Monday, January 2, 2012

2 January 1933 “God is in the Details: The Wish List”

Here I am second day in 1933 and my head is swimming with wishful thoughts of ‘new’ vintage kitchen wear and appliances while my pocket book and 30’s thrift is reminding me much of that may have to remain a dream.

When I began 1955 I was very much a 21st century girl. I was no stranger to spending and to throw away money without thought was as easy as watching TV, just click a button and there you guy you bought something.

As 1955 progressed and I began to see much of the popularized notions of homes crammed with the latest thing was more advertising than reality. I began to look at my own life. And, for those who have followed along, here  that introspection on consumption has brought me 1933; trying to become even thriftier and to better understand our needs versus wants.

However, I am not an island unto myself and even simple research into old china patterns and appliances leaves a gal full of dreams. I can see myself swirling through my kitchen with my lovely 1930’s range daintily set upon her cabriole legs, a new art deco Electric coffee pot in my hand and the lovely full pinafore almost dress like apron picked out in floral and trimmed in lovely yellow and green, (the des rigueur colors of the 1930s). There are lovely pink glass candy dishes loaded with dainty sugared deadlies and my “modern” Electric refrigerator churns away happily in the corner, I laugh to myself recalling the ice-man deliveries of my childhood.

I am sure many a homemaker in the 1930’s dreamed such dreams but the harsh reality of the times certainly left those dreams as they were, puffs of candy floss air. For example I already have a 1950’s vintage electric percolator that works fine. It is not, true, accurate 1930’s, but it works exactly the same. I never got around to (see increasing thrift) redoing my kitchen into a more 1950’s accuracy with all matching appliances. Many of my items are 1950’s but I kept my 1970’s Jenn Air stove out of cost and necessity. Never finding that perfect 1950’s stove worth the money and trouble to buy. That makes one tempted to go at it now, with the 1930’s in mind.

But, now I am faced stirring up old desires of Want and keeping them tempered with need. I really do Want to make my 1933 year as accurate as possible. And, despite what time period I may do next, they would still be valid in the 1940s and 1950s. That, however, is the sort of argument one would use to convince themselves that their Wants are actual Needs when I know that is not so.

But, I do WANT to slowly add to my 1930’s recreated home, but economically. That is to say what I can get very cheap or free. As some have asked about appliances, I would love an old stove from the 1930’s and actually like the look of them more than some of the 1950’s variety. My Mother in law has a lovely kitchen with a vintage 1930’s cabriolet leg stove and oven that you have to light the pilot light. It is a beauty but I don’t even want to type what the reconditioned model cost her. She can afford it, I cannot.

Again, this move to a new decade shall challenge my Needs vs Wants, which is always a good thing when one is working on a budget. We sometimes need to challenge those notions before we find ourselve quietly slipping back into spending more than we have for some goal that most likely will not bring the happiness we so desire. It is a hard thing for we modern people to separate fulfillment and happiness with buying, collecting and owning. We are so bombarded with it in the 21st century that it is almost religion. I must often call upon my new 30’s gal for guidance as she forms and grows to understand the uncertain future her in the early years of the Depression.

And there shall be many ways, I am hoping, to make over my kitchen with craft, inventiveness and gumption. We shall see and I shall, of course share it with you. Many a homemaker collected her drinking glasses by carefully washing and preserving her fancy store bought jelly jars she may have received as a gift or took the notion to buy one trip to both provide food and dishes for her family. But, I digress.

Therefore for the fun of it I thought I’d make a running Wish list of 1930’s items to share with you. As their compilation will also be part of my study of the times, it will be stretched out over many posts I am sure. It is a good way to see what was being manufactured at the time and available, though not many could afford them as they could in the 1950’s. But, in this decade, we do see the beginning of the consumer credit movement with ‘buy on credit’ for everything from appliances to toys.

Today, let’s Wish list some of the Kitchen:

First and foremost I shall miss my dishwasher. I did not always use it but back in 1955 I chose to start using it again as I decided it was a gift from my hubby. Certainly in 1955 many more dishwashers were showing up in average homes all across America. Though they are available here in 1933, I most likely would not have offered one. Even had a wealthier relative thought fit to give me such a purchase, I most likely would have opted for an update in range or refrigeration and may not have even thought of a dishwasher, as hand washing would have been as normal as breathing.

