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Q: history of American products ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: history of American products
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: narrative-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 28 Apr 2004 08:24 PDT
Expires: 28 May 2004 08:24 PDT
Question ID: 337623
What were the most popular products sold in the 1920s? We are looking
for statistics on "gadgets" sold, such as radios, household
appliances, etc.
Subject: Re: history of American products
Answered By: bobbie7-ga on 28 Apr 2004 11:17 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello Narrative,

My search returned the following results for regarding popular
products such as radiosand  household appliances sold in the 1920s.


?The first commercial radio station went on the air in the 1920s in
Pittsburgh, while the first public radio station opened on the campus
of the University of Wisconsin.?

?By 1922, 3 million American households had radios, and purchases of
receivers had increased by 2,500%, giving the industry annual sales of
$850 million by 1929.?

?A floodtide of new electric appliances lightened the load of the
middle-class American housewife: vacuum cleaners, toasters, washing
machines, refrigerators. Women became America's greatest consumers,
purchasing appliances and other items that would have been considered
a luxury just a generation before.?

American History 102



?Unprecedented economic prosperity put money in everyone's pockets in
the '20s. And the newly prosperous turned around and spent it on
electric gadgets and state-of-the-art kitchen appliances (Crosley
radios and gas stoves, not DVD players and cappuccino machines.?


?In 1920, only 10,000 refrigerators were sold in the United States; by
1929, Frigidaire's annual sales alone neared 1 million.?

Baltimore City Paper Online


Vacuum Cleaners and Toasters

?The electrical industry also expanded rapidly during the 1920s. The
demand for power for industrial machinery as well as for business and
some lighting increased dramatically, and a host of electrical
appliances such as stoves, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, toasters,
and radios became available. About two-thirds of American homes had
electricity by 1929, leaving only those in rural areas without it.?
?Two-thirds of American homes had electricity by 1929. The use of
indoor plumbing, hot water, and central heating increased
dramatically. Conveniences such as electric stoves, vacuum cleaners,
refrigerators, washing machines, toasters, and irons made life less


?The one-third of the households which still did not have electricity
in 1929 lacked access to many of the new products. For those who had
access, the new standard of living required more money than had been
necessary in former times.?

?Despite heavy sales of appliances, by 1929 only 25 percent of
American families had vacuum cleaners, and only 20 percent had
electric toasters.?



Automobiles and radios emerged as the top-selling consumer products of the 1920s.

?The policies of the Coolidge administration supported business and
spurred tremendous commercial growth. Automobiles and radios emerged
as the top-selling consumer products of the 1920s. By 1925 there was
one automobile for every six persons in the country (as compared to
one for every one hundred in Great Britain), and by 1930 this had
increased to one for every 4.6 people. By the end of the decade, an
estimated 40 percent of American families owned radios. Both these
products served to connect remote communities, especially in rural
areas; automobiles brought mobility to both urban and rural consumers
and radios provided access to information and opportunities.?

Library of Congress


Electric consumer appliances proliferate in the 1920?s

?Electric appliances for the household were one of the biggest new
market segments in the 1920s. Brooms and carpet beaters were replaced
by the Electrolux, introduced in 1921. In 1923, Schick marketed an
electric shaver. The spin dryer was introduced. The icebox gave way to
the Frigidaire. Birdseye introduced frozen foods. Radios came with
speakers instead of headsets (and there were regularly broadcast
programs since KDKA began in 1920).?



?Another material, first used in the production of cutlery in the
1920s, was stainless steel. It became popular for everyday cutlery,
although silverware was still saved for special occasions.?

Science Museum


From the American History Master Page:

?Between March, 1920, and February, 1924, there was an average
increase of 25 per cent. in the K.W.H. [kilowatt hours] of current
used by each local family. How this additional current is being used
may be inferred from the following record of sales of electrical
appliances by five local electrical shops, a prominent drug store, and
the local electric power company for the only items it sells, irons
and toasters, over the six-month period from May first to October
thirty-first, 1923: curlers sold, 1,173; irons, 1,114; vacuum
cleaners, 709; toasters, 463; washing machines, 371; heaters, 114;
heating pads, 18; electric refrigerators, 11; electric ranges, 3;
electric ironers, 1. The manager of the local electric power company
estimates that nearly 90 per cent. of Middletown homes have electric

American History Master Page


The Roaring Twenties

?Thus the 1920s were the decade of consumer appliances: electric
sewing machines, electric washing machines, electric vacuum cleaners,
electric dishwashers, electric mixers, electric stoves, electric
toasters, electric irons, electric hot-water heaters, electric space
heaters, and electric refrigerators.?

