Electrical appliances in the 1920s

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Electrical appliances in the 1920s
Electric washers became popular in the 1920s. (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

The 1920s were an exhilarating decade in industry and consumer sales. The end of World War I in 1918 saw an explosion of innovation in electrical appliances, although until the last half of the decade few homes had electricity to run these new appliances. Then electrical appliance businesses began thriving. Many of the electrical appliance companies founded in the 1920s exist to this today.

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Cooking and Food Storage

In the mid-1920s several electric toasters appeared in newspaper ads. They were generally of similar design: two grates set on either side of a heating element. Many had nickel finishes and embossed embellishments. They cost around £3 to £4. Around the same time, waffle irons, double boilers and coffee percolators became available. Often attractively designed, many had "ebonized" wood handles. Electric refrigerators and stoves became popular as well. DuPont had done much of the research that went into the development of air conditioning and refrigeration, but General Electric manufactured and marketed some of the earliest refrigerators. Their Monitor Top model, with its compressor on top, was one of the first to use Freon.

Sewing and Caring for Clothing

In the early '20s, Western Electric Clothes Washers eased the drudgery of the traditional Monday wash day. Early electric sewing machines appeared shortly before World War I, but many women found their vibration and noise annoying and frightening. By the late 1920s, though, Singer's improvements made the electric sewing machine an attractive step up from the old reliable treadle machines. Hotpoint began making electric irons in 1905, but in 1920 Waage sold an iron with three heat settings. By the late 1920s electric irons were almost as popular as radios.

Entertainment and Information

Marconi and Tesla pioneered the radio in the 1890s but it didn't appear in the average home until the 1920s. Companies like AT&T, General Electric, RCA and Westinghouse established broadcasting stations across the country that provided entertainment and news of mostly local interest. Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell competed with their record machines from the 1890s through World War I, but by 1921 Columbia sold the Grafanola Wind up Gramophone and in 1924 Victor sold their Victrola record player.

Woodworking and Power Tools

Most electrical household appliances of the 1920s were aimed at the female homemaker, but the man of the house was responsible for repairs. Men also enjoyed cabinet and furniture projects for the home. So advertising for power drills, saws and lathes was directed squarely at men. In 1922 DeWalt developed the radial arm saw. Black and Decker also produced radial arm saws and their power drills were very popular.

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