Instead of the Jazz Age, the 1920s could be called the "Home Appliance Decade," suggests the Air Conditioning/Heating/Refrigeration News. At this time, gas was available in the majority of American households. And with the new trend of buying on credit, much of the population replaced a cast iron stove, burning wood or coal, with a gas range. Fewer households employed servants as previously. As a result, homemakers of the time showed a new interest in cooking. Using a gas stove offered multiple advantages, with almost no drawbacks.
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Up until this time, the same equipment cooked food and warmed the home. In the 1920s, households began acquiring two gas appliances for these purposes: a stove, or range, for cooking; and a furnace or space heaters to provide heat. Housework was lighter, as some former tasks, such as toting in fuel and emptying ashes twice a day, were eliminated. Natural gas was also cheaper than wood or coal.
Stoves that burnt wood or coal posed a greater threat of igniting clothing, especially for women in long skirts. Although skirts shortened as the '20s went on, a gas stove had less open flame and most of its surface stayed cool. In addition, natural gas did not produce smoke that could be toxic. Ovens controlled by thermostats had been introduced in 1915, allowing food to safely cook unattended. With the new ease in cooking (and the help of gas refrigerators), food could be prepared as needed and not cooked in bulk that resulted in endless leftovers that might breed bacteria.
Gas stoves took up less space and were set on legs, so it was possible to clean under them. During the 1920s, the cookstove was transformed into a piece of furniture. Some models featured a backsplash that could be folded down over the burners when not in use to become a work surface. Often clad in white porcelain, the decade's gas stoves sometimes featured a utensil drawer or even a storage cabinet. The ones remaining today are appealing examples of Art Deco design.
As the years went by, the early gas ranges proved to be virtually indestructible. This is evidenced by the consideration that some of them are still in service. According to American Heritage Magazine, few of them ever required major repairs. Some people believe the faithful gas range has yet to be improved upon. They see it as a symbol of all that is durable.
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