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Model Kitchen: 1919

Model Kitchen: 1919

Washington, D.C., circa 1919. "Goldenberg display, 8th & Pennsylvania Avenue S.E." Note the gas hose on the flatiron. National Photo Co. View full size.


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I'll go out on a limb here and speculate about the coffeepot on a stand. It's a percolator, and they'd be either stovetop or self-heating. There's no sign of an electrical connector, or gas or alcohol burner, so I'll say it's a stovetop, and the round stand looks like it would fit nicely over a gas burner, keeping the pot itself away from the flame to protect it. With an ordinary everyday percolator that always stayed in the kitchen you wouldn't care, but this is a nice one you'd use for company.

Hoosier Cabinet

The Hoosier cabinet was a very sensible addition to the bare kitchens we see in earlier Shorpy kitchen photos. Most people could not afford a designer to make a custom kitchen like the one in the Nelson Barke house. A Hoosier could be found that would fit into the space you had available, and it was (except for the oven and sink) a kitchen workshop extraordinaire. I'd love to have one today.

Strange Coffee Pot

This coffee pot looks like it is on a tiny pedestal or something. I've never seen anything like it, can anyone enlighten me?

Afraid to light the oven

My mom was usually a brave and fearless lady, she even evicted a skunk that strayed into our cellar by herself, but in the 1940s she was fearful of lighting our gas oven which was more modern than this one, but it did not have a pilot light, instead it had a quirky gas jet which had to be turned on at the precise moment one held a lit match to it and there was always a burst of flame, a loud "whoosh" and often singed eyebrows and/or dishtowel. She would only use the oven when my father was at home and she would make him light it for her. Yes, he also got his share of burnt arm hair, so I have to assume we had a defective gas oven. Some of us do not realize how easy we have it today, they really were not necessarily the "good old days."

Natural Gas Clothes Iron

The clothes iron displayed on the kitchen worktable was heated by a natural gas burner inside the iron, as indicated by its flexible cloth-covered hose and gas pipe connector. If there was no gas wall outlet available, such irons could even be connected to an overhead gas chandelier, as were some gas table lamps. Here is another example, found on a vintage appliance dealer's site.

[The stove and iron would have been fired not by natural gas but rather "city gas," also called coal gas. - Dave]

The Gas Man

Interesting that the stove was on loan from The Washington Gas Company. They would have been the local gas utility company like Consolidated Edison in NYC or The Boston Edison Company. The gas and electric companies were the largest vendors of appliances. They had an advantage over the retail stores, they could finance the appliances by adding small payments to the monthly utility bill. $42 for a gas range/oven combo, today the delivery charge would probably be more than that.

My Oh My -

It's got everything but the kitchen sink.

Making Kitchen Work a Pleasure

Even though this is a temporary kitchen display, and a pretty charmless one at that, the majority of real kitchens of this period were no better, as seen in several Shorpy photos. Until the late 1920s most American kitchens were still bare and poorly lit rooms with a stove, a sink and a few bits of loose furniture hauled in. Built-in storage and food preparation counters with easily cleaned surfaces, adequate lighting and even overhead fume hoods for stoves were all available from a few architects, but even the very rich were slow to adopt these conveniences. One notable exception was this 1911 kitchen designed by San Diego's early Modernist Irving Gill, for the Nelson Barker residence, seen here with the family's cook, John White, nicknamed "the Duke." Few American kitchens would match its good design until much later.

This would have been

a dream kitchen for most women at the time--a clean gas stove and an oven with a thermostat! So much easier than lighting up wood or coal, waiting for the fire to get hot, but not too hot. No ashes to clean up at the end of the day. No hot stove sitting all day in the kitchen in the middle of summer.

Camping is as close as we get now to what cooking was like for most of the history of the human race!

Nothing like a Hoosier!

Also called Bakers Cabinets, these wonderful cabinets were a giant step forward in modern working kitchens with their sliding counter tops, built in flour sifters, and sugar bowls with matching jars. This one appears to have a porcelain counter--considered to be very sanitary in a time that people were becoming much more germ conscious. Before porcelain, the counters were zinc.

They still make great cabinets for a kitchen or other use if you can find them at antique stores and shows. You can also get repros. The Sellers brand cabinets were among the nicest made of this type. Most often they were made of oak if unpainted.

This must be

where they furnished Alice Kramden's kitchen.

I have seen dream kitchens

This one looks more like a nightmare.

And in the left corner

We have a much better view of a Hoosier cabinet (mentioned sometime back in another display kitchen). The big glass thing on the right dispenses sugar, and hanging down below the upper door on the left is the flour bin/sifter.

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