Daily life for the average American and the household chores changed incrementally, from the late 19th into the early 20th centuries, with the introduction of many technological innovations like electricity and the telephone. Wealthy Americans were the first to experience a home brightened by the electric light bulb. Electricity was the source of innovative inventions like the washing machines, refrigerators and vacuum cleaners.
The selected advertisements below illustrate such changes in daily living.
The article, "Telephone," published in St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, author Carpenter wrote “The Bell Telephone Company, first of its kind, was founded on July 9, 1877. . . . The telephone has consisted of the same basic components: a power source, switch hook, dialer, ringer, transmitter, and receiver.” [Carpenter 624]
The Encyclopedia of Global Brands, for the article on AT&T's origins, noted “Up until Bell's patent expired in 1894 Bell Telephone was the only company that could legally operate telephone systems in the United States. In 1899 AT&T acquired the assets of Bell, becoming the parent company of the Bell System instead of a subsidiary. After the patent expired independent telephone companies sprouted all across the United States. Within 10 years the number of telephones increased 1,163 percent. The primary difficulty with the new companies was that they were not connected, making it impossible for subscribers to different companies to call each other, a situation not resolved until 1914.” [AT&T 59]
In the book, Never Done: A History of American Housework, published in 1982, the author, Susan Stasser wrote “Between about 1890 and 1920, mass production and mass distribution brought new products and services—gas, electricity, running water, prepared foods, ready-made clothes and factory-made furniture and utensils—to a large number of American families.” [Strasser, 6]
Dirt Damnation and Disease Duster The Fra: a Journal of Affirmation, v. 10, no. 4, January, 1913, p. x.
3-in-one polish The Youth's Companion : the Best of American Life in Fiction Fact and Comment, v. 92, no. 46, November 14, 1918, p. 615.
Old English Wax The Youth's Companion : the Best of American Life in Fiction Fact and Comment, v. 92, no. 16, April 18, 1918, p. iii.
With the candle market in decline, the soap market evolved, by the late 1880s, when manufacturers of candles and soap discontinued their candles to a focus solely on the soap industry. Individual lines of brand name soap products, with new and unique ingredients, were manufactured. Soap advertisements increased, from 1890s to 1900, as sales demonstrated a profitable market.
Sapolio soap The Youth's Companion : the Best of American Life in Fiction Fact and Comment, v. 73, no. 42, October 19, 1899, rear cover.
James Pyle’s Pearline Washing Compound The Youth's Companion : the Best of American Life in Fiction Fact and Comment, v. 73, no. 42, October 19, 1899, rear cover.
Author Mary Ellen Snodgrass wrote in Encyclopedia of Kitchen History, “. . . into the 1900s when aluminum cookware became available, providing more even conduction of heat and thus ending spontaneous boil-overs that required tedious clean-up.” [Snodgrass, 350]
8 combo alum cooking The Youth's Companion: the Best of American Life in Fiction Fact and Comment, v. 92, no. 27, July 4, 1918, p. iv.
Aluminum Ware Set The Chicago Ledger, v. XLIX, no. 35, August 27, 1921, p. 21.
Sterling Silver Crystal Water Set The Chicago Ledger, v. XLIX, no. 35, August 27, 1921, p. 16.
By 1900, author Richard Digby-Junger wrote, "Interior housing spaces represented yet place to make a statement to visitors while preserving the individuality, utility, and privacy of their owners. Parlors, also known as best or sitting rooms to Victorians, were especially important. ... Furnishings needed to display a family's tastes in design and art while simultaneously revealing their history through judicious display of portraits, photographs, and other personal mementos." [Digby-Junger, 300]
Living Room Table items The Fra: a Journal of Affirmation, v. 10, no. 4, January, 1913, p. lviii.
Westclox The Youth's Companion: the Best of American Life in Fiction Fact and Comment, v. 92, no. 46, November 14, 1918, p. 613.
“As clocks came to represent shared, community time, rather that personal time, they especially needed regularity, consistency, and standardization. Accomplishing this required new tools and new skills.” wrote author, Andrews, in his article, “The Measure of Time,” published, in the multi-volume set, Science and Its Times. And as such, “The success of these devices and the mechanical view they engendered led to a cultural change.” [Andrews 448]
Woloson, Wendy A. "The Persuaders: Early American Advertisers And Marketers. (Cover Story)." Ephemera Journal 15.1 (2012): 8. America: History & Life. Web. 9 May 2016.
Norris, James D. Advertising and the Transformation of American Society, 1865-1920. New York : Greewood Press, 1990, 30. Print.
"AT&T." Encyclopedia of Global Brands. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Detroit: St. James Press, 2013. 59-62. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
Carpenter, Gerald. "Telephone." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Vol. 4. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 624. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.
Salsbury, Stephen. "Soap and Detergent Industry." Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 7. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003. 408. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.
Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Encyclopedia of Kitchen History. Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005, 350. Google ebook. Web. Accessed 21 Nov. 2016.
Digby-Junger, Richard. "Mass Market Magazine Revolution." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Vol. 3. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 299-302. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
Andrews, Peter J. "The Measure of Time." Science and Its Times. Ed. Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer. Vol. 3: 1450 to 1699. Detroit: Gale, 2001. 448. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
". . . Marketers deployed the many persuasive tools available to them to induce people to bring objects into their home, put things into their mouths, wear things on their bodies . . . " [Woloson]
". . . certainly the farm journals and religious periodicals all carried items of interest to women readers . . . " [Norris]