A housewife wearing a stylish apron is in the depths of morning depression. Although she has laid the breakfast table with great care, something seems to be missing. Where is the food? It’s waiting in the electric refrigerator, at the time still sporting a round shape. This resulted in limited practical use, but it was simpler to manufacture and the contents easier to cool.
Gas stoves were considered dangerous, and electric cookers safe. And yet a glance in the oven seems to suggest that perhaps someone did not survive the high temperature. The contemporary observer of the advertisement is left wondering exactly what that thing in the oven is – while the mistress of the house, still dressed in the style of the family cook of yore, is more interested in tasting the boiling water.
In the 1950s, Siemens vacuum cleaners were like early fitness equipment. Lifting a Rapid above shoulder height to vacuum the curtains without allowing the fabric to disappear into the nozzle could replace several gym workouts. On top of that, it seems the work had to be done in stilettos with your legs in a graceful pose to entice your husband to look up from his newspaper every now and then. No wonder the cardboard lady in the display window looks a little strained.
The good old days, when balloon silk sweatpants had not yet been invented! Women went about their household chores in a pleated skirt, one-handed, lightly strolling with casual elegance. Vacuuming was a kind of meditation, especially since the appliance could also be “emptied hygienically in the apartment”. A generation later, the daughter of this 1958 expert is still having lots of fun – because now the device follows her around like a well-behaved pet. Her shoes are flatter, her clothes a bit more casual. Her duties have increased – now the multitasking mother also has to supervise homework as well.
The first entry in the Guinness Book of Records was in 1965, for squeezing 21 people into a VW Beetle. The telephone booth record that year stood at 12 people. The Siemens fridge for this period of economic miracles could easily compete: thanks to a clever packing technique, over a hundred household food items fitted into it. The lady in the picture has managed to fill the fridge to overflowing. That’s earned her a stiff cocktail, which she mixes in a beautiful container in the style of the era.
Coffee parties could be a real challenge. Relying on women’s love of technology, Siemens packed an entire fleet of small electric devices onto a tea trolley in contemporary Scandinavian design – a coffee machine, toaster, egg boiler, mixer. All at knee height, which simply looked more elegant and responded to the emerging era of the imperative of design.
Charming and cumbersome: in 1977, the “Bosch Home Appliance Express” traveled for four months through Germany, Belgium and Austria. Dealers who missed the Domotechnica Household Appliance Trade Fair in Cologne had to trek to the train’s location at the freight station and go through six cars full of white goods. This being a time when postal services were still being robbed, this “rolling trade fair” even caught the attention of gangsters. After a half-hearted attempt, they left their heavy booty behind, probably due to backache.
The compact oven was the next step for cooks who had made good progress with their coffee machine. This was the start of the era of mysterious sensor switches, multi-stage settings and obscure programming. The white trouser suit signaled problem-free use without the risk of staining your clothes. But nobody spoke about how much time the master chef had to spend studying the operating instructions. The bottle of Bocksbeutel on the shelf is ready to be poured while she works it out.
With increasing mechanization, men also started to show an interest in the kitchen. The microwave in particular, which holds within it a radiant mystery, attracted a man's attention. Their belief was that this was a job for engineers. However, the expert in our picture looks rather unsure – the chicken is so pale, I wonder if I shouldn’t just switch on the grill?
Long before Siri and Google Now, Siemens devices were trying to make conversation with lonely users. The 1984 Domotechnica trade fair had washing machines, dishwashers and refrigerators that could deliver short sentences, like baby dolls and talking teddy bears. The demand was low, so the function was put to bed again. But it did point to the future. Now at last, thanks to Home Connect, communicative kitchen devices are back, and are even talking to each other.
The proliferation of single households created the need for smaller appliances – washing machines that could accommodate half loads, more modest freezers and dishwashers that you could still fill in under a week. The smaller dimensions created space in the ever shrinking kitchens. In our image, the wife uses the free space to pack the dishwasher photogenically from the side. The bottle of sparkling wine, standard utensil of the diligent housewife in home appliance advertisements, is also standing ready at about twenty minutes before noon.
Text: Dietmar Bittrich. The Hamburg-based satirist is the author of numerous books, including best-sellers like “Alle Orte, die man knicken kann” [All the places you can bend], “Urlaub mit der buckligen Verwandtschaft” [Vacation with the hunchbacked relatives], “Das Gummibärchen-Orakel” [The gummy bear oracle] as well as various Christmas books, most recently “Diesmal bleiben wir bis Silvester!” [This time we’re staying until New Year’s Eve!]. Dietmar Bittrich was born in Trieste as the child of German immigrants and lives in Hamburg today. www.dietmar-bittrich.de
Photos: ©Robert Bosch GmbH Corporate Archives, BSH Hausgeräte GmbH Corporate Archives, Siemens Corporate Archives