Every minute counts!

The clock became an indispensable fixture in many kitchens in the late 1920s and 1930s—even before the electric refrigerator did. As more Americans became obsessed with saving time, experts in “scientific management”— the professional study of work processes and ways to conduct them—advocated time-saving efficiencies for the home.

A modern kitchen, 1920s

A modern kitchen, 1920s

Courtesy of Granger, NYC

“The test of the efficiency of the new kitchen was made with strawberry shortcake. . . . The cake was first made in a typically haphazard kitchen. . . . Then an exactly similar shortcake was prepared in [a kitchen] arranged for efficiency. The number of actual steps taken had been reduced from 281 to 45—less than one-sixth!”

— Report on  the “Dr. Gilbreth Kitchen” in The Better Homes Manual, 1931

Kitchen clocks, 1930s-1940s

Kitchen clocks, 1930s-1940s

Kitchen clocks, 1930s-1940s

Kitchen clocks, 1930s-1940s

Gilbreth's model kitchen, 1929

Gilbreth's model kitchen, 1929

Courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Karnes Archives and Special Collections

Based on “time and motion” studies, efficiency expert Lillian Gilbreth reconfigured the standard kitchen layout into a circular workspace in which the refrigerator, cabinets, countertops, stove, and sink were all in easy reach. Her goal: reduce drudgery and wasted motion in order to save time—enabling women to accumulate “happiness minutes” that they could use for leisure or creative pursuits.