Food Firsts and Technological Marvels
"Pure Food for Pan-American Guests". Faxon, Williams and Faxon ad. Photocopy. Source: Buffalo Commercial (May 1, 1901) p.13 col. 4-5.
The Pan-American Exposition gave manufacturers the opportunity to exhibit their products and introduce the latest technological innovations to an eager and ready-to-buy public. In addition to the food company exhibits like those of the Libby's and the Quaker Oats Companies, the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building housed vendors showing off new tools and gadgets, some designed for industry and others for an up and coming market----the home.
"Wholesome and Healthful"
Many of the foods we recognize and still use today were developed during the period between 1850 and 1900. Many of these were exhibited at the Pan-American Exposition, where many vendors promoted the "healthful" effects of their products. Indeed the mid-to-late 19th century was a period which saw the beginnings of what we now know as "nutritional science." Scientists began to see a relationship between health and food and the advances in analytical chemistry and provided the scientific data to prove it.
Of course, advertisers jumped on this early incarnation of the adage, "you are what you eat." By 1901, food advertisements emphasized the "wholesomeness" and "healthfulness" of their products. The American Cereal Company's Quaker Oats ads echoed claims that its cereal "leads to good health" telling people to eat less meat and "more Quaker Oats" while Dold's Packing Company, insisted that their "Corn-fed porkers make sweet healthful food." At fairs and venues like the Pan-American Exposition, vendors distributed literature on tradecards and hired "barkers" to "sell" to the public the idea that their products would make a person feel better and live longer.
Advertisement for Armour's Extract of Beef. "A plate of clear soup made from Armour's Extract of Beef …". Source: This ad appeared in numerous popular magazines in 1901. Digitized from a printed microfilm image.
"For Health's Sake, Eat Ralston". Ralston / Purina Mills Ad. Source: Cosmopolitan, vol. 31, no. 5 (September 1901)
Eskay's Food Ad "It Nourishes From Infancy to Old Age". Source: Cosmopolitan, vol. 31, no. 5 (September 1901). Courtesy of Kerry S. Grant
"Pabst Malt Extract - The Best Tonic". Pabst Breweing Company Ad. Digitized from a printed microfilm image. Source: Harper's Bazar (September 1901) p. 31.
Dold's Hams and Niagara Bacon Ad. "Faultless Food Makes Perfect Health". Digitized from a printed microfilm image. Source: Ladies Home Journal (October 1899) p. 48.
Canned and Packaged Foods
Ironically, as the emphasis on eating healthier food grew, so did the public's desire for quick and easy to serve processed food products. The late 19th Century saw the development of the canned meat and fruit industries--Libby's, Armour's, Van Camp, Borden and Heinz were the giants of the day. During this period saccharin, synthetic vanilla, and flaked cereal also entered the market, as well as the myriad of soda pop brands, most of which are still in use today. The decade of the 1890's was an especially lucrative one for "quick food" producers with products like minute tapioca, "instant" cereal, condensed soup, and pre-ground coffee guaranteed to ease the labor of meal preparation.
The first metal cans/containers were patented by Englishman Thomas Kensett 1825. While canned meats, fruits and vegetables were produced in America on a limited basis prior to the 1850's, the Civil War "created a significant need for portable foods to feed the troops and as a result, the canning industry rapidly expanded."1 Opening canned foods was somewhat problematic until the invention of the can opener in the 1860's. Development of an opener was possible once cans were made of steel rather than iron.
The initial response to canned foods was one of skepticism and the age-old practice of "putting-up" preserves, fruits and vegetables at home continued in many middle-class kitchens. By the time the new century had arrived, hundreds of food products were being commercially prepared and sales began to indicate the American housekeeper was embracing the convenient new products. Not only did packaged goods bring economy to the kitchen in terms of time and convenience but the increased availability of fruits and vegetables all year round meant the family no longer had to dine according to what was in season.2
"When Hunger Comes — " Van Camp's Boston Baked Pork and Beans Ad. Digitized from a printed microfilm image. Source: Ladies Home Journal (May 1898) p. 23.
"White Label" Always ready Soups. Armour Packing Company Ad Digitized from a printed microfilm image. Source: unknown.
Van Camp's Macaroni and Cheese Ad. Digitized from a printed microfilm image. Source: Ladies Home Journal (April 1898) p. 48.
