Electrical appliances



2015-06-26 10:56:09

Electrical appliances are devices used within the home which require an electrical power supply to function.

They are commonly found in every room of a house, from kitchen appliances such as fridges, blenders and toasters to televisions, telephones, DVD players and vintage radios.

The rapid pace of technological advancement means appliances are constantly re-designed and improved for the convenience of modern consumers.



Many people collect vintage electrical appliances as a form of nostalgia or as decorative items for their home.

Many of the items can be considered period pieces, and are collected for their retro styling and appearance.

Other people collect them as a means of documenting advancements in technology, or tracing the history of product design.

Those who collect electrical appliances often focus on a particular area or product.

Vintage kitchen appliances can be termed as ‘kitchenalia’, and there is a recognised market for collectible kitchen items and devices.

Some collectors choose to specialise in certain appliances such as televisions or radios, whereas others concentrate on a particular manufacturer.

Some will collect items from a specific period of time, like pre-war items or pieces from the 1950s.


Electrical appliances began to appear on the market during the later years of the 19th century, as electricity became a stable and common power supply in urban areas.

19th century

The 1880s saw the invention of the first electric iron, and the electric fan was created by Dr. Schuyler Skaats Wheeler to combat the heat of New Orleans. In 1889 the first practical electric sewing machine was created by the Singer Sewing Machine Co.

During the 1880's the firstelectric kettles appeared in Britain. Electric toasters appeared in the 1890's, built by Crompton and Co (UK).

The toaster was re-invented in 1905 by American George Schneider, who patented an electric toaster named ‘El Tosto’ which was manufactured by Pacific Electric Heating (who later became Hotpoint Electric).

20th century

The first decade of the 20th century saw labour saving devices develop more rapidly. In 1907, Ohio janitor James Spangler developed the first practical electric vacuum cleaner but his design proved too cumbersome, so he sold the idea to his relative William Hoover and the rest is history.

In 1908 the first electric mixer was created by Herbert Johnson, an engineer for the Hobart Manufacturing Company. It was produced for commercial bakeries for several years until 1919, when they launched the KitchenAid Food Preparer for domestic use.

A year later the famous Sunbeam MixMaster was launched by Ivar Jepson at a fraction of the price, and it became the top-selling model of the time. Today early electric mixers are particularly popular with collectors.

The first commercially available television set was the Televisor Model B, built by the Baird Corporation and debuted at the London Radio Olympia exhibition of 1928.

The first radios appeared after the First World War, and the first true radio station (KDKA in Pittsburgh) began broadcasting in 1920.

Early radios were built in wooden cabinets, and as the 1920s and 30s developed they became smaller in size. The materials used for radios became cheaper to bring costs down, and for many years they were constructed from plastics such as Bakelite and Catalin. These plastics were extremely fragile, and it is rare to find them today without cracks and damage. Due to this rarity, some Bakelite and Catalin radios in good condition can now sell for thousands of dollars to collectors.

The first consumer microwave oven was built by Raytheon in 1967. Called the ‘Amana Radarange’, it was over 5 feet tall, weighed more than 750 pounds and came with a 24hr-a-day on-call home economist to help with the cooking if needed.

The second half of the 20th century saw products develop at a dizzying rate. Appliances were designed to be smaller, faster, programmable and more efficient, and their appearances reflected styles of the period. Today a blender from the 1950s is easily recognisable due to its style, compared to the sleek featureless designs of many modern appliances.

Even items from the 1980s are now considered to have a retro charm and are collected by many people who grew up during the decade and have fond memories of the products.

1997 saw the continuing trend toward automation in the home, with Electrolux producing the concept for a robotic vacuum cleaner.


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