Message Area
lblHidCurrentSponsorAdIndex =

  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: Create & Innovate Plus Home Made Gifts & Games

article number 686
article date 10-12-2017
copyright 2017 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Electricity in the Home, 1918 . . . Use Electricity Instead of the Maid-Servant
by Clara Zillessen

From the March 1918 issue of ’House Beautiful’ magazine.

* * *

WHEN THE FOOD ADMINISTRATION sent out its pledges, we gladly signed up our household and did our best to follow Mr. Hoover’s instructions. It wasn’t difficult. It didn’t cause any particular upheaval.

But when the neighboring munition factories lured the maid servant from our homes with their promises of big wages, it looked to us as if we should have to “Hooverize” our housework as well as our table or to make some mighty big changes in our manner of living.

First, of course, we scoured the city for a maid-of-all-work. Our little family consists of three adults, all women, and the house is modern and rather small, but we could not procure a girl who would do the work. including the washing and ironing, for less than $7 a week and board.

Those we interviewed expressed themselves as willing to wash dishes, clean, and cook a bit if necessary; but they were all unalterably opposed to the idea of doing the washing and ironing.

We decided then and there to do without help—permanent and transient—and to rely on such labor-saving devices as we could afford for keeping the household wheels turning.

We analyzed the problem and decided that there were at least four major operations which could be better and more economically accomplished by a mechanical agent than by human labor. These are washing clothes, ironing, washing dishes and cleaning, and we knew that there are electrical appliances that do this work.

Also, we decided to “Hooverize” our household routine somewhat and simplify our methods of living by eliminating non-essentials. Instead of using the big tablecloths and napkins for all meals, for example, we could substitute doilies and smaller, simpler napkins at breakfast and luncheon.

So we invested in an electric clothes washer and an electric dish-washing machine, for we already had an electric suction cleaner and an electric iron—and the experience began.

But new equipment breeds new methods. We were astonished to find that the old housekeeping ways which had been in use so many years were cumbersome and inconvenient in the electrically operated home, and we had to formulate for ourselves what amounts to practically a new way of keeping house.

Housekeepers of the good old—fashioned type will rise in holy horror to hear that we now do the washing and ironing on Tuesday instead of on Monday, if Monday happens to be the day Schumann-Heinck or McCormack is at the Academy of Music. They will most certainly feel like branding us as slovenly housekeepers when they hear that we wash the dishes only once a day.

But such is the case, and here is our general routine in so far as it touches the four major household operations.

If the washing is to be done on Monday, the clothes are put to soak Sunday night. Early the next morning—at six o’clock in the summer and seven in the winter—I put the first cylinder of clothes in the washing machine and start it. Then I go up and prepare breakfast.

At six o’clock in the summer and seven in the winter, I put the first cylinder of clothes in the washing-machine, and the clothes are rinsed, blued, starched and out on the line by half past nine or ten.

Our washing consists of about three cylinders full, or sometimes four or five in the summer, and it is rinsed, blued, starched and out on the line by half past nine or ten.

If Monday happens to be a clear, sunny day, a goodly part of the ironing is finished by late afternoon; if not, most of the ironing will probably hold over until the next day and be finished before luncheon.

Then there is another perfectly good tradition which we have set aside. We have no regular cleaning day. Every day is cleaning day! The rugs are gone over ever day or every other day with the electric cleaner, and the hardwood floors are wiped every day with an oiled mop. We do this on the principle that it is easy to keep a clean house clean; but that it is unnecessarily hard and discouraging work to clean a more or less dirty house thoroughly once or twice a week. A house that is gone over every day is also much less liable to collect dust.

But we have voted that the electric dishwasher is really the appliance that takes the work out of housework. A Gold Dust Twins advertisement not long ago stated that if the dishwashing time in the average home could be lumped together, the housewife would find that she had been spending forty-five eight-hour days a year just washing dishes. That’s a lot of time to put into non-creative work, and we don’t do it any more.

As I said before, our dishes are washed once a day right after breakfast. The luncheon dishes are scraped as they come from the dining-room and immediately stacked in their proper places in the rack of the dishwasher, and the cover of the machine put in place.

Ditto the dinner dishes.

After breakfast the next morning, The breakfast dishes are put into the machine, hot water run in, soap powder added, and the job is completely finished in from twenty-three to thirty minutes depending on the number of the dishes.

