Large Appliances: Innovating the Kitchen

Explore the development of the electric kitchen and large appliances such as the refrigerator and the electric range.

By Museum of Innovation & Science

"Initials of a friend" advertisement, 1923, General Electric Company, 1923, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Landmark GE advertisement from 1923. Since most urban homes now had electricity, GE broadened its line of appliances and consumer products. Working with Bruce Barton of BBDO, the "Initials of a friend" campaign was developed, capitalizing on the positive recognition of the GE monogram with the general public.

Typical American kitchen, 1885, General Electric Company, 1885, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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A typical pre-electric kitchen from 1885. Shows a variety of cooking, processing, and cleaning supplies. GE used this image to make comparisons between its modern kitchen and the "drudgery" of life before electricity.

Electric heating and cooking device in Mr. M.O. Troy's residence, Schenectady, NY (1908/1912) by General Electric CompanyMuseum of Innovation & Science

Kitchens through the Years

Advertising photo showing early electric kitchen appliances, including a grill, fryer, percolator, chafing dish, and oven. Kitchens have evolved over the last century from very basic heating devices to smart appliances that communicate with the power grid.

Electric kitchen, Hillman home, 1905, General Electric Company, 1905, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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First all-electric kitchen in the home of Henry W. Hillman, GE Heating Devices manager. It includes a percolator, water heaters, an electric frying pan, a grill, and an oven

General Electric electric kitchen appliances are being use in a farm kitchen., General Electric Company, 1930/1940, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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A woman uses an electric mixer in a farm kitchen. Appliances include: Monitor-top refrigerator, mixer, toaster, electric range, and washing machine.

GE "Magic Kitchen" display, 1937, General Electric Company, 1937-12-07, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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GE "Magic Kitchen" advertising display. The display includes an electric range, disposall, dishawasher, and one of the first flat-top refrigerators.

Texas Rangerettes inspect GE kitchen, 1936, General Electric Company, 1936, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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A group of Texas Rangerettes examine a GE "talking" kitchen at the Texas Centennial Exposition. The kitchen included a range and a Monitor-top refrigerator.

Examining GE appliances at Allen's Store, Schenectady, NY, General Electric Company, 1953/1953, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Three people examine a GE electric range in Allen's Store in Schenectady, NY. Pictured are ranges, refrigerators, and an ironer. People are identified as C. Kenyon, E. Wilson, J. Sammon

Marina City kitchen, 1965, General Electric Company, 1965, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Woman cooks on a range in a pink kitchen. The kitchen is located in the Marina City apartment complex in Chicago, Illinois.

Yellow appliances in house frame, General Electric Company, 1964/1969, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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A set of yellow General Electric large appliances are placed inside a house frame. A woman serves coffee to a man in a red hat.

Modern kitchen, 1973, General Electric Company, 1973, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Kitchen image featured in 1973 GE Annual Report. The kitchen includes a microwave oven, yellow appliances, and a side-by-side two-door refrigerator with water dispenser.

His and Her's Kitchen, General Electric Company, 1970/1975, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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1970s advertising photograph for a His and Hers kitchen. Appliances pictured include a dishwasher, side-by-side door refrigerator, cooking surface, and built-in wall oven.

GE Motor in Coffield Washing Machine (1917/1917) by General Electric CompanyMuseum of Innovation & Science

Washing machines

GE advertising image for Coffield Washing Machine, which used a GE washing machine motor. GE originally produced motors used by other appliance companies in their washing machines.

GE Wiring Devices Used with Thor Washing machine, General Electric Company, 1915/1920, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Before 1930, GE provided motors to other washing machine manufacturers.

General Electric Washer and Ironer ad, General Electric Company, 1930/1930, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Ad says "Any women can wash and iron electrically for a few cents a day"

The Electric Washing Machine, General Electric Company, 1930/1930, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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General Electric Model W wringer-type electric washing machine, 1930. GE introduced its first washing machine in 1930 after many years of supplying motors for machines manufactured by other companies.

Woman Uses Hotpoint Electric Range, 1920s (1920/1925) by General Electric CompanyMuseum of Innovation & Science

Electric Ranges

A woman turns a dial and holds the handle of a pot on a Hotpoint Hughes electric range. GE purchased Hotpoint and Hughes Electric in 1918 and merged them to form the Edison Electric Appliance Company. In the 1920s the company began focusing exclusively on the Hotpoint brand.

Experimental Hughes electric range, 1905, General Electric Company, 1905, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Early experimental electric range developed by inventor George Hughes. Hughes founded the Hughes Electric Company. GE purchased Hotpoint and Hughes Electric in 1918 and merged the two companies together.

