How the AGA Became an Icon
William McGrath, CE, AGA Rangemaster, shares the history of AGA Rangemaster and how it has become home to some of the nations favourite appliances, cookware and home furnishing brands.
The AGA is an icon. The reasons for that dates back to its launch in Britain in the 1930s at a time of rapid change in family life for the more affluent. The cook gave way to the maid and the maid to the housewife – and that brought the children into the kitchen and with that the space given to kitchen living grew as it became the heart of the home. The AGA brought warmth, reliability, cleanliness and controllable costs to the kitchen. David Ogilvy, was the first AGA salesman – and later the model for Don Draper of Mad Men – who took up the warmth and efficiency themes in his “Theory and Practice of Selling the AGA Cooker”. If the AGA cost more than £4 a year to run, “call the police”, he advised because “somebody was stealing the coal”.
Behind the rise of AGA was a team led by, then Managing Director of AGA Heat – later a Second World War spy working with Ian Fleming and Roald Dahl and then Managing Director of its parent, Allied Ironfounders. That is the company founded by Abraham Darby who triggered the entire Industrial Revolution by smelting iron ore with coke at Coalbrookdale and it is there where the AGA has been made since 1946 when production moved up from Smethwick.
Wren’s team included Dorothy Braddell who designed kitchens for the AGA – both country and urban – which could appear in World of Interiors today. The styling and design for manufacture work was by Raymond Loewy – the biggest name in 20th century industrial design and known for the Shell logo and the Greyhound bus – and his assistant, Douglas Scott – best known for the design of the Routemaster bus.
Wren set up the first kitchen shop with a Cookery Advisory Department in North Audley Street in London, W1. He then recruited the BBC’s first ever cookery correspondent, Ambrose Heath, to write up the recipes in ‘Good Food on the AGA’ and to answer cookery questions. His recipe cards were drawn by Edward Bawden – himself the era’s leading graphic artist.
The ambition and the belief in the product of Wren’s team has continued and now with the new generation of electric Total Control programmable AGA, the business is looking to find new markets internationally. Now the AGA has the flexibility to fit into a wider range of lifestyles. With a product fully made in the factory, not assembled in the home, and not needing a flue or maintenance, there is every chance to focus on the key features of the AGA – the quality of food cooked with radiant heat from all around; the design classic looks and the ambience it creates – all now serving the modern working woman and her family who want AGA to be the great facilitator in their lives – just as it was in granny’s home.