Category Archives: Bathrooms

Pink Sinks and Other Kitchen Ideas from the Twenties and Thirties

Pink Kitchen Sink froma and ad for Chipso Dish soap. Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

Pink Kitchen Sink from an ad for Chipso Dish soap. Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

Even those of us who remember the “Aztec Gold” and “Avocado” green kitchen appliances of the 1970s may be surprised by this pink kitchen sink from 1930. (The woman is still dressed in the styles of the 1920s; fashions don’t change overnight.)

I thought this might be a fluke, but an ad from a different company, one that manufactured wooden kitchen cabinets, shows the same green walls and pink sink combination. (And terrible lighting. This kitchen must have been pretty gloomy after dark.)

Ad for Shevlin kitchen cabinets, 1930.

Ad for Shevlin kitchen cabinets, 1930.

“Let Pine Make Your Kitchen Convenient” says this advertisement for Shevlin Pine, from the Shevlin, Carpenter, and Clarke Company; it appeared in Better Homes and Gardens magazine in February, 1930.  Those odd devices under the cabinet are flour and sugar dispensers.

Flour and sugar dispensers, 1925. This is probably a Hoosier Cabinet, as advertised in Delineator magazine.

Flour and sugar dispensers, 1925. This is probably a Hoosier Cabinet, as advertised in Delineator magazine.

“The one room exclusively a woman’s, and so the kitchen should reflect cheer and charm as well as provide comfort and convenience” was the caption for this 1924 article, actually an advertisement.

Kitchen cabinets, 1925. Ad in Delineator magazine.

Kitchen cabinets, 1925. Ad in Delineator magazine.

When I had my kitchen repainted a few years ago, the painter/carpenter took one look at my built-in broom cupboard and said, “Most of my clients would kill for one of these!” Apparently most of her clients were so hung up on cherry cabinets, marble counter tops, and stainless steel appliances that they forgot to plan storage room for mops, brooms, dusters and vacuum cleaners. Not so, in this 1925 “dream kitchen.”

Detail of ad (probably for Hoosier cabinets) from Delineator, 1925.

Detail of ad (probably for Hoosier cabinets) from The Delineator, 1925.

The Kitchen Sink

Notice the big space under the pink sink.

Notice the big space under the pink sink.

There was a school of art known as “kitchen sink realism;”  my memory of our friends’ kitchens, installed during the 1920s and thirties and still in use in the forties, was not of stacks of dirty dishes but of a big hole — instead of cabinet doors — under the sink, sometimes concealed by a cheery cloth curtain, and sometimes just left empty for ease of reaching the garbage pail.

The area under the kitchen sink was often exposed, like this one, pictured in Feb. 1930.

The area under the kitchen sink was often exposed, like this one, pictured in Feb. 1930.

It was also a good place to store a step ladder or kitchen stool, as Little Red Chair points out in her charming “1920s Kitchen Tour.” Better Homes and Gardens magazine featured this “device for holding and draining moist garbage” in a page of useful gadgets in April 1930:

A device for holding kitchen tools and moist garbage, 1930.

A device for holding kitchen tools and moist garbage, 1930.

“It hangs beneath the sink, beside a catch-all for soaps and brushes.  These utensils come in pleasing colors.” Very attractive, I’m sure. At least that sink has a faucet that allows you to mix hot and cold water; many didn’t:

This pink sink has separate faucets for hot and cold water; one is hidden by the soap box. It was easy to scald your hands.

This pink sink has separate faucets for hot and cold water; one is hidden by the soap box. It was easy to scald your hands, but an improvement over no hot water tap at all.

There were tremendous changes in kitchen design between 1924 and 1937.

“How to Equip the Modern Kitchen,” from an ad for Hoosier Cabinets, 1924:

"How to Equip the Modern Kitchen," March 1924. Delineator magazine.

“How to Equip the Modern Kitchen,” March 1924. Delineator magazine. The plumbing under the sink is exposed.

Thirteen years later, this ad for the Whitehead Planned Kitchen also featured purchased cabinets, instead of built-ins, but the Whitehead Steel wall and base cabinets could be permanently linked by stainless steel countertops and backsplash:

Whitehead Steel Cabinets ad, Delineator, April 1937.

Whitehead Enameled Steel Cabinets; ad from The Delineator, April 1937. There’s an electric range, and a Westinghouse dishwasher right of the sink, but now there’s no place to put the kitchen stool. Win some, lose some!

