“Why We Eat Better,” Life, November 19, 1951

“Why We Eat Better,” Life, November 19, 1951

Courtesy of Hagley Museum and Library

Refrigerators symbolized a new era of American affluence and abundance. Consumers could choose from a variety of models in a range of colors with innovations such as separate freezers. Magazines showcased a cornucopia of fresh and frozen foods, underscoring the productivity of American farms and a higher standard of living.

Hotpoint refrigerator, about 1960

Power companies and manufacturers told consumers that “living electrically” would make domestic chores a snap. In reality, appliances often meant more work for housewives, who were expected to have cleaner houses and fancier food. But a belief in labor-saving devices and styling increased sales and fueled production of consumer durables. Refrigerator manufacturers advertised freezers as signs of innovation and progress. From Swanson dinners to Birdseye frozen vegetables, frosted food brought a variety of new products to Americans more cheaply and changed the way people ate.

Sunbeam Mixmaster, about 1955

Coffeemaster, 1950s–1960s

Kenmore “elevator” toaster, 1957

Tupperware and other new flexible plastics appeared in postwar kitchens and quickly began to replace glass containers. Tupperware also turned houses into places of commerce as housewives sold the product through home parties.

Tupperware shaker, 1950s
The Wishing Well / Tupperware Jubilee plate, 1957

Screenshot of the Consumer Era Table interactiveWould you like to learn more about these objects and other related stories from the Consumer Era? Click on the screenshot above to open an interactive display in a new window.