General Electric Thermal Control

General Electric manufactured this Thermal Control thermostat around 1933. The thermostat came equipped with a Telechron synchronous motor that powered the clock attached to the thermostat. The clock allowed the furnace to turn on and off at a certain time, and the thermostat has two wheels on the right and the left, which allowed the home owner to set a desired temperature during the day and during the evening.
The ubiquity of thermostats in 21st century homes shrouds the decades of innovation, industrial design, and engineering that went into making them an everyday object in almost every home. In the early 20th century, a majority of American households still heated their homes with manually operated furnaces that required a trip down to the basement and stoking the coal fired furnace. Albert Butz’s “damper-flapper” system was patented in 1886 and allowed home owner to set the thermostat to a certain temperature which would open a damper to the furnace, increasing the fire and heating the house. Progressive innovations allowed for the thermostats to use gas lines, incorporate electricity, turn on at a set time, include heating and cooling in one mechanism, and even connect to the internet.
Currently not on view
Object Name
overall: 8 1/2 in x 4 in x 3 in; 21.59 cm x 10.16 cm x 7.62 cm
overall: 8 3/8 in x 4 in x 3 1/8 in; 21.2725 cm x 10.16 cm x 7.9375 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Domestic Furnishings
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
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Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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