JCPenney Model 863-5610-60 Microwave Oven

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While conducting experiments with radar in 1945, Raytheon scientist Dr. Percy Spencer noticed that a magnetron was emitting microwaves that were generating heat. He developed and patented a process for heating food by placing it under parallel magnetrons. Within a couple of years his colleagues William M. Hall and Fritz A. Gross patented a microwave heating unit housed within an oven. The first models of the microwave oven were roughly six feet tall and weighed over 750 pounds, clearly not suitable for kitchen counters at home. It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that microwave ovens were manufactured for home use.
This model 963-5610-60 microwave oven was manufactured in Japan in 1976 by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. for J.C. Penney, a large, American retailer. The operating manual touts some of the oven’s special features, including a 15-minute timer for precise cooking, a built-in recipe guide for “at-a-glance” convenience for common foods, a magnetron tube for even microwave cooking, and an end-of-cooking bell and automatic shut off. The oven’s most unusual features are its door, which is hinged from the top, and a multi-sided observation window, which allowed for watching the cooking in progress. Reflecting the growing popularity of microwave ovens for preparing snack foods like popcorn, the owner’s manual suggests that it can be placed even in the family room due to its low profile design.
Jeff and Jan Thompson purchased this unit in 1976 on installments for $219.95, plus $28.95 for an Assured Performance Plan (an extended warranty) and $12.45 tax. They donated the oven and documentation, including a service manual, warranty card, operating instructions, warehouse sales slip and pick-up slip, to the museum in 2006.
Raytheon website,
Patent documents and owner’s manual from S drive, Microwave folder
Currently not on view
Credit Line
from Jeff and Jan Thompson
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Work and Industry: Electricity
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
model number
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
glass (overall material)
copper (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
overall: 8 1/2 in x 20 1/4 in x 21 in; 21.59 cm x 51.435 cm x 53.34 cm
National Museum of American History
Object Name
electrical appliance
microwave oven