Vintage Kitchen Appliances of the 1930s
Despite the economic calamity of the Great Depression, the modern world of the 20th century and the new Electronic Age moved ahead. In the 1930s, electronic products came into the home in the form of convenient kitchen appliances.
Homemakers rode on the cutting edge of technology as products like gas stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, electric irons, and vacuum cleaners created a demand for electricity.
Generating plants that provided power for commercial use developed in the late 19th century. In 1896, Niagara Falls heralded hydroelectric power for cities. Electric street cars began to replace horse drawn vehicles. In 1904, The St. Louis World's Fair introduced electrical plugs and wall outlets for the home.
By the mid 1920s, 60% of homes in the United States had electric power which was promoted as clean, safe, and efficient. Electronic products promised to reduce house work and to replace reliance on domestic servants.
By 1925, a stand alone, self contained refrigerator was available for home use, but was very expensive. By the late 20's, refrigerators began to replace the ice box. The cumbersome and sometimes dangerous early refrigerators which used toxic gasses that resulted in poisoning and explosions were replaced by the Freon compressor in 1929. By 1935, refrigerator sales rose to 1.6 million per year. (Though my grandfather complained that nothing really chilled beer like an ice box)
Though rural areas were slightly behind the curve, the Roosevelt Administration pushed for a widening of the electric grid in the belief that available electricity was important for commerce. Despite the high unemployment rate (24%) and a general decrease in in overall wages, the new technologies were here to stay.
Ads for electric appliances appeared in ladies' magazines touting their products as being economic and scientific. Words like "automatic" were introduced into the popular lexicon and housework was never the same again.
Here are several ads from the Spring 1932 Ladies' Home Journal Magazine. (Images are in the public domain as they are over 70 years old)
Westinghouse Dual-automatic Refrigerator 1932
The Westinghouse refrigerator shown at the top of this article featured rolling shelves, and built in crisping pans for vegetables.
That is not a freezer at the top, but an enclosed compressor. You can see the small compartment at the center top shelf for making ice cubes. This charming refrigerator also featured interior lighting!
Prices started at $180.00.
Goodbye Ice Box
An ice box was commonly used to keep perishable food cold. It was a glorified cooler that was insulated. Ice cut in winter from frozen lakes was stored and delivered to households by the ice man who drove a horse and wagon.
Ice boxes could be quite attractive, made of wood with metal interiors. The ice would, of course, melt into a drip pan. This could be inconvenient. The pan had to be drained to avoid overflow.
General Electric All Steel Refrigerator 1932
The earliest refrigerators had compressors located in the basement. Moving the compressor to the top of the unit was a modern breakthrough. The GE refrigerator shown at the right was actually on it's way out in 1932, as compressors began to be located within the unit.
This refrigerator resembles an ice box with a compressor on the top. It featured a freezer compartment for ice cubes, sliding shelves, and temperature controls. It sold for $187.00
The advertisement on the right declares that this item is "Super Powered!" As electricity could be expensive, and people were conscious of their household budgets, appliance producers strove to make products that were economical. This Super-Powered Frigidaire promised low operating costs as well as a freezer for ice cubes
The cabinet and interior are made of porcelain. The picture illustrates how easy it is to clean. Grease, dirt, and scrapes could be wiped away.
Gas Stove 1932
Magic Chef Series 700 with it's "Artile" surface shows a new interest in kitchen décor. The kitchen was becoming a room to decorate in pretty colors with interesting accents like the pattern decorating the doors of this gas stove.
At the turn of the last century, electricity was introduced to households for illumination, replacing gas lights. Gas companies, concerned about loss of income, developed gas stoves. Previously, stoves were fueled by wood or coal, were dirty and needed constant upkeep.
This version of the gas stove featured an automatic button. The cook did not even need to use a match to light the flame!
Electric Range 1932
Touted for its cleanliness, the General Electric Hotpoint Range of 1932 offered a flameless electric coil for cooking. The advertisement promised less time spent on kitchen chores, freeing the housewife for other things.
This old electric range does not look much different than the electric ranges that we see today. Notice the absence of a right, rear coil. There was a pot that sunk down into the stove for cooking soups!
GE Electric Range circa 1932
Okay so I got a bit sloppy here. I apologize for the ripped page but here we are with a fabulous deluxe toaster available for only $5.95. Notice that it is an open toaster. You set the toaster on the stove and turned the toast manually. Fully enclosed toasters were not to be had in 1932.
Why was this particular toaster called deluxe? Because it was attractive with a decorative chrome surface.
This type of toaster was available in most stores up into the 1970s. I actually had one myself!
Here is a beautiful old refrigerator from 1930, still in use!
!930's Dishwasher (That's Bette Davis!)
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Dolores Monet