FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000

Cook Today . . . Tomorrow's Way

Microwave ovens were introduced in 1947, using radar technology developed during World War II. Noting that microwave generators created heat, a Raytheon engineer adapted the technology for cooking food; his first experiment was to pop kernels of corn.  Manufacturers expected that consumers would use the new ovens to cook meals from scratch in a fraction of the time required for conventional cooking.  By 2000, 90 percent of U.S. households had a microwave oven.

Microwave oven, 1955

Developed by Tappan in conjunction with Raytheon, the RL-1 was the first microwave oven designed for home use. A 1955 model failed to sell well due to its steep price of $1,295, as well as customer confusion about how to use it. Gift of Frigidaire Company.

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Microwave oven, 1976

Oven manufactured in Japan by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. for the JCPenney department store chain. Gift of Jeff and Jan Thompson.

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Tappan informational flier, 1955 (front)

Tappan informational flier, 1955 (front)

Tappan informational flier, 1955 (back)

Tappan informational flier, 1955 (back)