Saturday, November 1, 2014

Deadly Kitchens Of Yesteryear

     A while ago I wrote about how difficult it can be to fully understand our ancestors who lived in the centuries before us.  I thought about that today while searching the "Canadaigua Daily Messenger" at, and an ad placed by my great-grandmother in 1939 came up.  Now 1939 really isn't all that long ago, my Dad was born in the early 30's, but things were very different even then.

     The ad in question read, "FOR SALE- cook stove with Silent Glow burners".  What on earth is a silent glow burner?  I had no idea.  After much searching I found first of all, you need to use the search term "silent glow OIL burner" to get any worthwhile results, and secondly, this invention was an add on to one's present coal or wood burning stove designed to make the housewife's life a little easier, and the Silent Glow people a little richer.  By the 1930's gas stoves had come into wide use, in fact twice as many were in American homes as coal or wood stoves, so the Silent Glow must have been the option for people living in rural areas with no gas lines, or too cheap frugal to buy a new stove.


Old Silent Glow kerosene bottle.
     Why be a stoker indeed!  I'm certainly no fan of "dirt and toil in the kitchen", and undoubtedly great-grandma wasn't either.  See the little inset on the right in the ad above?  That is what the contraption looked like when in use.  A large glass bottle full of fuel oil hanging upside down on an unstable looking stand with a hose running to your stove.  Actually, the "oil" is kerosene--one article about the burners mentioned homes smelling strongly of it.  How inviting.  And I'm not sure I buy the "absolutely safe" bit.  Even modern kerosene heaters caution you to provide adequate ventilation lest you accidentally asphyxiate yourself.  The US Consumer Product Safety Commission goes ever further stating, "Improper use can cause uncontrolled fire", and many communities near me have banned the use of kerosene heaters altogether.  Call me a Nervous Nellie, but the whole thing makes me a little uneasy.

     Early refrigerators weren't any better.  The GE Monitor Top which came out in 1927 used sulpher-dioxide or methyl formate as a refrigerant.  Those chemicals are so dangerous that if you have one of these babies laying around today, you can't even legally recharge it using the original refrigerant.

     Aside from wondering what my ancestor's day to day lives were like, I sometimes have to wonder how they survived long enough to become my ancestors in the first place?



1 comment:

  1. This was really an interesting topic and I kinda agree with what you have mentioned here
    RS Glass bottle