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Bread Loaf School: 1923

"Miss Odessa Dow. May 25, 1923." What will we have learned about Odessa by the time her loaf is baked? National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.

"Miss Odessa Dow. May 25, 1923." What will we have learned about Odessa by the time her loaf is baked? National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.


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Musical tags

I had the same thought when I first saw the photo - the tags really do look like musical notes!


I love snapshots out of time like this. Makes me wonder what our research labs will look like to folks in 80 years. You expect to have ice boxes in a lab in the 1920's yet it's high tech - stuff we take for granted today.

The yeast of her worries

She's thinking, "Hmm, if I hook this up to my BF, will it make him rise also or, will he still just be a loafer?"


Love that clock, looks like it's out of Alice in Wonderland.
Great photo. Thank God for the microwave.

Five, four, three,

..two, one, KABLOOOEY!

Who Knew?

Wow, cooking used to be really complicated!

It's a Westinghouse

The unique stove seen here is a circa 1920 Westinghouse Automatic Electric Range. The box above the burners on the stove as well as the clock sitting atop it was part of the original equipment: a mechanical device which apparently allowed for the "modern convenience" of pre-setting a specified time for the oven to turn on and off.

The Westinghouse Electric Range will enable you to shop or play or rest when you please, with the comfortable certainty that you will never find your dinner scorched or dried out, and that the finest flavors will be retained.

Results are not only certain, but uniformly good, since the range, because of exact heat regulation, will always duplicate its happiest previous effort.

The Westinghouse Automatic Electric Range is doing this kind of cooking for thousands of women, in kitchens that stay cool, at a cost for current more reasonable than you might expect, and with considerable savings in food weight.

Additional Image at Pamela E. Mack's site on household technology.

Hangtags in D Minor

I would like to put one large treble clef to the left of all those wire label tags.

Zero degree reference

My educated guess is that the bucket on the stove with the thermometer sticking out of it contained melting ice, which was used as a zero degree temperature reference - a way to calibrate the equipment. You are correct about the thermocouples. The box on the table is most likely a Wheatstone bridge which measured the resistance change in the thermocouples as the oven temperature varied. Similar equipment is still used to test ovens and furnaces. Her stopwatch was probably used to record the time it took for the temperature to change at the point of measurement. (yes, I used to be a process engineer - and still have my plastic pocket protector)

But why?

...then why would the oven door be open?

[So we can see inside. - Dave]

High End Moonshine

If I'm not mistaken this is the same setup used by my ancestors to distill corn mash. Can you say "electric white lightning"?


The wires appear to be thermocouple leads. By measuring the voltage as she selects each one, she is recording the change in temperature with time throughout the loaf. The stove seems to have gas lines beneath it. Don't know about the tube coming out of the loaf. The bucket it goes to seems to have a thermometer sticking out of it.


I am glad that electrician did not wire my house !

Where's Igor?

It's alive, Master, It's alive!


The device on the stovetop looks like a simple calorimeter - a well insulated tub with a thermometer sticking out the top. Unclear if this is meant to measure the quantity of steam coming out of the loaf or the combustion energy of the by-products in the steam.

The widget that Ms Dow is adjusting might be a potentiometer - a device which allows for control of the amount of voltage applied to the experiment. The box on the wall, numbered 1 to 15, could allow for selection of different arrays of resistance heaters within the oven.

The overall setup suggests she is conducting an experiment where she applies a precise amount of heat energy to the loaf (using the potentiometer, knife switch and stop watch) and measures the result using the calorimeter.

Miss Dow's Experiment

Excerpt an article by Miss Odessa Dow and related experiments with milk in preventing rickets, from


(From the Research Laboratories of the Dry Milk Company, New York. (Received for publication June 20, 1927.)

Numerous investigators have shown that the antirachitic potency of milk can be increased by exposure to the rays of the quartz mercury vapor lamp. However, the desirability of this procedure for enhancing the nutritive properties of milk serving as the sole dietary of the infant, has been questioned, because certain experimental evidence has indicated that the vitamin A of milk is destroyed by irradiation. Titus, Hughes, et al. claim that this vitamin is materially decreased in milk irradiated for 20 minutes’ at a distance of 18 to 20 inches from the lamp. ...

Its pretty obvious what she is doing. She is pumping irradiated milk into a loaf of bread and timing how long it takes for the bread to come alive and ask her what the heck all those wires are for. Really.

Large House?

Look at all those wires with little bell-like things. I wonder if that was a way to summon a servant?

[Those are tags labeling the wires. This is some sort of laboratory or test kitchen. - Dave]

The Future is past

There is just so much to take in from this picture. Electric stove in 1923? That must have been high tech for the time. Is she giving the bread a transfusion? What's with the wires running on the wall? Looks like they were installed by my 11 year old. And the big question, what is that box she is working? Declining minds want to know.

Results of Experiment

I'm just guessing but I believe she is measuring the amount of water that leaves the loaf as it bakes.


She needs to grout that sink! But it can wait until the bread's done.


That's my lamp!

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