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Maine Memory Network

Electricity in the Home

This slideshow contains 26 items
1
Electric rural road survey, Boothbay, 1929

Electric rural road survey, Boothbay, 1929

Item 74772 info
Maine Historical Society

Rural Electrification

Concentrated housing patterns made providing electric service to cities and towns easier and less expensive than providing it to rural areas. In 1920, only 15 percent of farms in New England were electrified, but that was more than the national average.

Maine's rural nature as well as the number of inhabited islands presented challenges to wiring the state. In 1935, the federal government established the Rural Electrification Administration, which gave loans to cooperatives of rural or island residents who then built and maintained their own electric distribution systems.

In Maine, a few small cooperatives remain, including Fox Island Electric Cooperative on Vinalhaven, Isle Au Haut Electric Power, and the Swan's Island Electric Cooperative.


2
Rural electrification brochure, ca. 1935

Rural electrification brochure, ca. 1935

Item 74773 info
Maine Historical Society

Once rural farm areas were wired, utilities could promote benefits such as electric milking machines and lighted and heated chicken coops. As elsewhere, utilities also encouraged home use.

Utility companies often asked farmers to bear the burden of cost for line construction, provide labor, or as in CMP's plans, at least guarantee a certain threshold of consumption.

This brochure included a graph paper insert on which farmers could diagram their property then send the sheet to the company for tailored information.


3
Monitor-top refrigerator, ca. 1927

Monitor-top refrigerator, ca. 1927

Item 74888 info
Maine Historical Society

Promoting Electric Usage

In the early twentieth century, many people saw electricity as a luxury and some were reluctant to adopt it. Homes often had only one or a few single bulbs hanging from a cord.

To increase electrical demand, utility companies marketed appliances to their customers and often offered lower rates for increased consumption levels.

General Electric introduced this refrigerator, with a top-mounted icing unit and traditional-looking "furniture" legs, in 1927.

The American public soon dubbed it the "Monitor-Top," after the icing unit's resemblance to the turret on the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor.

The refrigerator, which retailed for about half the price of competing models, soon became GE's most successful product.



4
Universal electric stove, ca. 1922

Universal electric stove, ca. 1922

Item 74889 info
Maine Historical Society

Many utilities operated Home Services Departments that conducted outreach and educated consumers about potential uses of electricity in the home. Most Home Services workers – and their target audiences – were women.

Landers, Frary and Clark’s "Universal" trademark was once one of the most well-known names in home appliances and hardware. The company made this electric stove.


5
Washer and butter churn, Littleton, ca. 1942

Washer and butter churn, Littleton, ca. 1942

Item 16482 info
Southern Aroostook Agricultural Museum

With an eye to rural customers, Maytag manufactured a butter churn that fit inside its electric washing machines, making use of the motor that normally ran the agitator.

Cream separator and meat grinder attachments were also available.


6
Turn-Over Toaster. ca. 1916

Turn-Over Toaster. ca. 1916

Item 74879 info
Maine Historical Society

Gradually, consumers saw the benefits of electricity and expanded their use of home power. Electric ovens replaced those that burned wood.

Toasters could be plugged in instead of rotated over a fire. Electric washing machines agitated clothing and linens to clean them, replacing beating, pounding, or hand churning.

Like their non-electric predecessors, the first electric toasters had no moving parts. The bread was simply perched next to the heating element, and operating required care and attention in timing the cooking process as well as in not burning one’s fingers while turning the bread.

Inventors soon came up with a number of methods for holding and turning the bread slices, adding spring-loaded doors to hold the bread in place, swinging frames to turn the slices around, or allowing the slice of toast to flip end-over-end when the doors of the Westinghouse Turn-Over Toaster were opened.


7
Pop-up toaster, ca. 1946

Pop-up toaster, ca. 1946

Item 74507 info
Maine Historical Society

General Electric Co. manufactured this automatic pop-up toaster that has adjustments for the length of toasting and a switch to stop the toast from popping up.

The toaster was one of the appliances promoted and sold by electric utilities such as Central Maine Power Co.


8
Universal Electric Mixabeater, ca. 1915

Universal Electric Mixabeater, ca. 1915

Item 74881 info
Maine Historical Society

Advertisements for the Universal Electric Mixabeater promised housewives that they would profit "not only because it prepares all food mixtures with a virtuosity and smoothness impossible to attain by cumbersome, unpractical hand methods but because it will save you much time and spare you the painful muscle strain incurred by prolonged spoon stirring."


9
Hotpoint standard iron, 1915

Hotpoint standard iron, 1915

Item 74878 info
Maine Historical Society

Earl H. Richardson, a meter reader in California, spent his spare time experimenting with electrifying flat irons.

He invented this iron after his wife, Mary, suggested he move the hot spot from the center to the front of the iron, making it easier to press around buttonholes, ruffles and pleats.

Richardson produced a number of these versions and loaned several to local women to try for a week; at the end of that time the women were so taken with "the iron with the hot point" that they refused to give them up.


10
Hotpoint automatic Range Timer, ca. 1930

Hotpoint automatic Range Timer, ca. 1930

Item 74880 info
Maine Historical Society

The mechanism of this Range Timer must be wound by hand; an internal switch turns the oven on and off.

Cooking time could not exceed five hours.


11
Electric shop display, Augusta, 1925

Electric shop display, Augusta, 1925

Item 74762 info
Maine Historical Society

Promoting the use of electricity was important for utility companies.

A Central Maine Power Company appliance store in Augusta is decorated for the Christmas season in 1925.

