Mark Dalquist created a firm, Maid of Scandinavia, to market products by mail. It separated from Northland Aluminum in 1963. Over the years, Northland Aluminum increasingly used "Nordic Ware" to identify itself for marketing and public relations purposes.
Northland Aluminum created a subsidiary finishing and coating firm, Northland Color Anodizing Company, in 1962. In 1964, Northland became one of the first to license the use of Teflon from its inventor, DuPont, and non-stick products became an important part of the company's line. Northland also did coating work for many industries including medical, computer, and commercial food processing. For many years Northland also had a division to produce heads for video recording machines. Product sales reached $1,000,000 in 1964.
During the 1960s, Nordic Ware grew slowly, gradually increasing its product line to include specialty baking and cookware items and stove-top cookware. The company also expanded its production capacity and built its sales and marketing capabilities, including a national network of sales representatives working on commission. Dorothy Dalquist, Dave's wife, played a vital role in the company's history. She joined him at crucial annual sales conventions to demonstrate products, tested new products, and developed recipes for them in her home kitchen. Additionally, she represented the firm in public relations activities.
Although the Bundt Pan was only one of many Nordic Ware products, it became a national celebrity in 1966 when a Texas woman used it for her prize-winning Tunnel of Fudge Cake in the immensely popular Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. In 1970, Nordic Ware licensed the Bundt trademark to Pillsbury for use with a line of cake mixes. Customers received a cake pan at a small additional price with the purchase of the packaged mix. Although this pan was spun of light aluminum, not cast like the original models, the Pillsbury promotion was very successful. In addition to the classic Bundt design, the company began producing special designs, including a cathedral, a castle, a rose, a heart, and, in 2006, a stadium shaped pan. The Bundt Pan continues to be the most popular cake pan in America, and the company estimates it has sold sixty million pans over the past six decades.
Despite the steady popularity of the Bundt Pan, Dalquist and his firm knew that the spike in Bundt Pan sales resulting from the Pillsbury promotion was temporary, and they continued their strategy of seeking new products to buoy overall sales revenues. In 1978 Nordic Ware developed a "new thermoset plastic molding technology to create an extensive line of cookware designed to work in both conventional and microware ovens."
In these same years, as microwave oven use rapidly spread, Nordic Ware developed its second celebrity product. Designed by the company's own engineers, the Micro-Go-Round was promoted in print and television advertising and is still its most successful product. Since then, Nordic Ware has introduced a wide range of new products, some of them successful (for example, nonstick Barbecue Grill Cookware), others not (including a device to create convection currents in a baking oven and a bicentennial cake platter). Northland Aluminum holds at least twenty-five patents for its products.
Today David Dalquist (born 1949) -- son of founder "Dave Dalquist" and, like his father, an engineer -- heads Nordic Ware. He has been involved with the company for his entire working life with major executive responsibilities since the early 1980s. David Dalquist's mother, Dotty, is on the Board of Directors and serves as Corporate Secretary. David's three sisters—Corrine, Linda, and Susan—are also involved in the business. The firm employs between 200 and 400 people and continues, as a point of pride, to manufacture its products in the United States. The family has refused numerous buyout offers. Nordic Ware has managed to design and market products for the large, low price retailers, including Wal-Mart, and for the upscale, specialty gourmet market. Williams-Sonoma, a leader in the latter field, has exclusive sales for a small number of new Nordic Ware products each year.
For its sixtieth anniversary, Nordic Ware produced a company history, H. David Dalquist, The Nordic Ware Saga: An Entrepreneur's Legacy (Kirk House Publishers, Minneapolis, 2006). The volume provides edited recollections of "Dave," many family members, and other employees drawn from oral history interviews. This finding aid is based largely on that information, other historical sources within the collection, and visits to Nordic Ware offices by National Museum of American History staff members Paula Johnson and Nanci Edwards (June 2006) and Paula Johnson and John Fleckner (August 2006).
The Division of Work and Industry holds thirty-six objects from Nordic Ware (Accession # 2007.0034), including Bundt Pans in a variety of shapes, foundry patterns and molds for Nordic Ware products, a wood panel display of products manufactured by Plastics for Industry, three versions of the Micro-Go-Round, and other kitchenware products.
This collection was donated by Dorothy M. Dalquist and H. David Dalquist in 2007.
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-633-3270.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.