In September 1954, we compared the kitchen to a wife's workshop. This was the post-war era, after all. The 1950's are commonly referred to as America's favorite decade: a golden age of consumerism, economic prosperity, and conservative social mores. While engrossed in the Cold War, the media propagated how wholesome American housewives could enjoy superior household appliances as a reward for the country's endorsement of capitalism. In the spirit of domesticity, Popular Science published several features geared toward making kitchens as efficient, snazzy and high-tech as possible.
Groceries were her raw materials, and meals were her craft--and in case you haven't noticed, there have been a lot of exotically delicious wares on PopSci this week. Although you won't find many lion steaks or endangered species hors d'oeuvres in our archives, you will encounter several instances where the so-called woman's workshop overshadows her wares.
After studying the movements of housewives at work, engineers at Cornell University decided that people needed to redo their kitchens' layouts before stocking them with the latest tech. Speed was key: the faster a wife could move about and make meals, the more time she would have to devote to her other responsibilities. Engineers proposed installing adjustable counters, dishwashers, and refrigerated taps.
While those adjustments sound like pretty standard kitchen upgrades, designs grew more fantastic as home developers sought better ways to promote efficiency. General Motors and Frigidaire contributed their visions of motion-activated kitchens and domed ovens that would bake and frost a birthday cake from a bowl of batter.
In what we'll argue is a happy ending, Betty Friedan put out a book, and women's household chores were eased up by husbands rather than by robotic ovens. With the exception of ice-dispensing refrigerators and electric burners, kitchens today function more or less like the ones built sixty years ago, but who what will happen during the next couple of decades? We're still holding out for an oven that can assemble a pizza using an electro-recipe file card.
Put on the coffee, grab a snack, and click through our gallery to see more dream kitchens of the not-so-distant past.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.