 30skitchen1 Believe it or not, this is an image of the latest in a 1930’s kitchen. Look how 1950’s it actually looks with the metal cabinetry. The stove, more boxy, would be the latest design and that stainless steel cover next to the sink is the cover to the dishwasher.

dishwasherad Here we see the Happy Homemaker happily lifting the lid to such a dishwasher. If anyone had one they would give to me, on my local excursions, I might take them up on it as I would love to see how it works. But for now it shall be dishes by hand. I know many of you prefer dishes by hand, but some of the various chores I do, the dishwasher just seemed the appliance I loved as my little luxury. But, honestly, I hardly Need it.

Here is a 1937 commercial (seen in theatres of course, no TV) for Dreft soap showing a woman in her kitchen. No dishwasher here, of course.

rangead As I mentioned, I never gave in to buying that 1950’s range and so now have considered a 1930’s. This, too, would need to be quite cheap or something easily repaired. Here we see, at the top, the “Imperial” the grand design. This more closed in boxy shape, as we all now, will go to become the standard, even today. I prefer the Hostess (upper left) and the Lenox (lower left) as I love the look of the raised leg. As I mentioned my mother in law has such a range in her kitchen and under it sits lovely old things like an old handcrank ice cream maker. It leaves room for storage as well as display and a dream to mop under! Dream on, I suppose.

fridgead I also found it interesting that both models existed for refrigerators as well. We are all familiar with the upper left or ‘Monitor Top’ on legs as an image from the 1930’s kitchen. But, we see here too that the ‘Flat Top’ is also available. And will, of course, become the standard shape we are still familiar with today. I suppose the need to hold more eventually pushed out the style of teh cabriolet  legs, but if I were given the choice today I would choose the upper left, the Monitor top. Again, to mop underneath would be a dream. And I have recently learned how little icebox space I need, when we gave our fridge to our tenants to save money and I bought a dorm sized fridge. I have learned to live with almost no freezer space (more 1930’s for sure) and less cold space in general. Also taking advantage of my cold New England ell kitchen built to take advantage of the cold of the winter to keep food better.

These ‘Monitor Top’ refrigerators were the first ‘affordable’ refrigeration for the common man. They retailed around $300 dollars and would be sold on credit for about $10 a month. Adjusting for inflation $300 1933 dollars would be $4997.11 today.

In an article I found that these old monitor tops were built to last and here is a quote that says it all:

Hermetically sealed and permanently lubricated, the GE Monitor Top refrigerator remains the most recognized and most dependable refrigerator ever built. Hundreds, if not thousands, of these units remain in service today, offering their owners “quiet”, “dependable” and “service free” refrigeration.

In many cases they really did build to last and they are even suppose to be more energy efficient due to their tight seal.

30skitchen2 Here we see a dream kitchen ad from the mid 1930’s. The Deco linoleum is lovely and the cream yellow and pistacio green are the “ 1950’s Pink and Turqoise” of the 1930’s. Such a soothing palette. And though I love such a kitchen as this, I actually would rather have one more like this. 30skitchen3 A more free standing space to me makes cleaning easier and I love the old Hoosier cabinets that became popular in the pre-fitted kitchen years of the 1910’s. These would still have been used in kitchens into the 1930s.

Really, the wish list of Kitchen could go on and on, so I may save more for another day. I just want to start getting my feet wet by getting the lay of the land and seeing what a 1930’s average life looked like. Though there was no real average as the vast divides between what someone had in the 1930’s was far greater than the great equilizer of the suburbs of the 1950’s. I will talk more about that tomorrow and discuss “dish night” a fun promotion for the Depression Era homemaker.

Happy Homemaking to all, now I have to get back to my housework and sorting through the flotsam and jetsam of how to best create this 1933 life.

Happy Homemaking.


  1. Oh I would LOVE one of those '30s ranges! First though we would need to meet our minimum goal of buying our own home to put it in (this is our wish for the year.)

