Cooking Smart With Smart Kitchens: Imagining an American Kitchen of Tomorrow in the 1940s

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The look of the American kitchen in the 1930s and early 1940s was very different than the shape it had taken in the postwar years. Both the kitchen and the bathroom were styled in streamlining forms, and provided complementary setting for the streamlined appliances invented in this decade. The modernized kitchen and bath became the domestic status symbols, where the housewife exercised her taste and power when determining the look of the rooms and the choice of appliances.

Here are a couple of images from the story LIFE magazine ran in 1943 about the Kitchen of Tomorrow exhibit presented in Toledo, Ohio. The kitchen, complete with built-in pots and pans, was designed by the Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company to help housewives commander their households.

“All the equipment needed for preparing, cooking, storing food is built in, runs by electricity. The cabinets have sliding doors. Bending and stooping are reduced to a minimum because counters and utensils are at proper working level. Generous use of glass enables the housewife to see through the oven door and cook pots, into icebox and cupboards. Fronts of counters and drawers beneath working surfaces are slanted in so that housewife has knee room when she sits at her work. When work is done, the kitchen doubles as a playroom.”

When not in use, cooking surfaces, sink pots, pans and all of the equipment disappear in this ultramodern kitchen. Uniform lids come down over the work units and make a handy bar.

Kitchen in use looks like this. Here the sink, meat chopper and cooking units, under the lids at the left, are visible. Head and shins can’t be bumped on cabinet doors because they slide.

Potatoes are pared in sink. Electric garbage unit grinds parings. Vegetable drawer tilts so contents roll forward.

This is the sink. Faucet handles, which are a great hazard to dishes and china, have been eliminated. Water is controlled by foot pedals.

Frying can be done in the oven by substituting aluminum plate for grill. Another oven gadget is motor-driven barbecue spit. Sides and top of glass seal the heat in.

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