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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • STAY ONE JUMP AHEAD OF TROUBLE, 1945

Retrofit: 1920

Retrofit: 1920

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "Mrs. Wilson Compton." The sunny Compton kitchen, equipped with a modern gas stove. View full size.

 

Fine Housekeeping

What a great photo, with a lot of clues to what sort of person Mrs. Compton was. In 1920, kitchens that were clean by today's standards weren't common; permanent, sanitary surfaces were beyond many people's means, and modern detergents hadn't been invented yet. Cleaning kitchen grease meant lots of hand-wrecking scrubbing with sal soda and other harsh cleaning products. Mrs. Compton seems to have been very concerned with sanitation; her kitchen is painted in scrubbable gloss enamel, and her floor is an expensive embossed linoleum. Her back door - which deliverymen and servants would have used frequently - has hardware cloth over the screen on its lower half, to prevent the screen becoming holed and torn, letting flies in. The dotted muslin curtains are fresh, the woodwork has no fingermarks, and the stove is nicely polished, with a clean teakettle and percolator as testament to how much Mrs. Compton cared. While I doubt the lady did all this herself (this is the house of someone who could afford servants and knew how to supervise them), she definitely had housekeeping high on her list of priorities. I like to think she'd be very pleased to know that we noticed.

Update or restore?

In reading the comments on so many of Shorpy's old pictures, I notice there are two opposing schools of thought that always crop up. Some viewers favor total restoration of period interiors right down to the knickknacks while others want to remodel everything to be current, new, futuristic. I prefer leaving my home exactly as it was originally built, decorated and furnished. Yeah, the 70's were an ugly era, my son says that coming to my house is like walking onto the set of "Rhoda" (while he hums the theme song). Still if you look at atrocities like what was done to Penn Station vs how they restored Grand Central, I'm keeping mine intact, even with the orange happyface light fixture, olive green appliances and gold shag carpet. And I'm keeping my white belt and matching shoes that go with the yellow polyester knit bellbottoms.

Kitchen Contentment

Washington Post, May 31, 1918

Kitchen Contentment

The up-to-date housekeeper appreciates the saving of steps in the kitchen afforded by modern, compact equipment.

A kitchen joy in particular is the one type Vulcan gas range, which has a smooth top similar to a coal stove, with no openings below for pots to tip over into. The whole top is usable for cooking, without waste of heat. Prices, $30 up.

Dulin & Martin Co.

1921_vulcan_stove
(click to enlarge)

Restoring antique stoves

It's not that difficult, but it's good to keep in mind that a lot of stoves from the 1920s and later contain asbestos insulation. I wouldn't recommend that anyone remove that insulation themselves, although lots of people have: I did when I had to have my boiler replaced (it would have cost $3,000 to have it done professionally and taken three weeks, and I couldn't be without heat for three weeks in the middle of a Winnipeg winter).

There are tons of websites out there that give tips on restoring antique stoves. When we restored ours at our old house, it took us a few weeks. We removed the rust with WD40 - spray it on, let it sit, and wipe it off. Easiest part of the job. Hardest was the welding, which I did not do.

Vulcan Stove

That is a pretty small stove and oven (and broiler), and it may even be a conversion, as the drop in plates are the kind found in wood stoves. Pretty shallow for that though. Those ranges can be refurbished, but it gets pretty expensive. My sister bought a refurbished one more like the one in the White House kitchen photos, and it cost her over $10,000. Beautiful thing, though.

Floored

I think the "tile" is actually Linoleum. We had nearly the exact thing in my parents' house bought in 1941.

Vulcan stove hulk

There's a hulk of a Vulcan stove in my c. 1920 home, someone thought a Frigidaire all-electric range was the way to go in the 1960's. I wonder how one would restore one of these beauties...

I, too, love the tile. Does anyone know when this home was built?

Grandma's kettle.

There is one of those kettles in my grandmother's old kitchen right now.

Meow

The perky kitty thing in the window is marvelous. Nice tile motif as well.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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