The flat silver is washed after every meal and our pots and pans—mostly of glass and aluminum—are washed whenever practicable during the cooking operation or while the dishes are in the machine being washed, and there is nothing else for us to do.

Keeping the dishes in the machine between mealtimes does away with any objection as to the undesirability of letting the unwashed dishes wait.

"After breakfast the next morning, The breakfast dishes are put into the machine, hot water run in, soap powder added, . . ."

You can easily gather from my story of our experiences that we have taken a lot of unnecessary drudgery and work from housekeeping, and have added considerable enjoyment and satisfaction. For more and more every day, we are finding that housework, when properly and efficiently done, is a real joy. We’re only sorry that we didn’t start to “Hooverize” our business of housekeeping long ago.

Moreover, since we have installed this additional equipment, we have not paid out one single, solitary penny for extra help in the household, with the sole exception of the colored man who comes to take the ashes out of the furnace.

It has not cost us a great deal to run our home on this basis, either. In fact, we feel that in a couple of years we will actually be saving money. These are “paper profits” to be sure, and I doubt if they will ever appear in the family bank account.

Yet when you remember that you pay from $25 to $35 a month in cold cash to a maid, besides the money you spend for her food and lodging, you can easily see where even a goodly amount of electric equipment would show a saving in two years.

Our equipment is listed on our household accounts as follows:

Electric Iron . . . $4.50
Electric Sweeper . . . $25.00
Electric Washer . . . $100.00
Electric Dishwasher . . . $67.50
Electric Sewing Machine Motor. . . . $15.00
Electric Heating Pad . . . $6.50
Electric Percolator. . . . . . $7.50
Electric Toaster . . . $4.00
Electric Grill . . . $6.00
- - - - - - -
Total $236.00

Some of these prices are ante-bellum and may be a trifle higher today. Our stock of electric equipment also boasts a chafing dish and curling iron which were Christmas and anniversary presents and do not, of course, appear on our accounts. However, this gives a fair idea of the investment.

As to the monthly expense, friends and relatives who visit us can always be relied upon to ask, in awe-struck tones, whether we have mortgaged the house yet to pay the electric bills. They are usually very much surprised. For figured on the basis of a rate of eight cents per kilowatt-hour, our lowest bill has been $2.08 and the highest, $5.12. This includes lighting; the use of the percolator every day, the use of the sweeper, washer, iron and dishwashing machine as described, frequent use of the sewing machine motor, heating pad and toaster, and occasional use of the grill, chafing dish and curling iron.

Of course, we have learned the knack of operating these appliances and do not waste current. In view of the recent coal difficulties and fuel embarrassment, this makes us feel that we are doing our bit to help.

"The rugs are gone over ever day or every other day with the electric cleaner . . ."


If you have a cherished piece of pottery that you would like to have transformed into something useful as well as ornamental, convert it into an electric lamp. It is a simple, inexpensive process, as the picture shows, that does not endanger the vase itself in any way.

This vase is a lovely bit of green-gold-gray pottery, thirteen inches high, about the right size for a reading lamp or center-table lamp.

The electrical fitting simply slips into the mouth of the jar and the silk-and-reed shade rests secured on the top of the fitting. No drilling of any kind was necessary.

The mechanism and the bowl.

This is a most appropriate way to utilize a handsome vase and greatly increase the enjoyment which its beauty brings. It makes a handsome lamp at comparatively little cost.

Some of the smaller "squat” shaped bits of pottery make charming desk and boudoir lamps, mounting a single lamp and decorative shade.

The completed lamp.


Few people realize that the electric drink-mixer, a familiar sight on soda fountains, may be domesticated and put to work in the kitchen to save a great deal of the time and energy consumed in beating eggs and mixtures of various kinds.

Mrs. Christine Fredericks, the well-known household efficiency expert, says that the beating of eggs, batter mixtures and the like, really takes a double amount of energy, for it is as hard to steady the mixing bowl with one hand as it is to wield the spoon or fork with the other. This little device does both and soon proves indispensable in the kitchen.

It is also handy when some cocoa is wanted for afternoon or evening, for in a few seconds it will make the cocoa creamy and delicious. It will shake an egg and milk together in a jiffy; will properly mix French dressing for salad, and will lighten considerably that always tedious job—making mayonnaise.

In short, it is useful and convenient in any kitchen.

The drink-mixer at work.
< Back to Top of Page