Tuesday, January 3, 2012

3 January 1933 “ More on the Kitchen and Reader Comments”

I thought I’d answer some of the comment questions to start today’s post off. It seems such a whirlwind of a year already that I have not quite felt to have donned my 30’s persona as yet. I have still to get my hair bobbed and a few books are in the mail currently to help aid my life and our reference for this year. But, I feel more prepared than I did on that first innocent day of 1 January 1955, that is for sure.

One commenter asked about the Dreft advert we watched yesterday. She had mentioned it is still sold in stores today under the guise of being for ‘baby’s clothes’. She had noticed the box in the ad had a picture of a slip and asked if back then the same soap was used for all things. It is quite true that commercial soap, still a really new thing since the turn of the 20th century, was certainly an all in one use. One may easily use the soap for clothes, floor, dishes and even one’s hair.

Dreft was actually the first ever synthetic soap and it was invented and first marketed in 1933 by Proctor & Gamble. It was an improvement in such things as dishwashing as it left no spotty residue. This was due to the fact that it was synthetic and did not leave the lime scum deposit that natural soap does. However, the synthetic soap really proved to be only good at treating lightly soiled items or dishes and today is marketed to mother’s for children’s washables. It is considered quite good for delicates as it is less harsh than a natural soap. But, in 1933 as a new product, many homemakers would have most likely continued to use good ole fashioned soap and Fels-Naptha. Today’s Fels- Naptha no longer contains the Stoddard Solvent  once found in it. HERE is more about the Stoddard Solvent and its toxicity. (Naptha is a by product of the Stoddard Solvent it once did. This is most likely because Naphtha is actually a component of natural gas. It contained the same elements today used in things such as lighter fluids and camp stoves.

This might sound odd or even dangerous, but my 1907 homemakers manual has the homemaker using the new product Gasoline as a means to clean and get rid of tough stains.

But back to the original question, yes indeed today many of the ‘variety’ of cleaners are simply similar items packaged and sold so that we do indeed by more. Soap and water with Fels Naptha thrown in was the basic booty for the homemaker. Things, which we have discussed before, such as vinegar and baking soda also being in the homemakers arsenal.
As we enter the 1930’s we begin to see a sampling of the marketing moving towards the post WWII years when it really gets into full swing.

Our lovely Danish follower Sanne, pointed out how lucky many were in the US even in the Depression era of the 1930s. She pointed out that Denmark and much of Europe than had no dishwashers nor even such stoves as I presented. There was outdoor pumps for water and hand washing for clothes. And in fact, even in the US, many very poor families would have continued to live this way. It isn’t until Roosevelt’s New Deal starts taking affect with the Works program, that much of rural USA will begin to get power. That was one of the main jobs created at the time to bring electricity to all. So in 1933 there very likely was a hard working farm wife cooking over her wood stove, washing her clothes in a tin a pumping her water by hand.

What we are beginning to see presented as the norm here in the 1930 is simply the wish to create that goal of the homemaker. The need to get more. Certainly we do appreciate the easier way of living, as the older mother in this short from the late 1930’s will tout, “Unless you have cooked over a wood stove and pumped water outdoors, you cant really appreciate these modern kitchens.” But, in reality, many people in the US were not living in these modern homes and that great equalizer of mass production and consumerism will not really take affect en mass until after the coming World War II which most have not even considered here in 1933.

Let’s watch this short clip of these ladies, obviously in the late 30s (notice the shoulder pads starting and the hair styles becoming a bit longer).

But, in point of fact many kitchens in the 1930’s may have resembled this one here in the well made cartoon by Max Fleischer Dreamland.  I will talk more about Fleischer in a future posts.It is worth a watch and at about minute 2:05 we see a kitchen most likely viewed by the working and lower classes even in the 1930s.

Now, another example of  the dream kitchen can be seen in this  1934 commercial to be shown at the ‘pictures’ for None Such coffee. Honestly, there is a lot of mid 50’s in the early 1930’s hair. Though, we must remember, most kitchens would not be this up to date and would be, as many of you asked, still quite 1920’s or even 1900’s depending on ones budget or needs.


If I do manage to make over my kitchen for this year’s project it would be,I think, more a mix of 1900’s-1920’s as that would most likely be what I would have here in 1933. Perhaps a ‘new range’ would be budgeted, but my Hoosier cabinet or old sink would still stand me well. And for the whole my kitchen would most likely be a more freestanding variety rather than the built ins the Steel companies and their ilk are touting as the New and Best style kitchen of Tomorrow. To me, one can see the relative ease of mopping and keeping clean the floor of this kitchen to one with fitted cabinets where one might even trap vermin and be unable to access it.

