During the 1920s, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, and washing machines seemed to promise
consumers more time for leisure activities. Advertising came of age during this era to sell
the goods that bustling factories were producing.
The traditional "wash day" in many homes was Monday, and the arrival of the washing machine
did, indeed, free up part of that day for other activities.
How did advertisers appeal to consumers during the 1920s?
By 1924, two thirds of all American homes had electricity. It became practical to create
and advertise home electrical appliances. General Electric, founded in 1878 as the Edison
Electric Company, introduced the first electric refrigerator— the popular Monitor Top,
which sold for around $350. Earlier refrigerators had a compartment that held a block of ice.
Iceboxes were used until the 1950s in some homes. But as early as 1929, ice boxes were well on
their way to extinction; half of the refrigerators sold were electric.
When General Electric advertised the Monitor Top refrigerator in 1927, it emphasized the
appliance's quiet operation. Earlier attempts at home refrigerators powered by steam were
large and noisy. The new self-contained units used a refrigerant called Freon. A compressor
at the top of the cabinet kept the unit running. The freezer could hold a few trays of ice
while the rest of the cabinet kept foods cold and fresh.
While General Electric tried to appeal to the quality-conscious consumer, early Sunbeam
advertisements targeted the husband seeking to ease the burden of a wife's housework.
The Sunbeam electric iron sold for $7.50. It promised "52 hours less work a year."
The benefit of new kitchen appliances was the key to attracting consumers in the 1920s.
Electric toasters became commonplace. The Hotpoint company, which sold many electric appliances,
ran advertisements that claimed its $15 waffle iron would bring "joy and health to the home."
Credits: Model T © Bettmann/Corbis; Iron Advertisement The Granger Collection,
New York; Washing machine ad The Granger Collection, New York; Refrigerator ad © Culver Pictures;
Iron ad © Culver Pictures; Waffle maker ad © Culver Pictures.
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