The Great Depression and the Rise of the Refrigerator


• By  • psmag.com

When I moved to Los Angeles and began my search for an apartment I was a little surprised by the fact that a refrigerator wasn’t included with most of the units I toured. In every other city where I’ve ever lived, the average apartment always included a refrigerator with the cost of rent. I was only looking for a one-bedroom apartment, but I was expecting that this was the norm everywhere for the most basic of apartments.

When I asked the manager of the apartment building I wound up renting from why there was no refrigerator, she explained that the property only supplies “the essentials.” When I pointed out that the building came with an underground parking space, she just stared at me blankly. It was in her silence that I came to understand a subtle difference between Los Angeles and the rest of the country: parking is essential, keeping perishable food fresh is not.

My belief that a refrigerator is an essential part of any home obviously comes from a place of tremendous privilege. For centuries, people have struggled with attempts at keeping food fresh. Only in the 20th century (after the first World War) did American consumers see the arrival of a slick new invention that would dramatically change our relationship with food; how we shopped and how we ate. But somewhat surprisingly, the rapid adoption of the electric refrigerator in American homes has its roots in an unlikely decade: the 1930s.

The Great Depression, despite all the hardships of the American people, would see the meteoric rise of the refrigerator. At the start of the 1930s, just 8 percent of American households owned a mechanical refrigerator. By the end of the decade, it had reached 44 percent. The refrigerator came to be one of the most important symbols of middle class living in the United States. While the upper class rarely interacted with such appliances, given the fact that they had servants, the middle class woman of the 1930s lived in a “servantless household”—a phrase you see repeatedly in scholarship about this era. The refrigerator was tied to one of the most fundamental and unifying of middle class events: the daily family meal. And it was in providing for your family that the refrigerator became a point of pride.

The refrigerator of the 1930s was often the color white, which people associated with cleanliness and proper hygiene. As Shelley Nickles notes in her 2002 paper “Preserving Women: Refrigerator Design as Social Process in the 1930s,” the whiteness of the appliance was supposed to signify that a woman cared about the safety and health of her family:

The refrigerator’s primary function, preserving food, was now linked visually to the responsibilities of the average housewife to provide a clean, safe environment for her family. Contrasting to diverse, localized practices of food preservation and wooden iceboxes kept in service areas and used primarily by servants, these white, steel refrigerators were conceptualized as part of the ordinary kitchen. By buying a white refrigerator and keeping it in the kitchen, the housewife expressed her awareness of modern sanitary and food preservation standard; her ability to keep the refrigerator white and devoid of dirt represented the extent to which she met these standards.

 

The newspapers and magazines of the 1930s…   Leer más “The Great Depression and the Rise of the Refrigerator”

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Products that help you survive office life

When you are hired by a large company or corporation, you are shown a video on office harassment. The video looks like a 1970s porn film without the sex. Bad acting and rhythmic guitar rifts, but the common thread throughout the video is that even when you are in the right, if someone complains about you, then you are guilty and wrong. With a small cast of characters in this video, it’s always the same person being offended by the actions of coworkers. One might wonder why the old rules of society aren’t followed and the constant complainer isn’t just buried up to his or her neck and hit in turn by every other employee with a polo mallet until dead. The modern office has a strange political hierarchy and it will not bend or break to your will or common sense. Learn to deal with it safely and with a sense of good-natured flair!


At one of my first jobs, my lunch constantly disappeared from the community refrigerator. There were no clues and, being New York, “nobody saw nuttin!”

I tried marking my lunch. I tried notes pleading with people to not take my lunch. I tried hiding my lunch behind cans, etc. Nothing worked. One day, after my lunch disappeared, I shut the refrigerator door and laughed maniacally. Someone asked me what was so funny.

“Today is the day I find out who has been stealing my lunch,” I replied. “I put rat poison on my sandwich! We’ll find the thief in about an hour when he or she starts dying.”

Sure enough, a coworker screamed and ran around like she was on fire. As she was about to be taken to the hospital to have her stomach pumped, I laughed and admitted it wasn’t really poisoned. Naturally, I was fired. It didn’t matter that this woman had stolen my lunch for her mid-morning snack every day. It seems my “joke” was considered “dangerous” and I was chastised for possibly “giving (her) a heart attack.”

In one office, coworkers had small refrigerators in their cubicles to keep their lunch and drinks cold and safe. The energy bills must have been too much for the company so a memo went around informing people that these appliances were against the fire code. The kitchen refrigerator then became a repository of science experiments as people forgot half sandwiches and slabs of meatloaf for weeks and months. Sometimes you couldn’t even tell what was in the Tupperware it was so furry and moldy.

Being a smoker, I often found that people would pop into my cubicle to borrow my lighter, which sat out with my pack of cigarettes. Switching to gag lighter that gave those who pushed the button to light it a severe shock, I was once again chastised for a dangerous item that could “give someone a heart attack!”

Again, it would be a telltale sign of who was stealing my lighters. Sometimes there’s just no justice in the world and certainly not an office.

When you are hired by a large company or corporation, you are shown a video on office harassment. The video looks like a 1970s porn film without the sex. Bad acting and rhythmic guitar rifts, but the common thread throughout the video is that even when you are in the right, if someone complains about you, then you are guilty and wrong. With a small cast of characters in this video, it’s always the same person being offended by the actions of coworkers. One might wonder why the old rules of society aren’t followed and the constant complainer isn’t just buried up to his or her neck and hit in turn by every other employee with a polo mallet until dead. The modern office has a strange political hierarchy and it will not bend or break to your will or common sense. Learn to deal with it safely and with a sense of good-natured flair!

Save your lunch

And do it without the expense of poison and explosive booby traps that blow off human fingers! Try these sickening lunch bags with horrid mold or cockroaches printed on them.

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