For the oven or microwave.
We looked back at the early patents for microwave ovens in the post for microwave berry jam from the box from Martinez, California. If you look at the date on the image there (for microwave popcorn, of all things), it’s from 1949. So why weren’t there microwaves in every 1950s kitchen?
September 26, 1956 Star-News, Pasadena, California
Well, partially, it took a few years to get the item to the consumer market. (Raytheon had a huge water-cooled model on the market for commercial use earlier, but it was little more than a novelty.) And in that time, anticipation built, and some of the articles heralding the microwave may have oversold it. Consider the “wonder stove” promised by the March 17, 1955 edition of the Freeport (Illinois) Journal-Standard:
Magazine Predicts Microwave Oven is Just Around Corner
Peek into the future and consider the electronic oven, says Changing Times magazine. With it you can fry fish fillets in 30 seconds, bake potatoes in 2 minutes, broil lobsters in 3 minutes. Leftover spaghetti is stemming hot in 15 seconds. A roast takes only 20 minutes.
This oven cooks with microwaves. A magnetron tube which looks similar to a radio tube does the work. There are no fumes or soot in the oven.
Housewives cook the food right on the dinner plates and remove them with their bare hands. Only the food gets warm.
Accidentally “cooking” you hand by putting it in the oven is impossible–the unit automatically cuts off when the oven door is opened. This new wonder stove should appear in the stores late this year.
Mmhmm. Everyone who has ever been burned when taking a plate out of the microwave, raise what’s left of your hand.
Nevertheless, the consumer microwave launched on October 25, 1955 to glowing coverage in the manufacturer’s hometown newspaper, the Mansfield (Ohio) News-Journal:
By Marguerite Miller
New York City rolled out her finest red carpet today for a Mansfield kitchen stove which:
It’s the first domestic electronic range on the market and carries the name: “Tappan Stove.”
Retail price at the start will be approximately $1,000. However, Truman Clark, director of engineering at Tappan’s, sees the price probably cut below half when the range gets into full production. Austin C. Rhoads, control rod the firm, says a production schedule on the electronic range will be set up after the first of the year. After that, consumer demand will regular just how fast the stoves will be made up–and how fast the price will begin receding as production increases.
Clark headed a small group of engineers at the Tappan Stove Co. who accomplished what other engineers said was impossible–browning of electronic or microwave-cooked food.
(So how did Tappan “solve” this impossible problem? They stuck a broiler element in the top of the microwave and patented it. Not exactly an engineering marvel.)
Actually, one source says it sold for $1295, and the ad above says $1250. How expensive was that, by 1955 standards? Well, compare these three ads from the October 5, 1955 edition of The Paris (Texas) News:
To this, it’s worth adding that gas and electric companies often subsidized the cost of the purchase of ovens and ranges designed to work with their respective utilities in a bid to compete with each other for business. So buying a microwave in 1955 was a little bit like buying an unlocked phone in 2014, except with the added wrinkle that the microwave of 1955 didn’t actually to such a great job as a substitute for the ovens that it was intended to replace at five times the price.
What eventually led to the consumer adoption of the microwave was the commercial adoption of the microwave in the 1960s, with smaller, cheaper commercial units and food developed specifically for microwave heating. By the 1980s, questionable studies said that microwaves were healthier because they cooked food faster. I say “questionable” because they determined this by measuring the amount of Vitamin C left in fruits and vegetables after microwaving. Useful information, I’m sure, for the next time you find yourself needing to cook a bunch of grapefruit.
From a box sold in Nampa, Idaho.
3/4 c. chocolate chips
enough cream to make 1-1/2 c.
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. vanilla or rum]
Place 3/4 cup chocolate bits in 2 cup measuring cup.
Add cream to 1-1/2 cup mark. Melt over boiling water.
Place 1 egg plus 1 yolk in mixing bowl; mix, do not beat. Add 1 Tbsp. vanilla or rum. Mix with whisk and gradually add above mixture of chocolate and cream.
Strain into individual covered pots or ramekins.
- Preheat to 350 deg.
- Place dishes in deep container of hot water (1 inch deep).
- Cover with sheet of aluminum foil (cover loosely).
- Bake 20 minutes.
- Place 1 cup boiling water in 9″ square baking dish.
- Place dishes in dish of water.
- Bake 1-3/4 minutes. Turn dish around.
- Bake another 1-3/4 minutes. Remove dishes from hot water.