You can see by my recent posts that I have been looking a early technology. I love history, and all things vintage, but to live in a time with no electricity seems almost unimaginable to me. The electric light and electric motor were both invented in the 1830s, as was, believe it or not, the battery, but it wasn’t until around 1900 that both found their way into homes and the kitchen.
American Thomas Davenport developed the first real electric motor ('real' meaning powerful enough to do a task) in 1834 although Joseph Henry and Michael Faraday created early motion devices using electromagnetic fields and Hungarian scientist Ányos Jedlik had developed an electromotor in 1828. The early "motors" created spinning disks or levers that rocked back and forth. They didn’t really do anything useful, but were important for leading the way to better motors in the future and other inventions such as generators. Commercial electric motors were in use from the 1870s.
|The first Davenport motor|
|Edison’s original carbon-filament bulb|
In Australia the first electric light was put on public display in Sydney in 1863 to mark the marriage of Edward the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandria, but this was an arc lamp rather than an incandescent globe. Sydney did not have a power station until 1904, in Pyrmont, and Queensland was the first colony to have a public electricity power supply. Initially, many local authorities raised funds, and provided supply for their own areas in whatever way they could. In 1882, a demonstration of what electricity could do was conducted with eight arc lights along Queen Street in Brisbane, with power supplied by a 10 hp generator driven by a small engine. Australia was motivated to used electricity, as it was also a great method of pumping water – something often desperately needed – and 1000 km west of Brisbane the first hydroelectric bore was built at Thargomindah in around 1900. We also loved electric trams (Melbourne still has them).
|Advertisement for Barton White & Co, manufacturers of electrical equipment, Brisbane, ca. 1890, source|
Melbourne was the first city in Australia to operate a power station, and by 1894 most of the city's streets were lit with electricity. By 1913 most British and Australian towns had electric street light, but the majority of middle class families still used gas for lighting their homes and to heat their water. Electrical appliances were available, if you had the money, but many didn’t. Australia's Northern Territory didn’t have power until 1923, and Mackay got it’s first electric light pole that year as well, although electricity wasn’t actually connected until the following year.
|A crowd gathers at the erection of the first electric|
light pole in Mackay on May 3, 1923, on the river bank
side of River Street, opposite the Mackay Customs House. source
|View of an old gas light alongside an electric street light in Townsville,|
June, 1922, source
By 1927, 34 per cent of homes in Australia were electrically wired, with the most popular electrical appliance being the clothes iron. In England in 1921, only 12 per cent of homes had electricity, despite the first British house being fitted with it in 1880 (Cragside, in Northumberland – they had there own lake that generated hydroelectricity).
The Kitchen at Cragside, Northumberland source
|Kitchen c. 1913 – range, ironing board, sewing machine and electric iron with electrical outlet from the ceiling|
Here’s a rough timeline of the invention of electrical appliances and who first invented them, but I want to look at each appliance in more detail in future posts – especially their development until 1913:
1859 – Electric stove - George B. Simpson
1882 – Electric iron – HW Seeley
1885 – Electric mixer - Rufus Eastman
1893 – Electric Kettle at Chicago’s world fair
1893 – Electric toaster - Alan MacMasters
1898 – Electric (belt driven) grinder for coffee - Hobart Manufacturing Company of Troy, Ohio
1903 – Electric Christmas tree lights – Edison
1904 - Electric washing machine- (unknown by wrongly credited as A. Fisher.)
1908 - Electric vacuum cleaner – J. Spangler.
1911 - Electric air conditioning – W. Carrier.
1913 - Electric refrigerator – A. Goss. or Fred W. Wolf – refrigeration from 1872
After 1913 other items were invented, including waffle irons (1918), the Electric blender (from 1919), electric coffee percolator (1920s), the electric dishwasher (1930s) and microwave oven (1946).
|Electrical wares on display in the Toowoomba Light and Power Company's shop window, c. 1930 source|
I’ve just watched an ad for a robotic vacuum cleaner that even returns to its recharge unit when it’s low on power and has a uv disinfecting light - appliances have certainly come a long way! Personally I love my electric blender, coffee machine and washing machine. Actually my air-conditioner is pretty great too. And my laptop. Which items couldn't you live without?
|Washing without electricity – no thanks! source|