Designed more than 70 years ago, the Model 410 meat slicer, also known as the Streamliner, is not just a utilitarian object for the food service industry. It is also a wonderful example of streamlining, a style of Modernism that combines principles of aerodynamic engineering with geometry, often characterized by smooth rhythmic surfaces and forms associated with technology, mechanics, and motion. The model 410’s aluminum body is made up of planes, curves, and geometric shapes that overlap and combine to suggest dynamic movement. The only exposed moving parts are the simple forms of the circular blade and the sled-like bed and pivoting holder that secures the meat for slicing. The motor, gears, and other moving parts are hidden under a sculptural, smooth-walled housing.
Egmont Arens, who was known for his writings on industrial design, originally came from a publishing and editorial background. He segued into the new field of industrial design and was among the individuals who established the profession in America during the 1920’s-30’s. Arens opened his own design firm in New York in 1935, eventually serving clients ranging from Fairchild Aircraft to the Coca Cola Company, and was one of the founding members of the Society of Industrial Designers.
The Hobart Manufacturing Company introduced its first electric meat slicer, the model 11-A in 1930. The machine was an efficient but awkward looking device, with an exposed motor and parts that were difficult to keep clean and free of food particles. Hobart engaged Arens to rethink the meat slicer. Ahrens, working with Theodore C. Brookhart, devised the Model 410. The new machine’s sturdy aluminum body was not only modern, but easy to clean and thus more sanitary—indispensable features for commercial food service. The Model 410 remained in production from the early 1940s to the mid 1980s.
Cynthia Trope is the Associate Curator of Product Design and Decorative Arts at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.