Cooking with Electricity a Hundred Years Ago

Source: Good Housekeeping (June, 1917)

I’ve been doing A Hundred Years Ago for six and a half years now. Over that time I’ve noticed many changes. One is that electricity and electrical appliances were much more common in 1917 than what they had been in 1911. Here’s an excerpt from a June, 1917 article in Good Housekeeping thatย  promoted the use of electric stoves:

“But cooking by electricity is so expensive,” says the average housekeeper when the question of installing an electric range in her kitchen is broached. But is this so?

Against the cost of operation must be charged the savings in time and energy which the use of electricity insures. At the same time, the savings in wear and tear on utensils and household furnishings that will result from the use of a fuel which produces no smoke to discolor walls, woodwork, or curtains must be considered.

32 thoughts on “Cooking with Electricity a Hundred Years Ago

    1. hmm. . . I’m not sure. It’s difficult to tell from the picture whether the right-hand side of the stove is a storage area or an oven. I’m thinking that maybe it was an oven.

  1. I have a friend who remembers the arrival of electricity in the Texas Panhandle, and the changes it wrought in their world. His mother’s been gone for some time now, but even in her nineties, she sang the praises of her first electric stove. The past is much nearer than we realize, and the sense of dislocation many older people have in our world as it is certainly is understandable. It’s amazing to realize the Rural Electrification Act was signed in 1937 — only 80 years ago!

    1. It is really amazing to think about how relatively recently people in some rural areas got electricity. A friend’s elderly father is still very active in the rural electric association in his area. I think that the members worked very hard to get electricity when they were young – and they still enjoy getting together on a regular basis.

    1. I can’t really tell from the picture, but the right-hand side of the stove might be an oven (or it could just be a storage area).

  2. Congratulations on 6 years of writing about life hundred years ago. I hope you continue for many years to come. I enjoy your post and thoughts. Thanks so much. Well done!

    It’s interesting to read about the early days of electricity. I agree with the caption of the first photo, it does save a lot of drudgery.

  3. I love that the ads are trying to sway people to make this big change to save money in the end. It’s hard to change. And now I fight with my gas range/oven because my whole life I used electric until we bought our current home about 7 years ago. Do you know what is hard to cook on a gas range? Rice. I had never had trouble cooking rice in my entire life until I tried to cook it on a gas range. I have it mostly figured out now, but every now and again… well, crunchy rice is no fun, and neither is burned rice. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Interesting about the rice. . . Over the years I’ve had both gas and electric stoves. I currently have an electric stove – and definitely find it easier to use (though I know others would argue the opposite).

  4. I enjoyed reading the persuasive words for buying an electric stove. Just as interesting were the comments. Blogging is so great for this! I hope you keep it up for a LONG time.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I plan to keep blogging for a long time. I am so fortunate to have great readers like you who write wonderful comments, and make blogging a joy.

    1. Some of my friends swear that gas stoves are the best; others insist that electric is better. Sometimes I think that people tend to prefer whatever kind of stove they learned to cook on.

  5. Gas or electric stove … either one is still better than a wood stove in the kitchen. I love cooking outside with wood but I don’t think I would like it in my kitchen for it would be messier.

    1. I tend to romanticize the “good old days.” This old article was a good reminder that cooking on wood stoves was dirty and messy.

  6. It’s interesting–It’s almost as if you’re living through two different eras at the same time, and experiencing the changes in both.

    1. I hadn’t thought about it quite this way, but I think that you are right. I’ve the last few years, I’ve become more aware not only on the changes between the 1910s and the 2010s, but also of the changes between 1911 and 1917 (automobiles and electricity were becoming more common, skirts were getting shorter, etc.) and 2011 and 2017 (changes in technology, continued growth of social media, etc.).

  7. Congratulations on your 7 years of blogging. Reading your blog is bit like refering Wikipedia. I am gaining much of knowledge and history for your blog. Thanks for all these share Sheryl.

  8. Many years ago I toured a period home where the electric range in the kitchen was similar to the illustration, only the ovens were below the burners above the shelf, rather than to the side. I thought it was such a cool-looking apparatus that I searched for one for a while. Quite possibly, a 100 year old range might not be as fun to cook on as it would be to look at. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. It would be fun to try one of these stoves – though I’m glad that I have my modern stove for my day-to-day cooking. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Must be interesting to see what changes over the years of your blog posts. I’ve recently watched two 1917 movies starring Mary Pickford: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and A Little Princess. It seemed strange to realize the actors portraying old-fashioned girls were actually quite contemporary at the time.

    1. Until I read your comment, I hadn’t realized that there a 1917 version of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. I’ll have to look for it.

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