A hand mixer, as the name implies, is a hand-held mixing device. It typically consists of a handle mounted over a large enclosure containing the motor, which drives one or two beaters. The beaters are immersed in the food to be mixed.
In 1870, Sir Walter Scott of Providence, RI, invented the first hand-cranked egg beater.
A stand mixer is essentially the same as a hand mixer, but is mounted on a stand which bears the weight of the device. Stand mixers are larger and have more powerful motors than their hand-held counterparts. They generally have a special bowl that is locked in place while the mixer is operating. Heavy duty commercial models can have bowl capacities in excess of 100 quarts (95 L), but more typical home and commercial models are equipped with bowls of around 4 quarts (4 L). A typical home stand mixer will include a wire whip for whipping creams and egg whites; a flat beater for mixing batters; and a dough hook for kneading.
The first electric mixer was invented by Herbert Johnston in 1908 and sold by the KitchenAid division of the Hobart Manufacturing Company.
Older models of mixers originally listed each speed by name of operation (ex: Beat-Whip would be high speed if it is a 3-speed mixer); they are now listed by number.
The current KitchenAid domestic food mixer is an American classic, little changed from the original design patent application of 1937.
Another classic American design is the Sunbeam MixMaster domestic food mixer, which first went on sale in May, 1930.
Mixers should not be confused with blenders. Blenders contain sharp blades and typically operate at higher speeds that chop, liquefy, or otherwise break down larger food items. A mixer is a much slower device without blades.