The stores were one way electric utilities encouraged the use of electric power -- by selling appliances and lamps that relied on that power.


12
Electrical appliance store, Portland, 1928

Electrical appliance store, Portland, 1928

Item 74763 info
Maine Historical Society

This Central Maine Power Co. appliance store was at 567 Congress Street in Portland.


13
Electric cookery display window, ca. 1940

Electric cookery display window, ca. 1940

Item 74764 info
Maine Historical Society

A display in a Central Maine Power Co. appliance store window promote electric cooking with the slogan, "Your Best Move is Electric Cookery."


14
Central Maine Power Co. appliance store, Brunswick, ca. 1925

Central Maine Power Co. appliance store, Brunswick, ca. 1925

Item 74765 info
Maine Historical Society

The interior of the Central Maine Power Co. appliance store in Brunswick shows mainly lamps and small appliances.

The stores also sold large appliances and offered appliance repair services.


15
ElectriKitchen recipes, 1954

ElectriKitchen recipes, 1954

Item 74766 info
Maine Historical Society

The CMP Home Service Work Department was founded in 1929 and began showcasing demonstration electric kitchens, which were met with great interest.

Appliance sales were a means to promote consumption, and became especially important during supply shortages such as that caused by World War II.

Precluded from building lines to reach new customers, CMP leaned on its Home Service Advisers to increase consumption – and revenues – amongst existing electric customers.

On a weekly television show, Central Maine Power’s Home Service Department promoted the benefits of electric cookery.


16
June bride window display, ca. 1925

June bride window display, ca. 1925

Item 74767 info
Maine Historical Society

A window display at an unidentified Central Maine Power Co. appliance store features "Gifts for June Brides."

Over the years, CMP expanded its outreach to include home lighting consultations, electric cooking tutorials, and, later, complete home energy audits.

For most of its history, the Home Service Advisers, later called Home Economists, were exclusively women, and the department's marketing was targeted primarily to women.

One of the department’s stated goals was "helping women to become homemakers instead of housekeepers."


17
Cooking school poster proof, 1964

Cooking school poster proof, 1964

Item 74768 info
Maine Historical Society

Central Maine Power Co. held its "2nd Annual Cooking School for Brides (Past, Present & Future)" in April 1964.

The three sessions featured electric range cookery, better home lighting, and portable appliances.

The school, like many other Home Service Department activities, was educational as it promoted the use of electric power.


18
Kilowatt Savings Time button, ca. 1976

Kilowatt Savings Time button, ca. 1976

Item 74769 info
Maine Historical Society

CMP’s Kilowatt Savings Time campaign asked customers to limit their electrical usage during cold winter afternoons when high demand for electrical heating was expected.

By waiting until evening to use appliances such as dishwashers and ovens, KST participants allowed the company to limit the use of oil-fired peak-generating plants or purchases from non-CMP electrical generators.


19
'Let's Conserve' button, ca. 1976

'Let's Conserve' button, ca. 1976

Item 74771 info
Maine Historical Society

The Home Services Department's programs involved the company and the public in many different social conversations, whether on energy conservation, food quality, or the professionalism of domestic work.


20
Downed power lines, 1969

Downed power lines, 1969

Item 74883 info
Maine Historical Society

When the Power Goes Out

In day-to-day life, many people don’t think too much about electricity. The lights go on when we flick the switch; the toast turns brown when we push a button; the computer boots up and brings us news and information and entertainment – all of this without our conscious thought about the industry and technology that makes it all possible.

What happens when that technology fails? When the lights don’t light, the heat doesn’t flow, and the bread stays untoasted while the ice cream in the freezer slowly melts?


21
Tree on car, Auburn, 1943

Tree on car, Auburn, 1943

Item 74755 info
Maine Historical Society

The description written on the photograph reports: "Mr. Adelard A. Roy stalled his car in his driveway at 6:20 a.m. Tuesday Nov. 23 (1943). This pole fell on the car about 10 minutes later. He took the bus to work that day."

The author of the text also labeled the photograph "Unfortunate place to park."

Roy lived on Mechanic Falls Road in Auburn.


22
Bucket crew at work on power lines, 1969

Bucket crew at work on power lines, 1969

Item 74756 info
Maine Historical Society

Extreme weather has plagued electrical systems as long as they have existed. High winds or ice build-up can topple power lines and cut off electrical service.


23
'Need power' sign, 1998

'Need power' sign, 1998

Item 74884 info
Maine Historical Society

The Ice Storm of 1998 left more than half the population of the State of Maine without power. Central Maine Power Company line crews were joined by the National Guard and by 2000 forestry and utility workers from as far away as Ohio and North Carolina during the cleanup and power-restoration efforts, which lasted up to 23 days in the hardest-hit areas of the state.


24
Sign requesting electric power, 1998

Sign requesting electric power, 1998

Item 74885 info
Maine Historical Society

A hand-painted sign reminds utility crews that a home is without power -- and that an electric line is on the ground nearby.

Such signs were frequent during the ice storm of 1998 when many homes in Maine were without electricity for one or two weeks.


25
'No power' sign, 1998

'No power' sign, 1998

Item 74757 info
Maine Historical Society

This sign, saved by a Central Maine Power Co. crew, noted that the home had been without electricity for 11 days.


26
Sign thanking utility crews, 1998

Sign thanking utility crews, 1998

Item 74886 info
Maine Historical Society

This sign, rather than being a plea for crews to restore power, thanked CMP and crews from other locales for their work in restoring electrical service after the ice storm of 1998.


This slideshow contains 26 items