Appliances make our lives more convenient, and it's no surprise that people want to buy machines that take some of the work out of our daily routine. However, you may be surprised to learn that the politics of the early 20th century created big markets for new gas and electric appliances.
Around that time, the United States restricted immigration. Domestic labor became more expensive. At the same time, inventors found new ways to use gas and electricity to drive machines. Newly formed utility companies started wiring cities for power and piping gas into homes.
Companies such as General Electric and Electrolux found a growing market for gas- and electric-powered stoves, washers, refrigerators, irons and vacuum cleaners. But these so-called time-saving devices did not result in less time devoted to housework. Some wealthy women who had depended on servants now did the work themselves. The less well-to-do were expected to work harder to maintain a higher level of cleanliness.
Yet with the new appliances, solving the fundamental problems of day-to-day life -- darkness, dirt and biting cold -- became less backbreaking and troublesome.
Along the way, a slew of home appliances -- some iconic, some downright wacky -- were left on the scrap pile.