1919 Tayler Oven Thermometer Advertisement

Source: American Cookery (February, 1919)

I was surprised to see an advertisement for a oven thermometer in the February, 1919 issue of American Cookery magazine. Cooks had a bit more information about oven temperatures than I’d previously realized.

Cooking with wood and coal stoves a century ago could be challenging. Hundred-year-old recipes never indicated the exact temperature that should be used when baking food in the oven. Instead the recipes said things like use a “high temperature” or a “medium temperature.” And, the cook was left to her (it was generally a woman in those days) own devices to figure out how to regulate the temperature. For example, more wood or coal might be thrown on the fire to get increase the temperature.

24 thoughts on “1919 Tayler Oven Thermometer Advertisement

  1. I still have my mother’s Taylor candy thermometer, in its original box. The price was $3.25. I can’t be sure when she bought it, but I know it was before she was married, so it would have been before 1938.

    1. Wow, it’s awesome that you still have your mother’s candy thermometer. $3.25 doesn’t sound like much now, but in the 1930s that thermometer probably was considered fairly expensive.

  2. Fascinating topic for those of us who cook. I never thought about how difficult it would be to bake or cook without details like exact temperatures, or that you couldn’t adjust heat with a dial. Interesting how they brought the war into the kitchen, not surprising because it was everywhere. Great post, Sheryl.

    1. It’s nice to hear that you enjoyed this post. Old magazines from that era have lots of content, including advertisements, which mention WWI. The war really affected the lives of average people, and there were a lot of food shortages both during the war and immediately afterwards.

  3. I use a 1956 Betty Crocker cookbook in which the baking temperatures are given in a number like 350ºF and in a generality like “medium temperature.” It’s amazing to me that as late as the 50s the recipes still included both.

    1. Wow, I’m also surprised that recipes still contained terms like “medium heat.” One of the things that I like about old cookbooks is that the little details provide so many clues about foods and cooking methods at the time they were written.

  4. Cooking was a great skill back in the day. We visited an old house in New England with a wood burning beehive oven for baking. They said the cook put her elbow at the opening, sang a certain hymn and could tell how hot it was by how far in the hymn she got before having to remove her elbow. Not to mention many women’s skirts got burnt by cooking over a fire.

    1. Back then, cooks needed to have so much practical knowledge and skill. I love the story about how cooks could tell how hot the beehive oven was.

  5. Hello. 20 years ago I lived with an Amish family in Lancaster County, Pa (same home but separate living quarters); as a gift the wife gave me a published Amish recipe book that she liked to use (she did not like to cook overall and she was a picky eater also); most of the recipes in this book did not include oven temperatures (especially for baking). When I inquired to the wife, she looked at me like I had 2 heads and commented that she baked just about everything in a “medium oven” (meaning 350F) and told me to do the same; she commented that Amish women already knew that and that now I did too!!

  6. I hadn’t realized they had oven thermometers back then either. I agree cooking with wood and coal must’ve presented cooks with extra hurdles in cooking/baking. I figure they reached a point to where it was second nature to know when the right temperature was reached before oven thermometers came into being. I do admire their talents and skills.

    1. I think that you’re exactly right. Since they were used to using wood or coal stoves, they just developed a “second sense” about whether an oven was at the right temperature.

  7. I’ve actually seen one of these, and it was explained to me that it was for an oven, but I didn’t realize that it was for a wood fueled oven.

    1. I’m thinking that more recently that very similar thermometers were used in electric and gas ovens. I can remember buying an oven thermometer to “double check” the temperature gauge of an oven in a apartment where I once lived.

  8. My grandmothers used the hand in the oven and count method–you hold your hand just inside the open door of the oven and count–counting to a particular number (I have long forgotten what those were) told you if your oven was warm, moderate, or hot. In addition to cooking on a wood stove, my paternal grandmother “sterilized” my dad’s diapers by wrapping them in a paper bag and heating them in the oven, per the doctor’s instructions. That was in 1925, when she was 16.

    1. What wonderful stories! – I’d never heard of “sterilizing” diapers. It’s fascinating how much some things have changed across the years.

  9. I love how somethings never change in advertising, just to throw in a little practicality to catch a ladies’ attention…😊 grandma had a thermometer not sure if it did much for her though as it was unreadable in her oven. The old folks had a talent that was lost to modern conveniences.

    1. I like how you describe you grandmother’s oven thermometer. I had one like that in my oven for years. I bought it as a young adult because I lived in an apartment with a stove on it’s last legs and a questionable temperature gauge. I think that I quickly decided that the gauge actually was okay – though I took the oven thermometer with me when I moved on to the next place, and the one after that. It kept getting more and more coated with whatever things in the oven get coated with – and was soon unreadable. I have no idea whatever happened to it. I suppose that I either tossed it or abandoned it at some point.

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