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Life in the 1920s
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Homa Appliances

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.

Targeted at women The brand names
Targeted at women Cost
Financing Time saving
Early electric washing machine advertisement.


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.



Advertisement for an early General Electric refrigerator 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.




Image from an early Sunbeam advertisement

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."

Advertisement for a Hotpoint electric waffle iron




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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NetExplorations
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Life in the 1920s
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These topics correspond to chapters in the Patterns of Interaction series (McDougal Littell, 2005).