Document 39: Harry Jerome, Mechanization in Industry, New York: National - Bureau of Economic Research, 1934, pp 174-175




The decade of the 'twenties witnessed a rapid increase in the use of power appliances in the home, chiefly in the way of electric-motor-driven equipment. Estimates of the rapidity of introduction and changes in the extent of use, derived largely from statistics furnished by the manufacturers and published in the trade journals, appear in Tables 43-45, Estimates of the number sold each year, 1923-30, are given in Table 43; estimates of the number of users of selected electric household appliances at the close of each year, in Table 44; estimates of the percentage of wired homes at the close of each year equipped with the specified electric appliance, in Table 45.


Most power-driven household labor-saving appliances are electric, and the extent of use is frequently expressed in terms of the percentage of wired homes equipped with the given device (Table 45). It is estimated that the number of persons living in electric-lighted dwellings in the United States in-creased from about 35 million at the beginning of 1920 to about 85 million at the close of 1929, or from 33 to 70 per cent of the total population. (Source:  Electrical World, January 7, 1928, p. 32; January 4, 1930, page 10)


The number of users of electric washing machines has increased from about three and one-half million in 1924 to over seven million in 1930, but these labor-saving devices are still lacking in nearly two-thirds of wired homes. Electric irons are even more extensively used, the number of homes equipped with them having about doubled from 1924 to 1930, when the number is estimated at 20,000,000.


The more elaborate ironing machine (for flat work) has been installed at an annual rate of some 50,000 to 100,000 or more, the number of users increasing from slightly over 200,000 in 1924 to about 68o,000 at the close of 1930, but even so only a small proportion of wired homes were equipped with iron­ing machines.


About one million electric vacuum cleaners were sold each year, and the number of users increased from about 5,000,000 in 1924 to about 9,000,000 in 1930, with some 44 per cent of wired homes equipped. Electric floor polishers were much less common, annual sales numbering about 50,000.


In the six years, 1925-30, some 1,818,000 electric sewing machines were sold, but the electric type is still far outnumbered by the foot-power type.


A small but increasing proportion of wired homes are equipped with electric cookers and ranges (Table 45); and by the close of 1930 there were some 2,625,000 users of electric refrigerators, in about 13 per cent of wired homes. Numerous minor aids to the preparation of food are in use but in a relatively small number of homes. Electric dish wash­ers, for example, were in 1925 used in less than one per cent of urban homes, according to the Women's Club Survey, 74 and total sales, 1925-30, are estimated as only about 57,000.