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©June 2002

Carol Jane Remsburg



Home Conveniences Throughout the Ages




Since the earliest of times, probably since the first daughter was born back in whatever cave that was, we have been taught by our mothers to hurry up and get the job done.  It didn't matter what the job was but that we be more than timely about it in order to anticipate the needs of our families.  I'm not sure but that was likely also the time when the secret society of lists came into being.


Now there is gratification to be derived from ticking off a list of your daily accomplishments, yet when it reads:


ü     Laundry (1st load of six)

ü     General straightening of the abode (never complete when people live there—the original paradox)

ü     Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, along with a myriad of snacks

ü     Dishes (that goes without saying)

ü     Trash removal (men can't do it, they might find something they want to keep)

ü     Sweeping, dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing (filth is thy sworn enemy)

ü     Yard work—(mowing down that green stuff before it overtakes the house)

ü     Child rearing (the millions of questions that still go unanswered)

ü     Bill paying (another insight into hell)

ü     Day Job (ensuring you actually make equal or more than your spouse besides doing everything else)


Exhaustion not gratification will be your watchword.


That first daughter must have been dumber than a rock because she, in turn, taught the same to each daughter down the line—with enthusiasm.


Leaping forward from the cave days when simply sweeping out the debris of dinner's leftovers and possibly some doggy deposits were the high point of here day.  That might either be before or after she began to haul in water and begin the new day's set of meals.  The timing is tricky on that and they didn't keep daytimers back then.  However we DO know that from our early recorded times, water was brought in of an evening just before dark and before whatever animals might be roaming about could be avoided. 


Laundry?  Who started that?  It had to be a woman.  Women have always had a keenly developed sense of smell.  And, well, without washing, clothes tend to well, smell.  It was the closest thing they could get to making the men bathe—but that came later.


Then, once women began washing clothes, it was permanent.  She'd worked the rest of us into a hole we've never gotten out of since.  Now the cooking part I understand because if SHE didn't take hold and get the job done none of us would be around today, but laundry?  Oh well, chalk it up to another chore.


"The earliest manual washing machines imitated the motion of the human hand on the washboard, by using a lever to move one curved surface over another and rubbing clothes between two ribbed surfaces. This type of washer was first patented in the United States in 1846 and survived as late as 1927 in the Montgomery Ward catalogue. The first electric clothes washers, in which a motor rotated the tub, were introduced into America about 1900. For a number of years, the motor was not protected beneath the machine and water often dripped into it causing short-circuits and jolting shocks.

By 1911, it was possible to buy oscillating, cylinder, domestic washing machines with sheet metal tubs mounted on angle-iron frames with perforated metal or wooden slat cylinders inside."  (Courtesy of:



What about dishes?  Who made them?  Why men did of course.  They knew exactly who was going to clean them—women.  Simply because while men wouldn't think twice about reusing a plate or utensil, an "EWWWW" would resonate from all womankind.  No doubt about it, men have always known what they've been about—which IS to ensure that if they were disgusting enough, we women would take charge and make it all better.


Thus we have our lists and our priorities. 


Beyond the caves and rudimentary dwellings, came more structured homes, ones with rooms.  Still, no indoor plumbing.  As always, the chamber pots were dealt with by women.  And while the 'outhouses' did their duties, people discovered they didn't like to go outside in the dark and the cold.  Besides, there might be things out there in the dark that BITE.


Now nagging has always been around but I think on this simple, but enormous issue, women came into play strongly.  Grousing about hauling out the fetid waste of everyone's leavings was enough to put many to mind on the first toilet AKA the water closet and may God bless Thomas Crapper.  Somehow I just know his wife was involved.  Likely there was never a more harried or henpecked man in existence.  He created the first 'flush' toilet and then hid from his wife again for the next twenty years.  If he hadn't, who knows what she might have put him up to next.


Sweeping with a broom or even a 'sweeper' had to get tedious in a hurry and men and children NEVER wipe their feet.  So you get to figure out what comes next.


"The first hand-pumped vacuum cleaner in the United States was the “Whirlwind,” a wood and canvas contraption which appeared at the hands of a Chicago inventer in 1865. Today, only two known examples of the Whirlwind are extant — one in the Hoover Historical Center in Canton, Ohio and the other in a private collection. Very little is known about the Whirlwind and most of the inventor’s inventory was lost in the Great Chicago Fire."  (Courtesy of


Somehow I know this Chicago man had to have been married yet to what degree of harridan she was, well, I'll leave you to guess about that.


And let us not leave out another chore . . .


In 1850, Joel Haughton managed a crude dishwasher with wooden paddles that splashed water onto dishes.  Hmm, not quite efficient for really washing up the mess. 


"However, at the 1893 World's Fair, Josephine Cochrane unveils a hand-operated mechanical dishwasher she built for her own use. The revolutionary appliance is such a hit, she founded a company to manufacture it. It became KitchenAid.  "


(Courtesy of:


Sometimes we have to do it on our own.


Yet, before the dishwasher would come something more vital and important.  Also something women simply had to have a hand in.  Keeping food cool and preserving it for cooking or leftovers had been paramount for eons.  That cool back corner of the cave nor the chilled cellar cupboard was doing it anymore.  Besides, having a dad in the air conditioning/refrigeration business made me fall in love with the scent of refrigerant, especially when mixed with Old Spice®. 


"The first refrigerator, as opposed to the simple ice box, designed for home use was the Domelre, which was manufactured in Chicago in 1913.  A number of other competing machines quickly appeared, but in 1918 Kelvinator marketed a much more practical home refrigerator.  Frigidaire followed with their model in 1919, and General Electric offered the first hermetically sealed refrigerator compressor in 1926.  "(Courtesy of:


Seems like there was a whole lot going on in Chicago, a veritable hotbed of ideas, inventions, and patents.  Says a whole lot about those Chicago ladies too!


Then there came the outcry over what "hot boxes" we'd made of our homes.  No matter the windows, the fans, or deliberate cross ventilation, sometimes it just gets too hot to be indoors.  While outdoors we have bugs, humidity, and we don't sleep there unless we are camping or seeking out our roots or some other outlandish foray.  Something had to be done.  So someone did.



"The 'Apparatus for Treating Air' (U.S. Pat# 808897) granted in 1906, was the first of several patents awarded to Willis Carrier. The recognized 'father of air conditioning' is Carrier, but the term 'air conditioning' actually originated with textile engineer, Stuart H. Cramer. Cramer used the phrase 'air conditioning' in a 1906 patent claim filed for a device that added water vapor to the air in textile plants - to condition the yarn."  (Courtesy of:


There were others that came before but this was the first real deal for a/c.  And I'll even bet his wife called him "Stewie" when he was good.  I wonder how much THAT cost her. 


Stoves have been around just a little less than the open fire.  People wanted them indoors and out of the elements.  Back in 1728, in Germany, they first began to make them in quantity.  Since then, it's all been wonderful.  They can be electric, natural gas, propane driven, or still caste iron (which can make the best of the best, don't be fooled on that 'cause I grew up with a grandma who knew how).  Still all the most sought after chefs use gas for it is either "on" or "off" or can be turned to be exactly what you want in an instant—not like electric. 


And, yes, there's a woman behind it somewhere.  Either she harangued the poor fellow or she drew up the outline herself.  The men wanted all the comforts offered/suggested by the women in their lives and thus set about providing them with the proper tools to do the job. 


Meanwhile, though the chores have gotten a bit lighter, now we also have day jobs, and the 'home work' never ends.  Somehow there's got to be a man behind that one.


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