    It's interesting how similar the kitchen is to a 1950s one. My dream kitchen leans a bit more to the '20s with white subway tile.

    Yes, you can live without the dishwasher. I've found the only advantage for me of a dishwasher is that you can hide the dirty dishes. We use ours just as a dish drainer (it doesn't wash very well) so constantly have the dirty ones in the sink casting judgment on my slovenly ways.

  2. I think most kitchens of the 30's that I have seen are more like the freestanding kitchens in the last picture. I prefer those, myself. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

    One summer when I was a student worker at a university library, I had a lot of time on my hands in between duties. I spent most of that time poring over bound issues of vintage homemaking magazines. Over the course of that summer, I went from 1925 to 1989 in several old magazines. It was a delight to read even the advertisements, let alone the articles. So much changed over so little time. One thing I really remember is how a lot of the pre-1950's magazines had articles about polio and avoiding it in the summer months. The next summer, I browsed even older magazines stored on microfilm. It wasn't as much fun viewing on microfilm, but the changes from the turn of the century to the 1920's were so dramatic.

  3. Lady of the house, what a wonderful summer job! You were lucky to have such a well stocked library.


  4. I adore the new look of your blog. I was watching a documentary yesterday on a grand home in the 30's and the lady of the house had a bedroom all in the most beautiful shade of celadon green.

    I don't have a dishwasher in my home and prefer washing by hand anyway, a habit picked up from an old apartment with a broken dishwasher. I'm currently reading a book of letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto and Avis talks about the new dishwashers in kitchens and how she thinks they are more work than they are worth going into detail about having to rinse dishes first and then load and unload, etc. Not much has changed! And these letters were written in the 1950's.

  5. Very excited about 1933. I have a stove you would drool is my new one (1936), as my old one,(1932) was down to one burner and oven not working...btw my new one was from craigslist for 300.00, and already fitted for propane( my hubby is a genius at modifying things though). Just ask around, folks are willing to part with grannies old fridge or stove if they know someone will love and use them. We put an old cast iron sink in our kitchen, as well as other "modernizations" in our 112 yr old house. I love to come home, open the door, and walk back in time. And my grown children all say the same thing. Our next thing to keep on the look out for is a wood cook stove..... I have the flue, and space already! Ma Kettle

  6. the first kitchen reminds me of a kitchen we had in a house once, i think it was identical to it only it was a 1950s kitchen including the stove, I really can't wait to see what else this life style brings for you goodluck.

  7. Oops, also, I have the stove in the bottom picture in my barn....don't know if it works, but if I lived near you, I would give it to you......we are way to far away, but I'll wager someone who lives by you has something they would part with....Another cool idea my sweetheart did was take an old parlor stove and fit a ventless gas fireplace set up in it, and we use it for backup heat in emergencies.
    Best to you in the new year, blessings, Ma

  8. If you can hunt down a copy, I highly recommend "The Creation of a Home: A mother advises a daughter" by Emily Newell Blair. From around 1930. Mrs. Blair was born in 1877, so it's interesting to see the contrast of what she remembers of being a young homemaket vs her modern daughter. It discusses decor, entertainimg, homemaking, and budgets. Mrs. Blair was heavily involved in politics, so much of the advice is supremely practical im nature, for example recmending minimalism and simplicity in decor to make housekeeping easier if it's not to your taste, since fewer possessions require less care

  9. My mom had that imperial stove through the 50s when I was growing up. It was a good design with deep drawers for bakeware and pans.

  10. hm settoon-thanks for the tip I am going to a few of our resale book shops tomorrow and will try to find that. It sounds a very good one for this year!
    Thank you all for the cheers and I am glad you are happy about the 1930s. For those that aren't don't worry the 50's are still there for me to reference and we shall return one day.