This type of image makes me feel more homey and want to be in the kitchen then some of the more cold and mass produced looks of the fitted kitchen of the 1950’s or today. And this variety of a more fitted kitchen, as seen in these wonderful flicr photos, are quite lovely and practical, I feel. (click image to visit the flikr stream where I found this photo.)1920skitchen

Part of the challenge this year will be how best to represent all aspects of the 1930’s. The vast differences between a young working mother whose husband is without work, the farmers, the middle class woman who can still manage to have a ‘day girl’ and the literal homeless in breadlines is staggering. It seems to me that in the 1950’s post WWII years, the economy was  just set to do better. Our manufacturing was amped up, we had no actual damage to our own country (save Pearl Harbor) and there was money to be made, houses to be built and more from the bottom had a chance to rise to the middle. Easy well paying jobs were beginning to increase with all the manufacturing and increasing technologies. While, the 1930’s sat an entire decade post war. It is almost as if that one decade following such great war is the only opportunity to go full tilt into a sort of monetary ecstasy. And certainly the continued speculation on Wall street and the general feeling in the 1920’s seemed like Shangri-La compared to the Great War Years.

So, I shall try my best to address situations of a ‘typical’ homemaker of the lower to middle, middle class. I will try to include other aspects as well. For example, there were still families with a maid, though not as many but certainly more middle class domestic help was around than would be in the 1950s. The increasing taxation would continue to put out of reach the hope of domestic help for the middle class as well as more job opportunities for those seeking work as a domestic.

Here we are only three days in and I feel like there is so much to learn and I am so excited to do so. Yet, I truly want to both reveal all the apsects of the home and society and politics and the news and the growing unrest in Europe and the ensuing Depression. Oh, my, but it is a lot. I hope you will enjoy the way I try to unfold it all for you and am so excited to discuss more with all of you. I wonder if I should make a separate section in our forum for the 1930’s? Though possibly simply prefacing any new forum posts or topics with “1930s” may be a good way to keep it all together. Because I already begin to see some of what becomes of the 1950s forming her in the 1930’s.

Well, much to do and I have a home to run as well. I look forward to all your comments and as always, Happy Homemaking.


  1. Your post is a trip down memory lane for me. I grew up in a 2 family house and my grandma lived upstairs and my dad, mom and us kids lived downstairs. Grandma was born in 1885 so she was a middle-aged homemaker in the 30s. She had a black kerosene range that also heated the room. Across from it was a Hoosier cabinet in medium oak and on the table was a toaster with the drop down sides. And she always used the old drip coffeemaker as in the coffee ad. She used all of these things til 1970. Wish the appliances today would last as long, don't you?

  2. Dear 30s Gal,
    I have loved reading every single new post that you have posted and totally love when you include photos and vidoes off of Youtube. The new photos you posted today are fantastic. I love the black and white photo of the kitchen and would trade my 2008 style kitchen in for it without even blinking an eye. I saw that one of your posters had made a comment about *Cooking with Clara, Depression era cooking*. I LOVED IT and I am so glad that everyone is sharing these kinds of *finds*. What a wonderful lady, and she is sooo full of spunk! Loved when she was being interviewed and she said *And as far as working out goes, FORGET all that jogging and sweating! You want a work out?? GO SCRUB YOUR FLOORS BY HAND!* I surprised my husband last night when I told him I wanted a clothes line. I live in the south so its very humid but I am thinking I can still make it work. I have only hung out laundry one time (15 years ago) and I hate to say it, but I had no clue how to properly *hang it* maybe with the recent talk of laundry soaps ect. you might do a laundry post on how to properly put it on the line! My stuff was stiff as a board and indent marks from the pegs LOL I want to get a vintage laundry bag ect for my pins. I think I have hubs talked back into us doing chickens again. We had them at our old home but bought this one brand new and had to leave the chicken coop behind. We had our chickens since babies and I miss fresh eggs. Thanks again for your so very awesome blog!! I look forward to it everyday!!

  3. My grandmother had a 1930's kitchen and of course a summer kitchen through a breezeway so she would not heat up the house. I had forgotten how open and wonderful it felt until I looked at your post. I love the no cabinets to the floors as it would be so much easier to keep all clean.

    I am excited to learn with you and need to mention that all the way until 1986 we used the 2 hole out house at my grandmothers as she saved the bathroom from adults-in central Ohio!