"A Breakfast for 2 cts. in 5 minutes". Ralston / Purina Mills Ad. Digitized from a printed microfilm image. Source: Ladies Home Journal (July 1899) p. 32.
"Cook's Flaked Rice for Breakfast — ". Source: Cosmopolitan, vol. 31, no. 5 (September 1901). Courtesy of Kerry S. Grant
Most processed foods were preserved in cans and containers made out of tin. Boxes proved ideal for cereal, salt, powdered gelatin, soups, etc.
"Hires Rootbeer & Carbonated ". The Charles E. Hires Company. Digitized from a printed microfilm image. Source: Ladies Home Journal (July 1899) p. 29.
Foods at the Fair
The Pan-American Exposition was not the first fair at which popcorn was a major concession. In his book "Popped Culture,"3 Andrew F. Smith discusses the history of popcorn and discusses its appearance at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. Besides the traditional popped corn sold by numerous vendors, visitors could try Frederick Rueckheim's special mixture of popcorn, molasses and peanuts. This concoction would eventually become "Cracker Jack."
While no one is exactly sure when the history of popcorn began, it was not until the late 19th century that it took on popularity as not only a snack food, but a healthful one at that. Ella Kellogg, wife of heath-food guru John Harvey Kellogg, (sister-in-law of future cereal magnate William K. Kellogg) promoted popcorn as more than a snack food. She urged people to eat it "in connection with other food at mealtime, and not as a delicacy between meals."4
Of course, popcorn found lasting popularity as a snack food and as such, become a lucrative concession at fairs and expositions. Popcorn concessions proved profitable not only to the concessionaires, but also to the exposition managers, who were paid sizable percentages of the proceeds. For instance, George A. Dirpberger, of Buffalo, was the popcorn vendor listed in the ledgers of Frederick William Taylor, the Head of Concessions at the Pan-American Exposition. While Mr. Dirpberger paid "regular rate" for the space he rented on the North Midway, he also paid 50% of sales to the Exposition operators.5
Popcorn Thieves Clean Up Until Caught
The Buffalo Express of 4 May 1901 reported popcorn vendors chanting such rhymes as: "Lovely eyes come shine and glitter; Buy your girl a popcorn fritter." Popcorn was a lucrative business at the Pan-American Exposition and on 23 August 1901 four males, ranging in age from 13 to 22, were arrested for stealing popcorn sales.
A few weeks earlier it became apparent to officials of the Exposition that their returns from the popcorn concession were not up to the mark. This concession was owned by George Dirpberger. The popcorn sold on the grounds was put up in consecutively numbered paper bags. In this way, Exposition officials were able to keep track of the percentage of profits accruing to the Exposition from this concession. When one of these bags was lost or stolen, the loss fell on Mr. Dirpberger. Culp and Smith, two of the accused males, were employed by Dirpberger in his headquarters on the north Midway. Clelland and Sullivan, the other two accused males, were employed on the small wagons that distributed the popcorn throughout the grounds.
The police reported that Clelland conceived the idea that if he could get possession of a sufficient number of these bags there was a small fortune to be made. Clelland unfolded a scheme to Sullivan and persuaded Culp and Smith to steal a quantity of the numbered bags from Dirpberger's headquarters each day. Culp and Smith were paid a cent a piece for each bag by the other two. The bags were then filled by Clelland and Sullivan and were easily disposed of, netting them a profit of 4 cents per bag.
Their plans were working like a charm, and it is estimated that the loss to Dirpberger through their operations had amounted to about $500, when they were discovered.
Source: Commercial, 24 August 1901.
Orangeade was sold at concession stands and booths scattered throughout the grounds of the Pan-American Exposition. This drink, developed during the Civil War, was a mixture of orange juice, an infusion of the orange peel, and thin sugar syrup. Orange or lemon syrups were also used to make ades. A pound and a half of sugar was added to pint of juice, a bit of the peel, and then boiled for ten minutes. The liquid was then strained and either bottled or served over ice.6
To find the locations of Orangeade vendors, see the map of the Softdrink Vendors, Restaurants and Toilets Located on the Exposition Grounds.