This “moderne” kitchen had a wall of glass bricks and a louvered window (with no old-fashioned curtains.) And that un-lovely view of the U-bend under the sink has been replaced by a custom cabinet with a built-in garbage can:

"This refuse container is attached inside sink door. Provides for the bag system of disposal." Whitehead ad, April 1937.

“This refuse container is attached inside sink door. Provides for the bag system of disposal.” Whitehead ad, April 1937.

The streamlined kitchen below was described in an editorial article in Woman’s Home Companion, October 1937. The “noiseless counter tops” are linoleum, like the floor (they were certainly cheaper and lighter than modern countertops); “Soffit lights under the wall cabinets illuminate every working surface, with a central fixture for general lighting.” [Too bad there’s no light over the sink at nightime. Didn’t they wash dishes after dinner?]

A "Well-Planned Kitchen" described in Woman's Home Companion, October 1937.

A “Well-Planned Kitchen” described in Woman’s Home Companion, October 1937.

There are three work areas: sink and refrigerator, left,  and a work counter, right, are shown. The stove, with its flanking countertops and floor cabinets,  would be behind you in this view. One work area is that countertop with room to sit while you work. These cabinets also seem to be pre-fab enameled metal. (Ikea didn’t invent the piece-by-piece kitchen. Hoosier cabinets were free-standing, too.)  The wall cabinet to the left of the sink has a perforated door to give air circulation to the ever-present garbage pail.

I certainly recognize that kitchen color combination of yellow and red plus black, and those triangular display shelves from my childhood. My parents’ friend “Aunt” Lillian had them — decorated with Fiestaware pitchers and her collection of colorful, souvenir salt and pepper shakers; but my favorite thing in her kitchen was a black cat clock that rolled its eyes and twitched its tail. Sometimes having a sense of humor is better than having impeccable good taste!

To read about a more primitive kitchen from 1949, click here.

 

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1930s, Appliances, Bathrooms, Cars, Daily Life "Back Then", Kitchens, Vintage Ads

A Pump in the Kitchen, 1949

Ad for Myers Water System, Better Homes and Gardens, February 1930.

Ad for Myers Water System, Better Homes and Gardens, February 1930.

This ad is a mother’s fantasy circa 1930, when the kitchen sink might or might not have a faucet and running water. (And if you really want a ‘farmhouse sink,” take another look at the one in that ad.)

A Visit to the Dakotas, Autumn, 1949

My mother, my Grandma, and me, in Las Vegas, 1949.

My Mother, my Grandma, and me, passing through Las Vegas, 1949.

In 1949 my mother loaded me (too young for school), her own mother, and a few suitcases into a second-hand Studebaker and set out on a three month road trip to New York, with stops along the way at points of interest. washington's boyhood home 500

We also stopped to meet — and stay with — distant members of my father’s family in the midwest and the Dakotas. For the three generations — Grandmother, Mother, and me — who grew up on the San Francisco Peninsula, with the green slopes of the Coast Range to the west and the Bay and Mt. Diablo to the east, the flatness of the Dakotas was not attractive. I remember watching miles and miles of dull brown scenery (it was November) through the window of the car, and finally a tiny pointed object — I thought it was a distant Christmas tree — appeared on the horizon. It got bigger as we came closer, as if it were growing, and resolved itself into a church steeple. We had reached a town.

Norwegian Lutheran Church, Milnor, North Dakota. Photo fron archives of NDSU.

Norwegian Lutheran Church, Milnor, North Dakota. Photo fron archives of NDSU.

We were going to spend the night at a house in that town. I don’t know the name of the town, but our relatives definitely did not live on a farm. They had neighbors on all sides. Almost as soon as we entered the house, the housewife ushered us into the kitchen to show us a wonderful home improvement that her husband had just finished installing . . .

Ad for Fairbanks-Morse Home Water System, Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

Ad for Fairbanks-Morse Home Water System, Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

. . . she finally had running water in her kitchen! In America, in 1949. But it didn’t come out of a faucet; a pump, like the one in this picture, was attached to her drainboard, and she could lift the handle and pump cold water right into the sink. She was thrilled. (And well she might be, compared to lugging heavy buckets of water in from the yard for washing and cooking and bathing.) As I remember, the drainboard and sink were dark gray (probably zinc), not porcelain or tile like the ones I was used to seeing in Redwood City:

Most homes I visited  in the 1940s had a kitchen sink like this one, from Better Homes and Gardens magazine, Feb. 1930.

Most homes I visited in the 1940s had a kitchen sink like this one. From Better Homes and Gardens magazine, Feb. 1930.