  4. Every couple of weeks or so I check in here and get caught up on your blog. I am very excited about your new venture. I was worried that your 50's life would start to seem so every-day to you that you would stop posting the simple things, like what you pack for your husband's lunch :) , so I am glad that you will have new resources for cooking, housekeeping, entertaining, fashion, and everyday life to share!

    I am especially interested in the Depression era, as my grandmother has many stories to share about growing up and starting married life on a farm. The hard times lasted into the '40's in the Upper Ohio River valley.

    I also took a history course in college on the time between the wars, and it was one of the most memorable and fascinating parts of my college career.

    Robyn V (I've posted before, but probably using another name - Daisy Paradise? I've given up on the internet handles now that I'm old.)

  5. Your blog answered a question, specifically about Gasoline being used for cleaning! OK - so yesterday I was nosing around You Tube to see if there were any videos relating to 1930's kitchens. One was a short 1930's dramatic silent movie [ruined, for reasons unexplained, by the addition of techno music- so I hit the "mute"] titled "1930's Kitchen Fire Accident - Kids Save The Day". I absolutely could NOT understand why the homemaker had a container of Gasoline on her kitchen counter, next to a wash tub.

    Now I know! Thanks!

    Your research, information, and attached photos are videos are great - already so interested in all things 1930's that you're posting!!

  6. Thanks again for the fascinating posts. My grandmother, born in 1908 and married in the mid thirties was middle class (married to a pharmacist). She told me that Pa insisted that she have a woman in to do the weekly wash, but I don't think she had any other home help at that time. I'm pretty sure washing machines weren't available in Australia in the 30s, and, as I'm sure you know, we Aussies always hang our washing out to dry, even today.

    Gran and Pa lived in the tiny flat at the back of the pharmacy with their children and Gran's mother until the end of the war - they had bought a block of land before the war but the rationing of building materials meant that they couldn't build. The house they eventually built was a small three bedroom home by today's standards but seemed huge and very modern to them - although one of the three kids had to share with grandma.


  7. Where our family lived, in Boston during the 1930, the flats had only cold water . Most of our neighbors could not afford ice so there were no ice boxes, and since gas was so dear, most paid at the bakery to bake their bread there rather than at home. It is nice to look at your magazine shots of fancy kitchens from the 1930s, but do not be fooled into thinking that those were the norm, it would be like looking at an Arch. Digest today and thinking that is typical of the 2012 home.

  8. anon-Oh, no believe you me I am going to be covering all the aspects of the Depression and as I said here, if you watch the Cartoon you can see a more realistic kitchen for many Americans, Old wood stove, very little and pumping water. Just as I never thought, in 1955, that the kitchens of all homes looked like the magazines of the day. But, I think its important to show what even poorer families may have been viewing in magazines or peering in shop windows of the day.

  9. I love the last photo,I wish I could do my kitchen like that.

  10. I was just pondering today on your theme of 1930's kitchens. I was thinking about Shirley Temple movies. Some of my favorite scenes in her movies are in the kitchen. It is such a fun glimpse into the past.

    I also had a question. You mentioned that you had purchased some shoes for your 1930s year. Were these new or vintage? If new where did you find them.

    I am enjoying your new theme of 1930s. Thank you!

  11. Love the photos! It too makes me want to go in the kitchen and start cooking/baking. People have so much "stuff" (blender/hand mixer/chopper/juicer etc.), but don't really need it. My husband grew up living the village/farm life & although I'm going to visit soon, your blog reminds me that yes, it is possible to incorporate some of the simpler things in every day life...now.
    Happy venturing into the 30's. As always, look forward to your posts.

  12. I am 40 and I remember my mom bathing my sister and I in Dreft soap when we were little. The scent of Dreft still makes me happy. I also remember my grandmother handing us a can of gasoline to wash the paint out of our chore clothes-it worked! I still keep a bar of Fels Naptha soap handy to spot treat soiled items and it works surprisingly well. I guess some ideas are meant to last (but I won't be cleaning with gasoline . . .)

  13. I am so glad Fels Naptha and Kirks Castile Soap is still available at the grocers. Give me the basic good stuff any time. I am always worried that next time I go it will not be there!! Sarah

  14. I definitely like the colors of the '30s better than the '50s. The wallpaper is pretty too!

  15. I make my own laundry soap using Fels Naptha, washing soda (NOT baking soda) and Borax. It costs pennies a load and works a treat. There are "recipes" for it all over the internet. I followed this one: http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/laundrysoap.htm


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