Side-Opening Toasters: Bread slices would be inserted with the door in the open position. When the door was closed, the bread was held against the heating element until toasted. Old toasters had heating elements that worked much like those on modern toasters, but the outside styling was quite different. Chrome toasters from the 1920s and 1930s had a sort of Art Deco style, and are very popular with collectors. However, there is a lot of interest in the chrome toasters manufactured up through the 1960s. Before electric toasters came along, earlier versions were simply placed over a stove burner. These early toasters are also collectible, but are mostly made of tin, so they don't have the same style as the later chrome units.
Curling Irons: Curling hair has never been an easy task. Today, we use electric curling irons, but in the early 1900s, curling irons had to be heated in a fire before they were ready to use. Beyond that, old curling irons actually worked much like the ones we use today. They were spring loaded, with a round attachment and a flat piece to hold the hair in place. The wooden handle offered only a little protection against burns.
The hand washer is an odd-looking device that mystifies many people seeing one for the first time. imagine a large, upside-down tin funnel with a broom handle inserted into the drain hole. Looking at the underside of the cup on top, you’ll see a pattern of chutes and holes that allows water to pass through. Back when hand washers were used to clean clothes, pots of water would be set over fires outside. The water was then collected in the cup, while the long, wooden handle helped keep hands from getting burnt. Finally, a system of chutes in the metal section was used to churn and agitate the contents. Hand washers were manufactured and used from the early 1900s up until the 1930s, when mechanical washers became more common.
Old Irons for Pressing Clothes: Fighting wrinkles has been a preoccupation since the beginning of civilized life. As a result, irons have been a household necessity for centuries. Collectible irons were made from the mid-1800s up to the 1950s. The first irons were just that - a heavy chunk of iron with a handle. They were kept in a fire until hot, then removed to press the clothes. Irons cooled rather quickly, so many women kept more than one iron in the fire at any given time. Some of the fancy earlier models had handles that could be swapped out and used with different bases. Coal-powered irons eventually replaced these models, with a hollowed-out base where hot coals were inserted. The early electric irons are also good-looking, and are becoming more popular as collectibles.
Old Rugbeater: A rug beater is one of those things that lots of people recognize. Most were made either of twisted wire or a wicker-like twisted wood, with a handle attached to a head shaped like that of a tennis racket. Rug beaters were used for cleaning area rugs and carpets from the 1880s through the 1920s. Rugs were hauled outside, hung over a line, and pounded on with the beater until all the dirt and dust was removed.
Washing Clothes: In the good old days, clothes were washed in a stream, by pounding the garments with rocks, stones and heavy sticks. Forget about soap -- water was the sole cleansing agent. Fire added heat to the laundry mix, when clothes were washed in tubs with water heated over open fires and soap made at home from a combination of lye and ashes. Clothes were scrubbed on a corrugated board, wrung by hand, rinsed, then rung again, and draped on lines or bushes to dry.
I grew up in the 1930s at a time when we still had an icebox for refrigeration and my job was to daily empty the pan under the icebox where the water was collected. In the 1920s my mother was using using a washboard. She thought she was in heaven when we were able to buy an electric washer with a hand wringer in the early 30s. As a young boy, after she had wrung out some of the water by hand, I would sometimes help feed them through the two wringers and turn the handle. Washers with hand wringersfrom the 1920s and 1930s.
A Very Primitive Early Wringer
Women's hands were freed by 1927, when wringer washers become standard, eliminating the washboard, open tubs and the boiler. A few "pumps" with the foot started the motor of the machine and kept it humming. The first automatic washer -- one that washed, rinsed and extracted water from clothes in one process -- debuted at a county fair in Louisiana, in September of 1937. After World War II, the demand for washers was enormous. By 1953, automatic washers were outselling wringer washers ten to one. Ever since the first human decided not to throw away those soiled animal skins and hunt up a new suit, mankind has searched for a way to clean clothes. For thousands of years, the preferred (and only) method had been to haul the family's laundry down to the local river, pick out a nice rock, soak the garments, and literally beat the dirt out. As civilization advanced, the river was replaced with the boiling tub, and the washboard took over for the rock, yet the process remained essentially the same.
Although the first patent for a washing machine was granted before 1850, it was not a common appliance until the late 1920's. With the old boiler pan method, it was a hot, messy, all day affair, where the dirt was literally 'cooked' out of the family's wash. Even as late as 1912, most homes still did their laundry by hand, on a washboard. The main problem before then had been how to power such a marvelous invention.
Enter electricity, and suddenly, laundry found itself throughly modernized. The wringer washer became the rage, a machine which not only washed , but, with the aid of two fixed rollers, also squeezed the excess water from the laundry. In spite of the Great Depression, by 1936, over 1.4 million washing machines were sold in America.
But it was in the years following WWII that the washing machine became the "must have" appliance that it is today. With the invention of the spin cycle, the wringer washer became obsolete. Now there was a machine which would not only wash and rinse, but it could spin out the excess water, a whole load at a time. Progress is indeed a beautiful thing.
1920s Ice Box
Old Bissell Hand Sweepers
Every Family Had Picnic Baskets
Old Philco Radio