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From the Stove to the Electric Range

The Electric Range Collection

The Canada Science and Technology Museum’s collection of electric ranges, established in 1968, comprises various acquisitions from individuals as well as a donation from Ontario Hydro. This collection includes a variety of appliances — fireboxes, table stoves, cooking plates, buffet stoves — and illustrates the main innovations made to these electric household cooking appliances between 1900 and 1970.

Trade catalogues, owner’s manuals, technical reviews and interior design magazines round out the collection. These sources help to identify not only the products offered on the market and their features, manufacturers, and manufacturing locations and periods, but also the styles in vogue at the time.

The terms stove and range are used interchangeably in Canada. The term stove has a broader range of meanings including both cooking of food, and heating of the home, and is defined in the Gage Canadian Dictionary (1997) as “an apparatus for cooking and heating using electricity, or burning fuel such as wood or coal.” The term range is more likely to refer specifically to cooking, and is defined in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2004) as “an electric or gas stove” and in Gage as “an appliance that includes a stove and oven.” Use of the term “range” has become more common in recent years, particularly in upscale kitchen design and decorating.

Electric cooking appliances were first manufactured in Canada in the 1920s with the consolidation of the system for producing, transforming and distributing electricity. Electrification facilitated use of these appliances first in the city, in upper-class households, and then gradually in rural regions.

After the Second World War, the population boom, urbanization, changes in housing and promotion by manufacturers were all factors that contributed to the expanded production and distribution of electric ranges in Canada. At the same time, advertising and industrial design were new tools being used to convince Canadians to become keen consumers of these new appliances that would literally change their way of life.

Ranges were first manufactured in foundries using traditional methods. Later, they were built on factory assembly lines. Made from a variety of materials, the fabrication of ranges is one of the best examples of the formation of spinoff industries. The growth of the Canadian industry in the electrochemistry, electrometallurgy and steel sectors from the 1920s, and in petrochemistry after 1947, led to the production of polymers, acrylics and plastics, as well as ceramic and aluminum composites, all of which were used in manufacturing electric household appliances. Despite the availability of American technologies, the Canadian electric range industry developed steadily beginning in the 1930s, and would later be marked by the merger of several companies.