NEW YORK-Housewares visionary Sam Farber, who founded Copco and later OXO, died on June 16 at the age of 88.
Farber was the man behind the iconic chunky black-handled tools that were designed to be used by all, including those with disabilities, but his curiosity, creativity and business acumen have been noted for decades. Farber founded Copco, a kitchenware company, in 1960 and quickly raised the bar for well designed, quality housewares products.
Farber, a relative of the family that once owned Farberware, commented on the lack of design in housewares. “When I started Copco in 1960, the housewares field was a desert,” he told HFN in 2004. Design was to the industry, he said, “a surface treatment,” that was “very limited relative to function and the needs of the user, and it went on for a very long time.”
While at Copco Farber focused on functional, affordable products that also looked good. Among Copco’s products were those designed for people with manual limitations, according to the Center for Universal Design, such as a bowl-shaped chopping block with a rocker knife and pots and lids with large loop handles or knobs. But he became a real champion of the cause after retiring from Copco, after witnessing his wife, Betsey, struggle to use simple tools with her arthritic hands. In 1989 Farber came out of retirement and established OXO. Its chunky black vegetable peeler put the company on the map and the OXO Good Grips line later extended to hundreds of products.
“Sam saw an opportunity to provide comfortable tools that would be easy to use for the widest spectrum of users, changing the relationship people everywhere have with ordinary household products,” read a statement on OXO’s Facebook page. “His inquisitive nature and refusal to accept the status quo continue to inspire our product development today.
“It is because of Sam that we here at OXO are able to come to work each day, energized in knowing we are improving the lies of people everywhere. We are truly indebted to his vision for making everyday living easier. He was a mentor and friend to many of us here and he will be missed, but never forgotten.”