Today our houses run on electricity however that wasn't the case for most of the 19th Century. By the end of the 19th Century electricity was in nearly every home and appliances were being made that ran on electricity. What is great about this article from "Catering for Two: Comfort and Economy for Small Households ©1898 is that they also give some overall prices for various items and the cost to run them.
ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES FOR THE HOUSEHOLD.
The multitude of electric devices for the use and pleasure of every condition of modern society makes an impressive show of marvelous inventions.
The household exhibit by itself is full of astonishing things especially intended to lighten labor, and eliminate, as much as possible, the fatigue of necessary housework.
Electric household appliances are very attractive in appearance, so easy to handle, so easy to keep clean, and withal so serviceable, that their possession is a constant source of enthusiastic appreciation to their owners.
The prices asked for these devices make them seem too costly luxuries, but, when the excellence of material—steel, wrought and cast iron, aluminum—and the high-finished workmanship expended upon them are considered, they are not really more expensive in the end then any cooking apparatus of superior construction.
Refrigerating machines, washing machines, ranges, vacuum cleaners, and kitchen cabinets
are the highest in cost, some of them reaching to, and considerably over, the hundred dollar mark.
A kitchen cabinet containing a motor which operates an egg-beater, ice-cream freezer, cofieegrinder, meat-grinder or chopper, and performs several other feats of everyday occurrence in families where cooking goes on, is listed at a hundred and eighty-five dollars.
This cabinet, of course, is not needed, or even desired, by every housekeeper, and is only mentioned here by the way.
It would seem an extravagant and superfluous luxury to many. But, to one who feels that her kitchen equipment must be electrically up-todate whatever the cost, it would, probably, be deemed a necessity.
Aside from these pieces of large price, there are to be found many simple and single devices of intrinsic value that cost each but a few dollars, and in homes where there is an electric socket it is an easy thing to test for oneself the capabilities of these small and exquisite housekeeping inventions.
It is estimated that the cost of current for an ordinary family range is about two dollars and fifty cents per month, but prices for electricity, as well as for other things in the commercial world, are subject to change and reduction, so one may consider any quotation of prices for electric service as inconclusive, except for the present moment.
By enquiry one finds, and for the asking is given, a considerable amount of readable literature devoted to electric service and electrical inventions for household purposes.
These illustrated booklets contain, besides the advertising matter, much that is entertaining and instructive to the reader who feels interested in these topics, but, for the most comprehensive study of electric cooking, the management of switches, grills, hot plates, and the utensils, one must see the methods demonstrated.
Demonstrations are given by experts at stated times at the offices and branch offices of electric companies exhibiting electric household wares. Department stores also sometimes give these valuable lessons.
A long hour full of delightful surprises may be spent at the “Country Life Permanent Exposition," Grand Central Terminal, New York City, where not only electrical inventions are displayed and explained, but other things contributive to the enlargement of life’s outlook may be seen and studied.
At any electric station or office, complete and authoritative information relating to electric appliances may be obtained.
The questions one wishes to ask should be written out in full, and the answers, written in full, be put underneath each question. Then in case of forgetting instructions there will be these plainly written notes for ready reference.
Some of the little booklets mentioned above contain directions for the care of heaters with attachments, and some have a dictionary of simple electrical terms, and directions for reading a. meter.
It is very useful sometimes to know the meaning of a watt and watt hour, a kilowatt hour and a kilowatt, fuse, amperage, etc., and to be able to read a meter intelligently.
For electric appliances of all sorts one has the choice of many makers. Among the most noted and popular are: Westinghouse, Hughes, General Electric, Simplex, Western Electric, Hot Point, Universal.
There are so many new and wonderful electric inventions for household use that one can scarcely keep track of them. A few noted at random are:
Ranges, sweepers, heaters, vacuum cleaners, elevators, washing machines, fans, clocks, flatirons, heating-pads, portable ovens, footwarmers, hot-plates,—variously called stoves, disk-stoves, and grills,—chafing-dishes, coffee percolators, samovars, waffle-irons, soup-tureens, egg-boilers, water cups for quick heating, nursery milk-warmers, radiators, double-boilers, refrigerating machines, tea-kettles, toasters and toaster-stoves, which are also grills, and a toaster “which turns the toast."
