Creating the Ideal Home, 1800-1939: Comfort and Convenience in America
October 2, 2013 to August 30, 2014
This exhibition explores how we got from the fireplace and washing clothes by hand to the many conveniences we take for granted today like automated electric appliances, plumbing and central heating.
The comforts and conveniences that define modern life did not come about overnight but evolved during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Daily chores became easier especially for the housewife as American inventors patented all sorts of labor-saving devices from the vacuum to the washing machine.
Technology also brought about ready entertainment and instant communication through the radio and telephone. Lighting advanced from the flickering candle to a bright, gas powered flame. Expectations forever changed with the introduction of electricity into homes beginning in the 1880s. Electrically powered devices like the light bulb and toaster defined the modern house by the roaring 1920s. The 1939 World’s Fair in New York City celebrated a “Century of Progress” with the debut of the television, a wonder that mesmerized visitors at the RCA building.
Over sixty objects dating from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries will be on exhibit showing the “latest” devices that no one could live without. In the final analysis, however, did these devices actually save time or did they create more work?