Hughes electric range, circa 1910, General Electric Company, 1910, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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An early production electric range created by George Hughes. The design is reminiscent of a cast-iron stove of the period.

Advertisement for 1916 GE Range, General Electric Company, 1916/1920, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Type R-1 General Electric range in residence of Mr. Alfred P. Kim, 1916

Woman Uses Hotpoint Electric Range, 1920s, General Electric Company, 1920/1925, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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A woman removes a baking pan from the oven of a c.1925 Hotpoint electric range.

GE Self-cleaning Oven, General Electric Company, 1966/1970, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Advertisement for GE 1966 P7 Custom Self-cleaning Oven, Mark 27 range. hi speed with picture window door, automatic rotisserie. GE introduced the first self-cleaning oven, an earlier version of the model P7, in 1963.

Hotpoint Microwave, General Electric Company, 1977/1980, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Advertising photograph for GE 1977 Hotpoint microwave, sitting on a kitchen counter.

Advertisement for 1978 Spacemaker Microwave Oven, General Electric Company, 1978/1980, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Advertisement for 1978 Spacemaker microwave oven. The microwave was installed above the electric range.

Advertisement for 1994 Profile Radiant Convection Electric Range, General Electric Company, 1994/2000, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Advertising image for GE's Profile brand. Image shows a white convection range with a mother and daughter baking cookies.

GE Refrigerator with Interior Light (1937/1937) by General Electric CompanyMuseum of Innovation & Science

Refrigerators

Illuminated electric refrigerator interior where articles of food can readily be located whether room is dark or lighted. Electric refrigeration offered people improved food safety and the ability to store food for longer periods of time.

Refrigerator Inventor Marcel Audiffren and Electrical Inventor James J. Wood, General Electric Company, 1911/1911, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Photo of Abbe Marcel Audiffren, French monk who designed first electric refrigerator prior to 1895. Second from left is A. Singrun, French manufacturer. A. Myers, left, and James J. Wood, right, Americans who arranged for GE to make Audiffren machine at Ft. Wayne, IN. Photo taken at Epinal, Vosges, France, August 1911. GE manufactured its first Audiffren refrigerator in Fort Wayne in 1911

Advertisement for first GE refrigerator, General Electric Company, 1910/1920, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Photograph of the Audiffren Refrigerator manufactured at General Electric's Fort Wayne Works, GE's first refrigerator in the 1910s.

Advertisement for 1917 GE Refrigerator, General Electric Company, 1917/1920, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Advertisement for GE 1926 Model OC-2 Refrigerator with Monitor-top with gray porcelain cabinet doors showing cooling unit and arrangement of food racks. The Model OC-2 could cost as much as $1,000.

General Electric "Is Your Food Safe" Refrigerator Advertisement, General Electric Company, 1920/1925, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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GE Refrigerator advertisement highlighting the safety aspect of home refrigeration. This advertisement was created between 1920 and 1925 for the Model OC2 GE refrigerator. Later in the 1920s, GE used the tagline "Making it Safe to be Hungry" in some of its refrigerator advertising.

Advertisement for Early GE refrigerator, General Electric Company, 1920/1925, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Advertisement showing pre monitor refrigerator, "Two Market days a week." A boy stands in front of a refrigerator with a basket of food. The ad promotes the GE Model OC-2 refrigerator, the pre-cursor to the Monitor-top refrigerator.

Buster Keaton Plays the Puzzled Iceman with GE Refrigerator, General Electric Company, 1930/1935, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Comedic actor Buster Keaton plays an iceman puzzled by a GE refrigerator

GE Two-door Monitor-top Refrigerator (1928/1928) by General Electric CompanyMuseum of Innovation & Science

Monitor-top Refrigerator

Photo of GE 12 cubic foot 2-door Monitor-top refrigerator cabinet with type DR-3 Icing unit. In 1927, GE engineer Christian Steenstrup developed an improved hermetically sealed refrigerator that simplified manufacturing and lowered the price of the units. The Monitor-top refrigerator became the first commercially successful refrigerator..

First GE Monitor-top Refrigerator with Inventor Christian Steenstrup, General Electric Company, 1937/1937, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Christian Steenstrup of the GE Refrigerator Department with the first commercial Monitor-top refrigerator in his home in Schenectady, NY.

"General Electric presents the first All-steel Refrigerator" Advertisement, General Electric Company, 1929, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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GE improved its refrigerators in 1929, creating a new all-steel version. It also introduced a "small-family" model for a reduced price of $215. The refrigerators could be purchased on credit through an installment plan.