There are egg-heaters which are also used for whipping cream and as drink-mixers.
There are sewing-machine motors, dishwashers, vegetable peelers and cutters, corn poppers. There is a griddle which can be turned into a stove, and a frying-pan which can be converted into a stove, also into a dishwater heater by immersing it in a pan of water and turning on the current.
There is a tireless-cooker, which boils, bakes, roasts, and steams, and has automatic heat control.
There is also a portable oven, heavily insulated, which cooks an hour after the current has been turned off. This oven has a broiler attachment. The cost of it is not small, ranging from twentyseven dollars up to forty-nine dollars.
If all that is claimed for electric household inventions proves true, it looks as if the prediction that “housework of the future will be carried on by the turn of a switch" might also come true, but that electricity will supplant all other methods, notwithstanding its acknowledged great capabilities, is viewed skeptically by many.
Some small stoves are made so they can be used with portable ovens.
Ranges have stationary ovens, elevated at the side, or placed beneath the burners, each burner being controlled by a three-heat switch.
Ranges also have broiler attachments.
Cooking on an electric range after its possibilities are known, and the manipulation of the switches is understood, is not difierent in method or in the preparation of the food, from cooking on a coal range. The oven bakes and roasts, the grill broils, and the top is arranged for boiling, stewing, and frying.
Toast can be made on a range by placing a wire frame between the bread and hot-plate.
But when a meal is to be got on a grill or single hot-plate, a little ingenuity and some planning has to be done to make the cooking go along uninterruptedly.
As an example, take a breakfast of fruit, oatmeal, bacon and eggs, coffee, toast, and pancakes.
Set the grill on a waiter, turn on the current, and set some water on top to boil with which to make the coffee. It takes about seven minutes to boil a quart of cold water.
Utilize the heat at the bottom to warm the oatmeal, which has been previously cooked, and while this is warming, the fruit may be eaten.
While eating the oatmeal, the bacon is put to broil, and the coffee-pot is placed on the top of the grill.
Afterwards the coflee—pot will be replaced with the pan of eggs to be fried, or poached. Both eggs and bacon will be done at about the same time, and while eating these, toast can be made, and then the pancakes baked.
All this cooking can be done on the breakfast table.
The service is of course, most informal, and will be regarded by some as slow, and a little fussy, but many others will think it charmingly cosy.
For light-housekeeping in the house electrically lighted, these little separate stoves are a marvel of comfort, and nothing can be said that too highly praises their convenience, and beauty of handicraft.
And if the little oven made to fit, costing about two dollars and a half, is added, the equipment is quite adequate for any amount of cooking needed in a very small household.
In places, however, where the current is turned off during the day electric appliances are somewhat limited in their usefulness.
Some makes of grills brown as quickly by electricity as by gas, but, for general cooking, electric heat is not so rapid as gas. A test made of the time for a quart of cold water to boil was seven minutes for electric heat, and four for gas.
Ten minutes is required to make a quart of coffee in an electric percolator. A toaster must have the current turned on for about two minutes before it is ready to use, and at the cost of a cent, it is estimated, can be used for about twenty-five minutes.
For the same length of time and the same expense, a chafing-dish or a flatiron may be operated.
It is not economy to heat flatirons on hot plates. The electric iron—with its own heater attachnent——gives better service.
TO IRON BY ELECTRICITY.
For flat and heavy work, use the iron with the heat turned on until it becomes a little cooled -—ironing heavy, damp pieces cools the iron even with the current turned on full—then tum 05 the current and iron delicate fabrics which need slow and careful ironing; then turn on the current again and iron heavy pieces.
Alternating in this way adjusts the heat to suit the various requirements of heavy and thin materials.
ELECTRIC COOKING UTENSILS.
Cooking utensils for electric stoves should be flat-bottomed. Aluminum, also heavily tinned copperware, are recommended, but agateware, on account of its not being flat-bottomed, is not so well adapted for this mode of cooking.
To obtain the best results, all the pots and pans should be exactly fitted to the top of the stove or grill, as well as to the hot-plates of ranges.