  11. A girl must dream! Although the spirit of the thirties is to make do and mend, to keep what you already have and not buy new things, you are allowed to dream. :) And perhaps you will be lucky to find some thrift beauties on your way. I’m sure you will make a little pin money from your jewellery business. I have thought about your Etsy shop (I LOVE Etsy), I see a lot of different handmade and upcycled lovelies out there. I’ve just bought some really lovely lipbalms, but also creams and soaps. Perhaps this is an idea for your business too. You could make lovely vintage inspired (fifties or thirties, or both, your choice) labels, and everybody would go crazy about your products. :)

    I forgot to ask about fridge and freezer? It was certainly not know in Denmark in 1933, is it in the US? In Denmark you could rent a little space in a freezer in the larger cities, but in the country side you had a tiny closet hanging in the shadow outside.

    I also want to ask what your hubby thinks about 1933? I think he got very adopted to the fifties, I remember him dressing fifties too. What about the thirties? Do tell us.

    That kitchen does not look thirties to me, way too modern.

    Again I want to let you know how lucky you are to live in the US. I’m sure you would not have wanted to live in 1933 in Denmark/Europe, since we had absolutely NO modern appliances, we had to pick up water from a pump outside and carry in wood for the fireplace and stove. I don’t think many dream of living like that again, at least not for a very long time. The US version is very luxurious compared to Denmark. But I look very much forward to reading about your adventures, since I know you don’t do things half-hearted. :)

    Happy New Year to you both.

  12. Love the "want" vs "need" commentary. One of THE best economic questions, and so simple a question too. Sometimes a "need" can be something expensive; sometimes the "wants" don't really cost that much but taken altogether over the course of time really, really add up, and become a sneaky way even the best budget can be destroyed.

    OK - the top loading dishwasher - brilliant. Wonder at what point the brilliance of that design gave way to the pain-in-the-back-lean-over-constantly "modern" design of the front load dishwasher? I'd LOVE one that loads from the top, right next to the sink!!

    I wonder what the ratio of modern kitchens was in the 30's; or did most at the time still have in place 1920's kitchens? Much like how today our home has a "1980's" style kitchen even though it's 2012, because we haven't updated it (time/$). Meanwhile many of our neighbor friends have begun updating their kitchens; the difference is striking. I joke that if we wait long enough, our kitchen will be vintage and cool ha ha.

    Those Hoosier cabinets - those things are AWESOME. Made to last, last, last and very handy designs, too. I really believe at one point we lost the art of kitchen design.

  13. Awhile ago, about the same time I stumbled across your initial blog, I found on You Tube a kitchen design from the 30's or 40's, part of University of Illinois project on home design. What struck me was despite the date how absolutely handy, practical, and smart the design was. Little things like a small slide "door" in the counter top that opened into a garbage can below - super easy counter clean up. Storage bins and pan storage areas that all made 100% sense.

    I haven't been able to find it again - you do such excellent research - maybe you've already seen it or might find it while researching the 30's? At any rate it was very cool! Sadly not even the most simple but smart design ideas from that project seem to make it into our modern kitchens. Seems now it's more about looks than function, forgetting that there can be both!

  14. Dreft is still on the market today, but is sold as a laudry soap for baby clothes. I noticed in the commercial that the packaging has the outline of a slip on it. I wonder if women of the 30's bought soap with the idea that soap was soap and could clean any household item. It makes one wonder if different detergents for different items is needed or just a marketing ploy?

  15. So many good comments I think I might just answer some of them in today's post. See you there.

  16. I just recently sold my old stove you are wanting. I also had a monitor top fridge but sold it, too. I could of completed your dream kitchen, including the Hoosier and the little table and chairs in the picture. I would of been happy to share just to have them out of the garage!
    I have always been interested in the Depression Era and will enjoy your new venture!

  17. My parents recently brought me down a Hoosier cabinet that is to stay in the family. I really love it, and it is in my dining room. I really wish I had a place for it in my kitchen, but due to the layout I have no wall space. A Hoosier was the only cabinet space most people had. I'm certain that first dream kitchen wasn't the norm for most, the second much more likely :-) When I look at my kitchen amass with cabinets, it's hard to believe that just a Hoosier cabinet would work, but as my mom said, you didn't have extras. You had as many cups, plates, bowls, etc. as were people in the house. Seems odd when I think about that now... I wonder why everything was so minimalistic in the 30's, if the 20's were roaring?


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