Detail, Life Magazine, 1919 (Trail End Collection)
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
April 2012 - December 2012
BY 1913, MANY of the labor-saving devices we know today - furnaces, light bulbs, washing machines - had been around for awhile. Nevertheless, improvements were always being made, making old technologies new again for the modern homemaker.
HEATING THE HOME
At almost 14,000 square feet, Trail End is a difficult building to keep warm – and always has been. As early as 1911, John Kendrick and architect Glenn Charles McAlister corresponded about the inefficiency of the coal-fired heating plant. As McAlister noted, the problem was:, "In our zeal to make an efficient warming plant out of it by increasing the radiation we overloaded the boiler … [But] the boiler we have is sectional and can be increased by adding new sections."
A second section was added, but the problems continued and, to this day, have never been completely resolved. In 1913, John Kendrick ordered the installation of asbestos pipe protectors. This insulating material helped keep what little heat there was in the pipes.
The heating plant burned tons of coal a year, all of which had to be moved from the coal bin to the boilers. This was hard, time-consuming labor. Manville Kendrick recalled that an automatic stoker – a device that supplied fuel to the boilers by mechanical means – was installed in the 1920s, thus offering some relief to the person who had to keep everything running smoothly. Because there were no full-time male employees at Trail End, this person was most likely the maid or housekeeper.
As for lighting, electric lights were part of Trail End’s original construction. Most of the fixtures were designed without shades, which allowed the lightly frosted light bulbs to be seen much more easily than in most of today’s fixtures.
The Kendricks used Mazda bulbs, invented by Thomas Edison and first manufactured by General Electric in 1909. Named for the Persian God of Light, early Mazda bulbs were identified by the sharp point at the end. (As manufacturing techniques changed, the point eventually disappeared.)
Unlike most bulbs, which burned carbon filaments, the Mazda used tungsten filaments. While this made the Mazda more expensive than its competitors, the light was brighter and used less electricity. Soon, all tungsten bulbs came to be known as Mazdas, regardless of who made them.
To advertise their bulbs, GE hired renowned American illustrator Maxfield Parrish to create a series of print advertisements, calendars and tin signs. Known for his lush illustrations featuring "distinctive saturated hues and idealized neo-classical imagery," Parrish added artistic class to GE's marketing efforts.
In most respects, the Kendricks were very forward-thinking people. If a new device or technology came along that made work easier or cheaper, they were usually among the first to purchase it. Not so in the Laundry Room. Although public laundries, electric washing machines and electric dryers were available, laundry at Trail End was almost always done by hand. It was washed and rinsed by hand in the triple sinks, hung up by hand on the clothesline, and ironed by hand.
The hands that did this labor belonged to laundresses – independent contractors who depended on such clients as the Kendricks to keep themselves in business. They felt threatened by the modern technologies that came along in the 1920s. If the Lady of the House could do all her own laundry in the blink of an eye with “The Washer that Glorified Washday,” what future could there be for the laundress?!
Once in the 1930s, Diana did a favor for a friend: she stored the woman's washing machine in the Trail End basement for a short time. The day after the apparatus appeared, the Trail End laundress saw it and promptly quit, stating that she wouldn’t work in a house with such a contraption. Diana quickly explained its presence, assuring the offended woman that her job was safe and secure. The laundress eventually came back to work.
Maxfield Parrish, 1917 (Private Collection)
State Historic Site