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Turning Points Features

Shocking Developments on the Home Front: Electrical Power Transforms Domestic Life

"This is the porch where in the breeze
My lady irons at her ease
When summer makes the kitchen hotó
The Iron stays warm, the ironer not.
Fatigue's to her a stranger quite,
She does her work and finds it light--
In the Electrical House that Jack Built."

So begins this 1916 advertising brochure from Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co., published to show how electric appliances could transform home life. Written in verse to parody the well-known nursery rhyme about The House That Jack Built, and illustrated with drawings like those in children's books of the period, it celebrates the convenience, comfort and health enjoyed by users of electrical appliances. Pictured are an electric iron, coffee maker, heater, vacuum cleaner, and clothes washer, as well as electric lights.

Today it seems odd that a utility company would have to advertise to get new customers to use their services. Electricity is so ubiquitous we forget that it was once unavailable. The story of how Wisconsin built its electrical infrastructure -- including the first electricity ever offered for sale anywhere in the world, rural electrification cooperatives, and dams for hydroelectric power -- is told and illustrated at our page on "The Introduction of Electrical Power."

Posted July 19, 2005
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