Ice Cream and Soda Water
Soda Water vendors on the Midway
The years leading up to the Pan-American Exposition proved to be periods of intense growth in the ice cream and soda water industries. Five million gallons of ice cream were being produced in the United States in 1899, largely due to the invention of mechanical refrigeration and new types of freezers.7 Soda water, which had its origins in medicine, first appeared in a flavored variety in the 1830's. It was a hit at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia but it wasn't until the ice cream soda was invented that the growth of both industries literally exploded. While there are numerous disputes as to who actually "discovered" this mixture of soda water and ice cream, there is no arguing its enormous popularity. By 1895, there were 50,000 to 60,000 soda fountains in the United States, operating in drug stores, restaurants, confectionaries and roadside push carts.8 It is no wonder that an event the size of the Pan-American Exposition needed at roughly 20 ice cream and soda water vendors. (See the map of Softdrink Vendors, Restaurants, etc. )
The ice cream soda continued to gain popularity well into the 20th century. However, during the last decade of the 1800s, the soda water industry was also growing in a direction that did not include ice cream. While root beer was being produced in mass quantities as early as 1876 and the first cola flavored beverages were introduced in the mid-1880's, the development of the modern soft drink industry was made possible by the invention of the Crown bottlecap in 1892. "Tiny in design, the crown completely revolutionized the soft drink industry by preventing the escape of carbon dioxide from bottled beverages. In fact, it was the dominant soft drink closure for more than 70 years."9
More Food Firsts
In 1901, Quaker Oats cereals and the Natural Food Company's Triscuit were relatively new products, having been developed in 1891 and 1895 respectively. Others fledgling products included Cream of Wheat, Jell-O, Canada Dry Ginger Ale, Michelob beer and the Hershey bar. By the advent of the Pan-American Exposition, the country had experienced a number of "food firsts," many of which debuted at other world's fairs and expositions. Here are a few examples:
- 1874--Ice cream soda
Robert M. Green, a concessionaire at a fair in Philadelphia, claims to have invented the ice cream soda when he substituted it from the cream he added to soft drinks. While the origin of the soda cannot be verified, Green's story seems to be the most well-known.
- 1876--Hires Root Beer
Hires Root Beer debuted at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
- 1886 -- Coca Cola
First sold by pharmacist John Pemberton as a tonic, this drink contained cocaine.
- 1890's -- Peanut Butter
Dr. John Harvey Kelloggs' patent for the "Process of Preparing Nut Meal" in 1895 described "a pasty adhesive substance that is for convenience of distinction termed nut butter." He developed this as a protein source for his vegetarian patients. Over the next 20 years, this nut meal would be refined into the peanut butter we know today.
- 1896 -- Cracker Jack
Molasses coated popcorn and peanuts are said to have been introduced at the World's Columbian Exposition by F.W. Rueckheim in 1893. By 1896, Louis Rueckheim discovered the process for keeping the molasses-covered popcorn from sticking together. The Cracker Jack was born. See FritoLay's Cracker Jack site at http://www.crackerjack.com.
- 1896 -- Tootsie Roll
Leo Hirshfield named this soft chewy candie after his daughter. http://www.tootsie.com/comp_history.php
- 1897 -- Condensed soup
The Campbell's company developed condensed soup in 1897. In 1900 Campbell's soups won the Gold Medallion for excellence at the Paris Exposition. This medallion has been featured on its labels ever since.
- 1897 -- Jello
Pearl B. Wait, from LeRoy, New York, developed a fruit-flavored version of Cooper's gelatin. It was given the name Jell-O by his wife and was available in strawberry, raspberry, orange and lemon flavors at the time.http://brands.kraftfoods.com/jello/explore/history/
- 1900 -- Coney Island Hot Dog
Charles Feltman opened the first Coney Island hot dog stand in 1900. The frankfurter had been introduced in the 1850's, but it was not until Antonoine Feuchtwanger of St. Louis improvised the hot dog bun in 1883 that this sandwich began to resemble the modern-day ball park standard. Frankfurter sandwiches or "red hots" were extremely popular at the World's Columbian Exposition because they were inexpensive and easy to eat.10 Visitors to the Pan-American Exposition could buy "Coney Island Hot Dogs" at the Indian Congress Restaurant.
- 1900 -- Cottolene
Made from cottonseed oil and beef tallow, this product was promoted as a healthy alternative to lard. In "Cottolene: The Mysterious Disappearance of Lard,"11 Alice Ross credits Cottolene with the demise of lard in the American diet. Cottolene was exhibited at the Pan-American Exposition by the N. K. Fairbank Company.