GE Refrigerator "Treasure Chest" Advertising Display, General Electric Company, 1929/1929, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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"Making it Safe to be Hungry." with type G-40 all-steel GE electric refrigerator. Opening the treasure chest, March 22, 1929. GE Electric Refrigerator Agency, Erie, PA. The ability to refrigerate food for extended periods helped give rise to supermarkets.

GE Refrigerator Assembly 1931, General Electric Company, 1931/1931, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Assembling General Electric Monitor-top refrigerator. Refrigerating machine condenser coil being joined to dome button- old method

Door Assembly of Refrigerator Cabinets 1935, General Electric Company, 1935/1935, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Door assembly of GE "Type X" line of refrigerator cabinets. Refrigerator Cabinet Division, Building 18, GE Erie Works.1935

Assembling Plastic Strips on Refrigerator Doors, 1935, General Electric Company, 1935/1940, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Assembling Bakelite strips on GE "Type X" line of refrigerator cabinets. Refrigerator Cabinet Division , Building 18, GE Erie Works, 1935

GE Refrigerator Assembly and Inspection, 1935, General Electric Company, 1935/1935, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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GE refrigerator cabinets of type K line being given fine assembly and inspection. Refrigerator Cabinet Division , Building 18, GE Erie Works, 1935

Refrigerator Cabinet Inspection, 1936, General Electric Company, 1936/1936, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Refrigerator cabinets being given final inspection on end of assembly line. Refrigerator Cabinet Division, Building 18, GE Erie Works, Erie, PA

Advertisement for 1927 refrigerator, General Electric Company, 1927/1930, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Advertisement for GE Monitor-top 1927 icing unit refrigerator, unusually large food storage unit, easily installed

Monitor-top Refrigerator, General Electric Company, 1932/1933, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Advertising photo highlighting GE's updated Monitor-top Refrigerator line for 1933. It was nicknamed the Monitor-top for its resemblance to the turret from the U.S.S. Monitor.

Experimental Butter Compartment in Door of GE Monitor-top Refrigerator, General Electric Company, 1934/1934, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Butter compartment in door of GE refrigerator cabinet, compartment door open. Developmental.

GE Two-door Refrigerator, 1944 (1945/1945) by General Electric CompanyMuseum of Innovation & Science

After the Monitor-top

GE refrigerator cabinet, Type B-10-D. Image highlights the fresh-food refrigerator compartment of two-door refrigerator. In 1947 GE introduced the first refrigerator with a separate freezer door.

Advertisement for 1940 Refrigerator, General Electric Company, 1940/1945, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Advertisement for 1940 GE refrigerator line, promoting a bigger and better GE refrigerator, with the lowest price and controlled temperature and humidity. Cabinet sizes went up to 16 cubic feet storage capacity.

GE Two-door Refrigerator, 1944, General Electric Company, 1944/1944, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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GE electric refrigerator, type B-10-D, with food load and butter door open. Oblique front view, from right. Photo of model putting butter into conditioner. Development model of first refrigerator with a separate freezer door. GE worked on developing the two-door refrigerator during World War II, but could not manufacture it until after the war ended.

Model with First Two-door General Electric Refrigerator, 1947, General Electric Company, 1947/1947, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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A female model poses with a new 1947 GE two-door refrigerator, the first refrigerator with a separate freezer compartment.

General Electric Appearance Design Model Shop, General Electric Company, 1951/1951, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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GE designer spray paints a mock-up of a refrigerator door in the General Electric Appearance Design Model Shop

General Electric Appearance Design Model Shop, General Electric Company, 1951/1951, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Workroom in the General Electric Appearance Design Model Shop. Designers in the foreground are working on a refrigerator model

1969 Refrigerator, General Electric Company, 1969/1971, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Advertising image for cream color 1969 Side-by-Side refrigerator with freezer- water and ice on door. One side is freezer and the other is the refrigerator

1969 and 1971 GE Refrigerators, General Electric Company, 1969/1971, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Advertising image for 1969 and 1971 GE Side by Side refrigerator. Mother and daughter examine the refrigerators, one is white and the other is gold. Ice and water are available on the door of each model.

1970's Refrigerator, General Electric Company, 1970/1975, From the collection of: Museum of Innovation & Science
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Advertising image for 1970's GE Refrigerator, 2 door with ice maker on door with woman and child. comparison shot in the corner of a 1940s-1950s refrigerator with small freezer compartments.

Credits: Story

This exhibit was developed in 2017 by miSci, the Museum of Innovation & Science. All photos were scanned from the General Electric Photograph Collection.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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