The Twenties were a time of great innovation in the field of appliances for the kitchen and elsewhere. Many discoveries and inventions had already been made during the 1800s. WWI gave a great push to the application of these inventions. In the 1920s, when the war was over, many appliances appeared on the market, with prices many people could afford.
The new electrified house allowed implementing a lot of new appliances designed to make housework easier and were a symbol of great modernity.
The number of electrified houses increased steadily from the end of WWI throughout the 1920s and 1930s when almost all urban houses had electricity. The production and commercialisation of house appliances increased accordingly.
In a short decade, home appliances went from being expensive and unreliable toys for the rich to moderately priced, dependable and useful tools for the middle-class. Though some of them remained too expensive and too little dependable to become common in the house.
Which were the most common appliances of the 1920s?
Many house appliances first appeared on the mass market in the 1920s, though they might have looked quite differently from the ones we are accustomed to today..
Already in the 180ss, different devices that swept dust from carpets existed, but the vacuum cleaner that used the same principle as those that we use today was invented in 1901 in England by Hubert Cecil Booth. It was so big it could not enter buildings, only its tubes would go in from the windows.
The first portable vacuum cleaner that had an electric motor and a rotating brush was invented by a janitor from Canton, Ohio, James Murray Spangler in 1907. Lacking the money to begin his own production, Spangler sold the patent to William Henry Hoover in 1908. Hoover redesigned the vacuum cleaner and later added disposal filter bags.
Ironing clothes was a hard, tiring job because it required to stand by a heating stove for a long time, no matter the weather. Throughout the 1800s, more than one person had considered powering irons with electricity. Henry W. Seely of New York first made this idea workable already in 1881.
Still, it was only when electricity became commonly available in the home, in the 1920s, that electric irons become more common. But not more reliable or effective, apparently, since many people still preferred to use a flat iron for a few more decades.In the 1920s, when the war was over, many house appliances that we take for granted today appeared on the market, with prices many people could afford #history #historybuff Click To Tweet
The name washing machine may be deceptive since the first washing machine didn’t look at all like the one we know today. The first electric washing machines were quite simple devices. They had a motor that powered the agitation of the water, detergent and soiled items and drove the wringer into which wet items had to be inserted by hand. Alva J. Fisher invebted it in 1908 and the Hurley Machine Company of Chicago maeketed it.
The job of washing clothes was among the most tiring, time-consuming and messy work of the housewife. Fisher’s washing machine was still laborious if we think of it with our minds of today. It still made the job a lot faster and less of a hustle.
By the 1920s, it had become affordable by many middle-class households.
The history of the electric refrigerator is a bit different.
Early versions of some electric appliance existed by the 1920s. But they were expensive and not very dependable. In fact, most households preferred to continue relying on the iceboxes, the traditional insulated chest cooled by blocks of ice that had been in use since the 1860s. Some even still used underground storage.
The first refrigerator that many households would afford was the General Electric’s “Monitor-Top,” first produced in 1927. It worked with a compressor assembly that emitted such great deal of heat that needed to stand above the cabinet.
Did appliances really make the life of housewives easier?
It may seem that with all these innovations the work of the housewives became less tiring and time-consuming. That – as advertisements were eager to point out – these women could use their free time for themselves and for the pursuit of their interests.
What they did was keeping their houses and their families cleaner. Since they had more time because the machine did a part of the job, women were expected to use the extra time to do extra work.
Kyvig, David E., Daily Life in the United States 1920-1940. How Americans Lived Through the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and the Great Depression. Ivan R. Dee Publisher, Chicago, 2002