Other food firsts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries are listed below, courtesy of "The Food Timeline" at http://www.foodtimeline.org/
- 1872 -- Blackjack chewing gum
- 1876 -- Premium soda crackers (later Saltines)
- 1881 -- Pillsbury flour
- 1886 -- Coca-Cola
- 1887 -- Ball-Mason jars
- 1888 -- Log Cabin syrup
- 1889 -- Aunt Jemima pancake mix
- 1889 -- Calumet Baking Powder
- 1889 -- McCormick Spices
- 1889 -- Pabst Brewing Company
- 1890 -- Knox gelatine
- 1890 -- Libby introduces keys to canned meat
- 1890 -- Lipton tea
- 1891 -- Del Monte
- 1891 -- Fig Newton
- 1891 -- Quaker Oats Company
- 1893 -- Cream of Wheat
- 1893 -- Good & Plenty
- 1893 -- Juicy Fruit gum
- 1894 -- chili powder
- 1895 -- shredded coconut
- 1895 -- Triscuits
- 1896 -- Cracker Jack
- 1896 -- Michelob beer
- 1896 -- S&W canned foods
- 1896 -- Tootsie Roll
- 1897 -- Campbell's condensed soup
- 1897 -- Campbell's tomato soup
- 1897 -- Grape Nuts
- 1897 -- Jell-O
- 1898 -- Nabisco graham crackers
- 1898 -- shredded wheat cereal
- 1899 -- Wesson oil
- 1900 -- Chiclets gum
- 1900 -- cotton candy
- 1900 -- Hershey's chocolate bar
- 1901 -- instant coffee
- Ellen M. Plante, The American Kitchen, 1700 to the Present: From Hearth to Highrise (New York: Facts on File, 1995), p. 144.
- Ibid., p.145.
- Andrew F. Smith. Popped Culture : a Social History of Popcorn in America. Columbia, S.C. : University of South Carolina Press, 1999.
- Ibid., p.36.
- Frederick William Taylor Papers, 1897-1944. Collection No. 153. Held in the Department of Special Collections, UCLA. Special thanks to Carol A. Turley for her assistance with the ledger entries.
- "Invention Facts and Myths" The Great Idea Finder. Online. URL: http://www.ideafinder.com/history/of_inventions.htm. Last accessed 12 May 2002.
- Linda Stradley. History of Ice Cream Cones. c2004. Online. http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/IceCream/IceCreamCone.htm. Last accessed 10 June 2010.
- Anne Cooper Funderburg. Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla: A History of American Ice Cream. Bowling Green, OH : Bowling Green State University Press, 1995. p.97
- National Soft Drink Association. The History of America and Soft Drinks Go Hand in Hand. c1999. Online. http://www.nsda.org/softdrinks/History/history.html. Last accessed 12 May 2002. (Link no longer active).
- Linda Stradley. Hot Dogs - History and Legends of Hot Dogs. c2004. Online. http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/HotDog/HDIndex.htm. Last accessed 10 June 2010.
- Alice Ross. "Cottolene: The Mysterious Disappearance of Lard." Hearth to Hearth (February 2002.) Online. http://www.journalofantiques.com/Feb02/hearthfeb.htm. Last accessed May 5, 2002.
Food-Related Marvels at the Turn of the Century
Household Gadgets 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog—portion of p.102 Source: 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog. Fred L. Israel, ed. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1968.
The Pan-American Exposition allowed vendors and manufactures of housewares to demonstrate their products to a relatively new group of consumers-- housewifes. 1901 advertisements targeted those women longing for gadgets and appliances that would ease the most laborious of their chores--meal preparation. Furthermore they claimed that the husband who truly cared about his wife and her role in the household "owed" it to her to provide a kitchen full of every modern convenience. Indeed, the period between 1870 and 1900 was a time of prolific development of home appliances and time saving machinery. Surely, the Exposition's Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building was full of men and women crowded around company booths to gaze at the latest cookstoves and refridgerators, not to mention the myriad of small gadgets that the "modern" housewife "could not possibly live without."
- The Ice Box Takes Up Residence
- Cookstoves: Oil, Gas or Coal
- Aluminum for the Home
- No Electrical Appliances in 1901?
