Unique Appliances Throughout American History

While researching the evolution of the modern kitchen for our last blog post, we came across a few appliances that did not exactly prove to be the fittest in the struggle for a place in the modern kitchen. Whether these appliances and design concepts proved to be a  dead end trend, or were simply phased out due to more effective models, we found these products and marketing ideas to be an interesting mini-history of how people thought kitchens should look and function in the past.

 All-in-one stove/sink/refrigerator

Obviously, the appeal here is that three appliances have been integrated into one compact unit. But combining water, electricity, and fire all together seems like a disaster. Although I suppose if your stove catches your refrigerator on fire, you could put it out with the water from the sink.

Seriously though, as a person who cooks, it is hard to imagine trying to wash dishes while cooking on the stove. It seems like soapy water would splash into your bacon while bacon grease pops into your clean dishes. I suspect that this is a case of inconvenience masquerading as convenience, like how multitasking can actually slow you down.

 This Electrochef is a pretty cool looking stove. It came out in the 20’s, and though it looks sleek and compact, it weighed 500 pounds! On the right is the oven part of the stove, for warming and baking.

A cleaner moon

It’s a little hard to read in the picture but the caption for the ad reads “Women of the future will make the Moon a cleaner place to live”. I love that such an ordinary product, a cleaning liquid, is being advertised with such a “futuristic” motif. Speaking of which…

An idea of the future had by the past

Cabinet refrigerators

The built in cabinet refrigerator is one of my favorite artifacts from the past. I am not sure why it didn’t become popular enough to stick around. I’d guess they were more expensive, and I am sure harder to install (I have installed a microwave that hung above a stove and that was a bit of a pain…hard to imagine picking up a refrigerator and mounting it without several men and at least a days work, but then again I’m not a pro). Maybe there was just too much competition for cabinet space. Maybe it took a special outlet built into the wall. Whatever the reason we don’t all have cabinet refrigerators, just picture never having to crouch to reach into the bottom vegetable drawers.


Check out this old Colston dishwasher.  It takes up a lot of counter space, yet it doesn’t hold many dishes. I do have to come out as a secret dishwasher hater though; as a kid, we didn’t have a dishwasher. I don’t think we got one until I was 15 or 16, and since dishes were my chore, I got used to doing them by hand. Nowadays, even if my apartment has a dishwasher, I still do them by hand (or leave them in the sink for too long).

The Kohler electric sink seems like it was way ahead of its time; it came out in the 20’s, and really, for all intents and purposes, it was basically like a modern dishwasher:

You can see the third sink on the left is a compartment with a motor underneath that swirls the water around and washes the dishes. The 20’s dishwasher didn’t sell enough units to really catch on, however, and dishwashers didn’t become a household item until 1950 (for the wealthy) and by the 70’s the middle class had largely adopted dishwashers.

 Past Islands

This sink island is charming, but its lack of counter space for cooking preparation or serving limits its functionality. Decor customization was also limited with this unit, as it came with its cabinetry installed underneath.

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