Allgemeine Elektrizitats Gesellschaft was founded in Berlin by Emil Rathenau in 1883. AEG was originally known as DEG (the German Edison Company for Applied Electricity), as Rathenau had been impressed by Edison’s light bulb at Exposition Internationale d’Electricité in Paris in 1881.

AEG grew with the newly unified Germany and by 1900 it was one of the country’s major companies. By 1907 it had become the biggest manufacturer in the world of generators, cables, transformers, motors, light bulbs, and arc lamps. In that year it appointed an architect, Peter Behrens, as chief designer. He not only designed products such as kettles, fans, and telephones but also undertook factory buildings. Behrens was a pioneer of corporate identity, giving an elegant and uniform look to AEG posters, trade literature, and advertisements. He left the company in 1914.

Behrens was a member of the Deutsche Werkbund, a body devoted to the reconciliation of art, craft, industry, and trade. Germany’s adoption of this philosophy at the beginning of the century led to a greater commitment to research and design, resulting in products that were often superior to those of Britain and the United States. Behrens kettles illustrate this point. There were three basic forms, round, oval, and octagonal, set on a molded base. Through the use of standardized parts AEG was able to offer a range of thirty types.

AEG continued to produce a wide range of electrical products that have a restrained, elegant appearance. Since 1996 the operative parts of AEG have become independent companies utilizing the AEG trademark under license from its legal successor, EHG Elektro-holding GmbH, a DaimlerChrysler company.