Our happy hostess still had to heat all her water on the stove, but she didn’t have to go outside for it, which was a good thing, because it began to snow that night.

Of course, without running water there was no flush toilet in the house. I suppose the chamber pot under the bed was too big for a child to use (or already full), so, in the middle of the night, my mother had to throw on an overcoat and her galoshes, dress me the same way, and take me outside to use the outhouse. She had a flashlight for the purpose, but there were no streetlights or lighted windows to soften the blackness of a night when snow was falling. And there were no fences between the back yards, so it was easy to get disoriented.

When we came down to breakfast the next morning, our hostess had already received a crack-of-dawn visit from her irate next-door neighbor. Someone from our house had used this neighbor’s outhouse! This was incredibly rude, and might start a feud that lasted years. There was no denying it — a track of footprints in the snow led from our back door to the wrong outhouse. In the daylight, we could see that the two outhouses were perhaps fifteen feet apart. (Both houses had located these noxious outbuildings as far from their back doors as possible, close to their property lines.)

This adventure stuck in my four-year-old mind — the pump in the kitchen and the trip to the outhouse — because Redwood City had had municipal water and sewage lines for a long time. (Those in Menlo Park were built around 1917 to accomodate Camp Fremont Army Base.) Our friends, the Halletts, still lived on their family’s ranch in Woodside — my father once kept a herd of cattle there — but by 1949 their farmhouse kitchen had hot and cold running water, and their bathrooms had flush toilets and warm baths, just like houses in town.  By 1930, Better Homes and Gardens magazine had plenty of ads for home water systems that could be installed on farms or in towns where people depended on well water.

Water for the Mere Turning of a Tap: The Kitchen Faucet

BHG apr 1930 p 161  top oldest water system myers147“Down the centuries stretches the immemorial line — carrying home the daily water supply from stream and lake, from spring and pond, from cistern and fountain, from well and pump — in an unbroken chain of Yesterdays. Today the picture changes. Modern housekeeping, with its emphasis on cleanliness, its insistence on sanitation, hygiene, comfort and convenience, requires water in greater quantities than ever before. Human effort, however willing, cannot keep up with the demand. Nor does it need to when a simple low-cost machine and a few lengths of pipe supply more water for the mere turning of a tap, than could be delivered by many weary hours of carrying.”

Myers water system ad, Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

Myers water system ad, Better Homes and Gardens, April 1930.

Most of these water systems (“for operation by hand, windmill, electricity or gasoline engine”) cost about $75 in 1930, which was a lot of money, when you could buy a kit to build an entire pre-fabricated five room house for $483:

Aladdin ready-to-build house kits, 1930. Ad from Better Homes and Gardens.

Aladdin ready-to-build house kits, 1930. Ad from Better Homes and Gardens.

In just one magazine, I found ads for water systems from the F.E. Myers & Bro. Company,  General Electric, General Motors’ Delco Light (which made the ‘Waterboy’ system, ) and Fairbanks-Morse.

BHG feb 1930 feb p93 myers water system no pump and carry 500“Housekeepers who are still struggling with the old pump-and-carry method of water supply, might think ‘There is something wrong with that picture.’ But it really takes very little coaxing to get ‘help with the dishes’ when there is plenty of water always on tap and no heavy buckets to lug. The task is so shortened that even the youngsters enjoy it.  Living beyond city water mains no longer means doing without running water. Thousands of suburban and country homes are being modernized each year with the help of the reliable MYERS Self-Oiling Water Systems. A few cents worth of gasoline or electric power per day, gives you complete service — running water any time, day or night — in kitchen, bathroom, laundry — for lawn and garden — for garage, stock watering and fire protection.”

Most Americans take faucets with hot running water in the kitchen and bath for granted. But my grandmothers grew up without them. And even in 1949, in a small town in the Dakotas, one woman’s life was vastly improved when she got, not a “water system,” but a primitive hand pump installed in her kitchen. We have it easy.

(In many places in the world, women and children still walk miles a day to carry water to their families. Charities like Oxfam and Heifer International , among others, make it possible to donate a water pump with life changing results. Oxfam America received a Four Star (excellent) rating from Charity Navigator. Heifer International spends 23.6% of its income on fundraising, and received only Two Stars, but a family that receives a goat, a heifer, or a flock of chickens is required to give one of their offspring to another villager, and I like that idea.)

1 Comment

Filed under 1940s, 1950s, Appliances, Bathrooms, Daily Life "Back Then", Kitchens, Vintage Ads, Vintage Photographs