As electricity becomes more common in daily life, the ads one finds in magazines are transformed.
While ads in my early twentieth century magazines feature wringers for washing clothes and hand-powered vacuum cleaners, as time goes on we find ads for electric toasters, electric vacuums, and electric washers and dryers.
In this entry, I am sharing some of my favorite ads for electric appliances that I found in typical vintage magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Women’s Home Companion, and McCall’s. The dates range from 1908 through 1929, and I’ve included the date and item/brand name in the caption under the illustrations.
As you read the ads, you will find that a theme you see often is the ability of electricity to save time and to lighten the workload, especially for women. “What’s the value of a woman’s time?” asks the ad for an Apex vacuum cleaner. “The electric maid for modern mothers,” the Hotpoint range bills itself. Electricity could help reduce pain and stiffness (the vibrator), eliminate the need for an attendant worker (the elevator), and successfully and quickly produce exactly the kind of food that you prefer (the toaster and the waffle maker).
In the years after these electrical appliances were introduced and came into popular use, women’s roles in the home began to change. She had more leisure time, and less hired help was needed. Previous ads for non-electric vacuum cleaners, for example, showed the housewife along with a maid and sometimes a child all pitching in to clean a room. Now, the pictures in ads shifted to show a woman alone happily cleaning the floor, or simply sitting in a group of friends enjoying the extra time these inventions have afforded her.