The Ice Box Takes Up Residence
Although the technology of mechanical refrigeration had been under development since the mid 19th century, by 1890, the use of refridgerators was confined to the restaurant and food production industries, especially brewing, dairy and meat-packing. The typical homeowner could not afford such a refridgerator and, given the technology of the period, would probably not have wanted one in the kitchen, since early mechanical refrigerators used toxic gases as refrigerants. (Freon would not come into use until 1928.) Interestingly, advertisements of the turn-of-the century period used the term "refigerator" rather loosely. In looking at diagram leading off the "refigerator section" of the 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog2 (see below), one can see that the superior quality "refrigerator" was actually what we today refer to as an "ice box."
Sears "Refrigerator" Diagram 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog—portion of p.104. Source: 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog. Fred L. Israel, ed. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1968.
"As packaged foods and other household items began to fill the pantry of the late nineteenth-century kitchen, perishables such as meat, milk and butter took up residence in the icebox. First introduced in the 1860s the icebox had become a necessity by the 1890s as urban populations increased, and one could be found in the great majority of middle-class homes. . ." 1
Sears "Refrigerator" 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog—portion of p.104. Source: 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog. Fred L. Israel, ed. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1968. One of many ice boxes listed in the 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog. Below: This ad for a Buffalo, NY manufacturer of "refrigerators" appeared in the Ladies Home Journal
Jewett's Refrigerators Advertisement. Digitized microfilm photocopy. Source: Ladie's Home Journal (March 1885) p.5.
Since the first mechanical refrigerator designed for the home would not be manufactured until 1913, the ice box remained the dominant means of storing perishibles until well into the 20th century.
By the 1850's, wood and coal-burning cookstoves were in widespread use throughout the United States. As Ellen Plante points out, "... the introduction of the stove brought technology into the kitchen and as the century progressed, a continuous stream of updated and unproved appliances became available, leading to the eventual development of the coal/oil and gas stoves of the late 1800's."3
By 1901, consumers could purchase stoves heated by coal/wood, gasoline, or oil. There were also combination coal/oil, and coal/gas stoves. While oil and gas stoves tended to be smaller and cheaper to operate, safety features for this new technology were not well developed. A perusal of newspapers of the 1890 to 1910 period will show many fires, injuries and deaths attributed to exploding oil or gas cookstoves. This certainly contributed to the fact that coal/wood stoves were still the dominant cooking appliance at the turn of the century.
Automatic Blue Flame Cooker Central Oil and Gas Stove Company. Digitized microfilm photocopy. Source: Ladie's Home Journal (April 1898) p.37.
"Detroit Jewel" Gas Stove Detroit Stove Works. Digitized microfilm photocopy. Source: Ladie's Home Journal (April 1897) p.36.
Majestic Combination Coal and Gas Range, Majestic Manufacturing Company. Digitized microfilm photocopy. Source: Ladie's Home Journal (September 1898) p. 34.
"A Good Thing", Review of the Barler Flour Sifter. Digitized microfilm photocopy. Source: "The Practical Housekeeper." Ladie's Home Journal (July 1885) p.5
The late 19th century was a lucrative period of development for the household gadget. In their respective books, Earl Lifshey4 and Ellen M. Plante both talk of the development of timesaving inventions like the apple slicer, apple peeler, poppyseed grinder and beer shaver. Also mentioned are lemon squeezers, nutcrackers, raisin seeders, graters of many sizes, sausage stuffers, bean slicers, spice mills, and bread dough mixers.
Household appliance and gadget makers advertised their wares in women's magazines like Ladie's Home Journal and Harpers Bazar. These periodical publications had numerous columns categorized as "domestic journalisms," providing "helpful hints for housekeepers." However, most had traditionally emphasized cooking and sewing. As the introduction of new household tools exploded in the late 1800's editors expanded these columns to include introduction and evaluation of these new gadgets. The review at right was part of one such column "The Practical Housekeeper," and appeared in the July 1885 Ladie's Home Journal.
In the July 1899 issue of the Ladies's Home Journal, the editor noted a new column, "Miss Maria Parloa's New Department: Household Helps and New Ideas." The editor's note stated, "Miss Parloa begins, in this issue, a new department devoted entirely to the household (other than cooking)...." By that, he must have been referring to the "techniques" of cooking for there was no lack of kitchen-related discussion in this column. Instead of printing recipes or instructing readers in "how to cook," however, "Miss Parloa" wrote of those gadgets designed to make the labors of cooking easier. In this first column alone, she enlightened housekeepers to the benefits of the fruit pricker, strawberry huller, knife sharpener, cherry stoner and a charcoal broiler among other domestic tools. One can assume that manufacturers of the day would have appreciated Miss Parloa's "seal of approval." Of course one must also consider the extent to which "Miss Parloa" and other "domestic journalists" may have been influenced by those manufacturers who were also advertisers in the parent publications.