University of California at Berkeley: The Roaring Twenties


The Vacuum

?Hoover developed positive agitation in 1926, and this greatly
increased the dirt removal efficiency of the vacuum. The Model 700
featured a rigid beater bar which was used in combination with the
brush on the agitator to dislodge dirt from the carpet.?

History Channel


In the 1920s and '30s, consumers were introduced to freezers when the
first electric refrigerators with ice cube compartments came on the
market. Mass production of modern refrigerators didn't get started
until after World War II.

History Channel

Washing Machine

?In 1922 The Maytag Company introduced a system of forcing water
through the clothes by means of an agitator rather than dragging the
clothes through the water. This system is most commonly used now.?

History Channel

?In 1926 the Waters Genter Company begins selling the Toastmaster
model 1-A-1, the first automatic pop-up toaster made for home use.?


Nancy Koehn is Associate Professor at the Harvard Business School and 
her specialty is business history.  In the following article she
describes the scope of the spread of consumer goods in the 1920's and
some of the contributing factors.



The History of Kitchen Innovations


Promises, Promises:  The allure of household appliances in the 1920s 
By Loretta Lorance 

In 1929 James Ryan published an itemized list of the 7 to 11 electric
appliances commonly found in homes in October 1929.

?These were: washing machines; vacuum cleaners; refrigerators; flat
irons; toasters; curling irons; percolators; heating pads; corn
poppers; vibrators; and manglers (regardless of the name these were
used to iron sheets).?

?Ryan's list demonstrates that by the late 1920s electric companies
and the manufacturers of electric appliances were successful in
convincing women that their products would lessen the burden of
housework. They were successful because these products do make
housework easier. Washing machines eliminate the need to boil water,
use a scrub board and hand-wring clothes. Dryers remove the
back-straining chore of hanging up wet laundry to dry. Electric irons
stay warm and do not require constant shuffling back and forth from
the stove in order to keep them hot. Refrigerators prevent the need to
make daily trips to the market and also the need to salt or smoke
meats to preserve them. Vacuum cleaners are more efficient than
brooms; they also eliminate the excessive manual labor of beating the
dust and dirt out of rugs.?

The allure of household appliances in the 1920s


The Victrola

?As furniture, the Victrola ran into a bit of trouble in the early
twenties because other manufacturers were beginning to turn out
cabinets that could also serve as tables, with flat tops and in some
cases a lid that extended only part way across the top. Eldridge
Johnson, head of Victor, adamantly opposed turning Victor machines
into flat tops; they were musical instruments, after all, and should
not be used as furniture. As sales fell, he finally gave in to the
pressure from dealers and agreed to follow the flat-top trend -- sort
of. In 1922, Victor?s first flat top hit the market . . . with the
familiar humped lid in the middle of the cabinet top. Derisively
dubbed the humpback, the machines languished unsold in showrooms.
Finally, in 1924 a true flat top Victrola was introduced as an attempt
to combat the growing competition from phonograph-radio combinations
that had begun to flourish. With the advent of the radio in the latter
part of the decade, there were predictions that the phonograph would
become obsolete.?

Bassocantante Domain: Flapper Décor


Search criteria:
1920s gadgets
Appliances 1920s
Consumers 1920s
Popular products in the 1920s
History of household appliances
1920s popular culture

I hope you find this information helpful! 

Best regards,
narrative-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Excellent answer -- thanks so much for your extensive research. We loved the sites!

Subject: Re: history of American products
From: bobbie7-ga on 04 May 2004 08:39 PDT
Dear Narrative,

Thank you for the five star rating and generous tip!
I'm glad that you were pleased with my research.


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