The System Builders

Radical Inventions:

  • New systems
  • Individual or independent inventors

Edison electric light

Bell Telephone

Conservative Inventions

  • Refinement of existing technologies
  • Frequently from corporate inventors and collective labs

Better Cars

Incremental Advances in Washing Machines, 1940

A conservative invention?

Central Vaccuums, Modern incarnation

Revolutionizing Modern Transport

The electric system

Edison and the Light Bulb

Pearl St. Station, New York

Pearl St. Station, Interior

Household electrification in the United States

1907 8%
1912 16%
1920 34.7%
1941 80%

Very early (1880s?) electric wiring

Socket Sharing

Socket standards

Household Appliance, c. 1908

An early toaster ad (New York World, 1913)

GE ad, 1936

Case Study: Refrigeration

Ice Boxes

GE designs refrigerators

The electric power bill of the air cooled machine would be about $1.40 more in six months than the water cooled machine.... Since the General Electric Company is entering this field for the benefit of the central station, it would seem wise to exploit a machine in which the total revenue would accrue to the central station rather than partly to the water works.

Advertising anxiety: General Electric Monitor Top ad, 1920s

Advertising modernity: 1930s (?) Monitor top ad

Household Labor and the new gender balance

Soup Advertisement, Cosmopolitan (1898)

Campbell's soup

Original Gibson Girls, Charles Dana Gibson

Sorority members in the Gibson girl style, 1905

Coco Chanel as Gibson Girl, 1913

Two 19th-century methods: Boston Public Library, Trade Cards

Central Laundromat in Britain, c. 1910

Preview of tomorrow: Radio

Marconi transmitting across the Atlantic, 1901

Home Listening, 1930s