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From the Stove to the Electric Range

Different Styles: 1920s to the 1940s

During the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, when the use of electricity gradually became widespread in urban centres and rural areas, it is estimated that from 700 000 to over one million Canadian households used electricity. The country’s population was only eight million at the time.

Although traditional ironworking still figured in the design of early electric stoves, foundry operations — cupola blast furnace, metal fusion, bellows, casting, pressing, welding and component assembly — were gradually electrified from the 1920s to the 1940s.

Circa 1920, elegantly styled
electric stoves started to
become integral to
kitchen decor.
(CSTM Trade Literature

Cooking appliances of various shapes and functions were marketed: small table stoves, huge ranges combining electricity and wood or coal, and elegant buffets in various colours. Among the novelties of the time were hermetically sealed enamelled ovens and the ceramic power supply.

Table stove, Armstrong Manufacturing
Company, 1922 (CSTM 1995.0804)

The electrification of the Roaring twenties kitchen was often depicted in the fully electric breakfast, with a percolator, toaster, warming plate and portable stove all set out on the table. Made from pressed steel, nickel, aluminum and porcelain, the Armstrong table stove (1995.0804) could poach eggs and grill meat, bread or waffles. Since it radiated heat and thus complemented a wood or coal stove in heating the room, it remained popular in many homes until the late 1940s.

Hot plate, Triplex
Electric Manufacturing Company,
1922 (CSTM 1992.0885)

Another appliance also used for both ambient heat and food cooking, a hot plate (1992.0885) from 1922, in the shape of a basket, combines two cast-iron sections attached in the middle with hinges. Arranged horizontally, they provide two knob-controlled hot plates, while vertically, they form a radiator on feet.

The Art Nouveau style
is evident in the
ornamentation on this
Electra model by
Moffats Limited,
1924 (CSTM 1992.0871)

A structure in enamelled cast iron assembled by bolts characterizes the Moffats Electra model (1992.0871). Coils of nichrome wire are incorporated in open cooking plates and in ovens with thermometers while a panel of ceramic knobs allow for temperature control.

Electric stove, Beach
Foundry Limited,
1926 (CSTM 1976.0462)

The Beach Foundry electric stove (1976.0462) resembles the Electra, but is distinguished by its pressed enamelled metal structure. The oven, the largest compartment on the left side, housed metal racks and drip pans, while above it is a food warmer, and below it is a storage compartment.

Electric buffet stove,
Beach Foundry Limited,
circa 1937 (CSTM 1976.0463)

Cooking and warming ovens arranged side-by-side, along with vertical control knobs, altogether creating an aesthetically pleasing design, heralded the classic style of the buffet stove (1976.0463) from the same manufacturer. The construction of this new appliance in green and ivory marbled porcelain, the hidden bolts, and the hinged cover that could be swung up against the wall to create a backguard, were signs of modernity, while the short cast-iron feet were reminiscent of old wood stoves. Uniform cooking was assured by closed cast-iron plates covering nichrome elements.

Electric stove,
Findlay Brothers 
Company Limited,
circa 1930 (CSTM 1992.0875)

Very large stoves combining different energy sources were in vogue in the 1930s. The Findlay stove (1992.0875), with bolts very much in evidence, combined two stacked fireboxes on the lower left, and a wood- or coal-fired oven intended for home heating above them. The right-hand side of the appliance was electrified and contained an enamelled porcelain oven (lower right) and food warmer above. With nichrome open cooking plates resting on trays, the stove was considered innovative. Manufacturers stressed the ability of these stoves to use various fuel sources, enabling them to continue to function during electric power outages.