This American-made 'Stanley Super Vac' thermos flask made between 1915 and 1935 by the Stanley Insulating Co. of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, was used by the famous Australian aviator, the late Nancy Bird Walton AO, OBE (1915-2009). Nancy began flying at the age of 17, taking her first lesson from Sir Charles Kingsford Smith at his flying school at Mascot in Sydney. Two years later, in 1933, she was the youngest female commercial pilot in the British Empire. Nancy became the pilot for the Far West Children's Health Scheme, flying a nursing sister to remote properties and pioneered aerial ambulance and baby clinic services. On one flight in 1935 Nancy landed on Unisino Station, 144 miles west of Bourke, New South Wales, in the middle of summer during a search for an aboriginal tracker. The station manager, George Henderson, gave her this thermos flask containing water with the reprimand - "Never land on this station without water".
A thermos flask or vacuum bottle comprises two vessels, one placed inside the other and joined at the neck. The gap between the two flasks has partially evacuated air, creating a partial-vacuum which acts to reduce the conduction of heat.
The thermos or vacuum flask was invented in Scotland in 1892 by the scientist, Sir James Dewar, as a result of his research into cryogenics. Commercial production began in 1904 after two German glassblowers, Reinhold Burger and Albert Aschenbrenner, discovered that the design could be used to keep cold drinks cold and warm drinks warm. It was further improved in 1911 when the first machine-made glass inserts were invented.
This Stanley Vacuum Bottle was invented and patented in the USA in 1913 by William J. Stanley Jr (d.1916). He was working with electrical transformers and found that the welding process he was using could also be applied to insulating a vacuum bottle with steel instead of glass. His all-steel, double-wall vacuum bottles were subsequently mass produced from 1915.
An agency for the sale of the Stanley Vacuum Bottle in Australia was established in 1923 by Pike Bros Ltd. It was marketed with the slogan "It will not break". The bottle was made with a special blue steel liner and an outer cylinder lined with blue flexible "Amalite". The exterior surface was finished in black seal-grained leather and nickel.
In Australia, thermos flasks enabled workers and school children to take hot soup and cocoa or tea for their lunch. They were also a boom for picnics and car trips saving much time boiling the billy over an open fire for tea.
Margaret Simpson, Curator, July 2018