Household Gadgets, 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog—portion of p.98. Source: 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog. Fred L. Israel, ed. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1968.
Listing for Mason Fruit Jars, 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog—portion of p. 23. Source: 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog. Fred L. Israel, ed. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1968.
Listing for Ice Shredder, 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog—portion of p. 103. Source: 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog. Fred L. Israel, ed. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1968.
"Sanitary Still" Advertisement, Cuprigraph Company. Digitized microfilm photocopy. Source: Ladie's Home Journal (April 1897) p. 34.
"Dunlap's Percolator" Advertisement, The Bellaire Stamping Company. Digitized microfilm photocopy. Source: Ladie's Home Journal (December 1897) p. 30.
Household Gadgets, 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog—portion of p.102. Source: 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog. Fred L. Israel, ed. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1968.
In addition to exposing their products through traditional advertizing in newspapers and women's magazines companies exhibited their gadgets and appliances at large gatherings like the Pan-American Exposition. 1901 was certainly a time when business in such products would be a lucrative one, and an exhibit at the world's fair at Buffalo would expose products to hundreds of thousands of potential consumers. Advertisments in national publications included phrases such as "come see our exhibit at the Pan-Am." If visitors did not have time to visit the booths to see the demonstrations, they were often exposed to these new household products through the literature, trade cards and pamphlets distributed by the thousands in the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building.
One example of this is The Enterprising Housekeeper.5 The Enterprise Manufacturing Company's Pan-American Exposition exhibit displayed gadgets designed to make work in the kitchen easier for the woman of the house. In a recipe booklet distributed at the fair, the company professed the importance of "saving a woman's time... the well-fitted kitchen represents the engine-room of the home, where energy, health, and happiness are manufactured."
While promoted as a free cookbook full of recipes, it is clear that the Enterprising Housekeeper's primary function was to "sell" the company's many products. See Cookbooks for more on the contents of the Enterprising Housekeeper.
"Dunlap Can Opener" Advertisement, Edward Gale, Manufacturer. Digitized microfilm photocopy. Source: Ladie's Home Journal (December 1885) p. 8.
- Can opener
This was a ecessity since canned food was becoming more and more prevalent. Ironically, the can opener was invented in the 1860's 40 years after the invention of the metal can. Development of an opener was possible once cans were made of steel rather than iron.
- Lemon squeezer
Patented by African-American inventor, John Thomas White in 1896 http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bllemonsqueezer.htm
- Egg beater
Patented by African-American inventor Willie Johnson in 1884 http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blkitchen.htm
- Ball-Mason Jar
Patented by John Mason in 1858. Revolutionized the canning and preserving of food.
- Bottle cap
Soft drinks were invented in 1850's. The invention of the crown bottlecap was key to the marketing of soda since the it allowed soda to retain its carbonation.
Aluminum for the Home
"Agate Nickle-Steel Ware" Advertisement, Lalance & Grosjean Manufacturing Co. Digitized microfilm photocopy. Source: Harpers Bazar (September 1901) p. 33.
The domestic use of aluminum had it's beginnings in the cookware industry. Prior to mid-19th century, cookware was made of tin or cast iron. While the first porcelain enameled cooking utensils were made in America by Jacob J. Vollrath in 1874,6 there was a certain danger associated with them since inferior quality products were often treated with enamel containing poisonous metals. Instances of poisoning must have been prominent enough that manufacturers like Lalance & Grosjean felt the need to profess the safety of their products in advertisements. [see the ad at right.] In the 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog, one of the more prominent selling points was that their cookware was produced with enamel that was "entirely free from lead, arsenic and antimony, metals so often used in enamels of this appearance."7
The first stamped and cast aluminum cookware was manufactured by the Pittsburgh Reduction Company (ALCOA) in 1892. Prior to Charles Martin Hall's discovering the secret of producing aluminum inexpensively, utensils made of this metal were reserved only for the wealthy. Indeed, Lifshey tells of Napoleon serving his guests on aluminum plates since they were more expensive than gold.8 However, Hall's process and the considerably cheaper production costs of its Niagara Falls plant made the Pittsburgh Reduction Company the likely leader in aluminum cookware production. By 1900, this lightweight, low-maintenance cookware was regularly available to consumers. [For more information on the Pittsburgh Reduction Company and Niagara Falls, see Electrochemical Comapnies at Niagara.]
There was, however, considerable resistance to cookware and utensils made from this "new" metal. First, aluminum ware was still significantly higher priced than tinware. A coffee pot in the Sears Roebuck Catalog listed for 21 cents while a comparable one made of aluminum sold for $1.60.9 Most surprising however, is Lifshey's observation with regard to aluminum cookware: "...unaccustomed to utensils of such unusually light weight, women were inclined to regard them with suspicion."10 Consider this observation in the context of the technological wonders exhibited at the Pan-American Exposition and there is a certain degree of irony. It is hard for one to imagine that in 1901, a visitor to the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building might look with disdain upon the aluminum cookware exhibited among the other technological marvels at the fair. Why? Because the product was too good?
Indeed, it would take another 50 years of refinement and intense marketing for aluminum cookware to gain it's present popularity.
Why No Electrical Appliances in 1901?
It is interesting, even ironic, to consider that at the time of the Pan-American Exposition, whose most prominent feature was illumination powered by electricity, there was very little domestic use of electrical machinery or appliances. Electric irons and mixers had been patented in the 1880's and in 1901, General Electric and Westinghouse had both developed the first electric toasters. Yet few homes had them and all were susceptible to electrical shorts and fires. In fact, most electrical appliances would prove relatively dangerous until the development of safety devices in 1915. Such danger certainly impacted consumer demand. However, it is surprising to note that despite their emphasis on the development of electricity and electric motors for use in industry, it was the power industry itself that was the source of most resistance in the development of such innovations for home use.
Robert Kuhn states that during the early years of electricity, most companies were involved in the manufacture of electrical lights. "The only thing that mattered was the promotion of their electric lights in competition with gas lights."11 Lifshey adds that the "Battle of the Currents" [between direct current (DC) and alternating current(AC)] further handicapped the development of home appliances, at least indirectly. "Not until about 1900 did [AC] win and even then it had much difficulty in overcoming tradition. 12
Certainly Lifshey's statement is supported when one considers the intense rivalry between the Edison/General Electric and Tesla/Westinghouse camps when it came to generating electricity. Margaret Cheney writes of the intense rivalry between Edison and Tesla and notes Edison's aggressiveness in trying to discredit alternating current (AC). She relates instances of Edison publicly electrocuting animals to illustrate the power of alternating current, and then asking audiences if they really wanted such a dangerous force entering their homes.13 Of course this rivalry was not the only force that may have turned consumers away from the idea of using electric mixers and toasters. While electric trolleys and arc lighting were common in larger cities at the turn of the century, so were accidents involving electrocution. Newspapers often described in graphic detail, the effects of electrocution on the human body. Such graphic images would certainly make many a homeowner leery of allowing such a powerful source of danger into the home.
While danger and consumer ignorance were factors in the delay in electric appliance development, the "Battle of the Currents" probably was the key factor. The fight over AC/DC was long-lasting and as a result, delayed the production and development of electrical devices for use outside of industry. Since manufacturers could not develop and produce appliances without knowing what type of current would be available to power them, it would be well into the 1910s and 20s before electrical products for home use would become widely available to consumers. It is not at all surprising that the General Electric Company and Westinghouse would become the leaders in the electrical appliance industry.
- Ellen M. Plante, The American Kitchen, 1700 to the Present: From Hearth to Highrise (New York: Facts on File, 1995), p. 145.
- 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog. Fred L. Israel, ed. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1968. p. 104.
- Plante, p.70.
- Earl Lifshey. The Housewares Story; A History of the American Housewares Industry. Chicago, National Housewares Manufacturers Association [1973.]
- Johnson, Helen Louise. The Enterprising Housekeeper: Suggestions for Breakfast, Luncheon and Supper. 3rd edition. Philadelphia, Pa.: Enterprise Manufacturing Co. of Pennsylvania, 1900.
- Lifshey, p.154.
- 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog, p.130.
- Lifshey, p.164.
- 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog, pp.132, 136.
- Lifshey, p.165.
- Robert A. Kuhn, president of the American Electrical Heater Company, (Detroit) 1971. In Lifshey, p.224.
- Lifshey, p.224.
- Margaret Cheney. Tesla, Man Out of Time. New York, N.Y. : Barnes & Noble, 1993.