Washing Machines, 1940s Style

With seven kids and a rancher husband, having two washing machines is incredibly helpful. What is not incredibly helpful is when they both break down within days of each other. I have spent the last week thinking about nothing but washing machines, so it’s no surprise that today’s post is all about washers in the 1940s.

Of course, new appliances were hard to come by when factories switched to producing war goods, but that didn’t stop home front housewives from dreaming about what their post-war kitchens and laundry areas would look like. In fact, advertisers used images of futuristic post-war kitchen technology to encourage people to buy war bonds to fund their dream kitchens after the war. Tantalizing ads of electric dishwashers and efficient refrigerators were published during the war years, enticing women to plan to spend their money on the new items as soon as factories could begin to crank them out after the war. This is an example from the back cover of the December 1942 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. (Note that this was a kitchen for a $6000 home. If only we could buy a $6000 home today! I put this in an inflation calculator and a $6000 home in 1942 would cost $95,374 in 2020. A $6000 home in 1946 would cost $79,723.)

I’ve gathered several washing machine ads, one from 1942 and many from 1945, to show you what washers home front housewives were both using and dreaming of during the war years.

Better Homes and Gardens, December 1942.

This Bendix Automatic Home Laundry is found in many home front housewives homes.

Good Housekeeping, September 1945.

As 1945 went on, more and more ads for things like refrigerators, ovens, and other appliances appeared. In September, I found two ads for washing machines. In October there were three. By November, there were six–five ads and one article.

Note that both the Easy Washing Machine and the Thor Automagic Washer wash and damp-dry clothing. The Thor Automagic Washer also washes dishes, including pots and pans.

Good Housekeeping, October 1945.

This Westinghouse ad tells home front housewives that the washer isn’t available now, but they will start making them as soon as possible. This is just a tempting peek at what’s to come.

Lovell washing machines ads look more like an advice column than an advertisement and tout the machine’s labor-saving capabilities.

The Bendix machines allow home front housewives to leave the house while the machine is running due to the fact that it automatically empties, cleans, and shuts itself off.

Good Housekeeping, November 1945.

The first two images are from an article about “best-planned kitchens” that include convenient work areas for both food prep and laundry chores.

This Westinghouse ad echoes the idea of combining the kitchen and laundry to help save time and energy.

Here’s another Thor Automagic Washer ad. They wash your clothes and your dishes with just a quick switch of the tubs.

Here is a second Easy Machine advertisement showcasing its convenient and fast washing, damp-drying, and ironing features.

The Bendix machine damp-dries clothing so they are ready for the dryer or the clothesline. Notice that the ad encourages the home front housewife to be put on the “first to be served” list for quick post-war service.

Post-war appliances are also mentioned in this Lovell ad. Saving money on a Lovell machine will allow you to purchase more of the “wonderful, labor-saving” post-war appliances.

I wish you a happy week and appliances that don’t break down. See you soon.

Using What You Have: Clothing

My 6 year old and I have been reading a book about a little girl that lived during the Depression. Her mother made her clothing out of other family members’ old worn out clothes because they didn’t have money to buy anything new when the girl outgrow her things.

During WWII, home front housewives were again using old clothing to make new children’s garments, but this time it was likely due to fabric shortages. Since factories were busy making things for the war effort, products like fabric, kitchen appliances, radios, and new cars got put on hold.

I found this article that I wanted to share with you from the July 1943 issue of Woman’s Day. I think it has great photographic examples of the idea of making do with what you have when it comes to clothing your children.

I hope August is going smoothly for all of you. Stay safe and healthy.

Canning: How Much Do You Need?

My family has been canning this past week. My husband has been canning different things with my kids. I love that this has turned into a family affair. He made several kinds of jelly with my second oldest daughter, and salsa with my youngest son. Canning, and cooking, are things that the entire family can enjoy. My two youngest daughters, ages 3 and 6, help cook almost every day.

I’ve been doing research on canning in the war years, and I came across this page in the July 1943 issue of McCall’s. This is what they say a family of four will need “from now until next summer”. We are a family of nine. I can’t imagine how much my family would need!

Below the image, I’ve included the amounts listed in case the print in the photo is difficult to read. Many of the fruits and vegetables listed here would come from a Victory Garden. Housewives would also can onions, carrots, pickles, jams, and a variety of other things. I remember my grandma’s basement storage pantry being filled with an enormous variety of different canned foods.

You can look forward to more about canning in the coming weeks. To round out this month, I’ll have a recipe for a cold treat later this week, and we’ll look at advice from the July 1943 issue of Woman’s Day aimed at helping the home front housewife conserve fabric.

Vegetables: 10 pints peas, 4 pints greens, 12 pints beets, 8 pints corn, 12 pints string beans, 14 pints lima beans, and 28 quarts tomatoes.

Fruits: 10 quarts sour red cherries, 5 quarts raspberries, 5 quarts blueberries, 5 quarts blackberries, 15 quarts peaches, and 5 quarts pears.

Listen While You Work: Homefront Housewives and Radio

Home front housewives listened to a variety of radio programs during the day. It helped to pass the time when the day was full of household chores. Many of the shows they listened to, like “The Guiding Light”,  became television shows later on. Since many of us are staying home right now, I thought I would provide some links so you can listen to the same programs that a home front housewife would have enjoyed during the war years. 

The Guiding Light

“The Guiding Light” is probably a familiar name to many of you. After 1975 it was known as just “Guiding Light”. It is one of the longest-running broadcast programs in the United States. The radio portion of it ran from 1937 to 1956. You can find episodes to listen to by clicking the link below. 

The Guiding Light

One Man’s Family

This program actually ran once a week on Friday nights instead of during the day, but I’m including it here because of its popularity. It started in 1932 and ran until 1959, making it the longest-running uninterrupted dramatic serial in American radio history. It also had a shorter television run that began in 1949. It follows a family of 7 living in San Fransisco and you can find episodes below.  

One Man’s Family

Pepper Young’s Family

After a few name and format changes, “Pepper Young’s Family” could be heard on NBC from 1932 to 1959. The show was about a high school athlete, his family, and his friends. 

Pepper Young’s Family

Vic and Sade

“Vic and Sade” was a popular 15-minute program that aired two to three times per day, five days a week. It began in 1932 and lasted until 1946. It also later appeared on television. The link below will take you to recordings of episodes from 1940 and 1941. The program followed a middle-class family in Illinois.

Vic and Sade

Information, Please

“Information, Please” was a morning quiz show that began in 1938 and ended in 1951. The show had a panel of experts try to answer questions that had been submitted by listeners. Panels included three regulars and a guest panelist. The guests were well-known people like Fred Allen, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Alfred Hitchcock.  Prizes changed, but wartime episodes had prize packages that often included war bonds. The program was sponsored by Encyclopedia Britannica and winners received sets of encyclopedias.

Information, Please

Ma Perkins

Here is a bonus program. This weekday serial drama ran from 1933 to 1960. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any wartime episodes. I’ve linked to some both before and after the war if you’d like to listen. Ma Perkins was a widow with three children in a small southern town where she owned and operated a lumber yard. 

Ma Perkins 

This is a 1947 Stewart Warner radio that my 16 year old son and I are restoring. It belonged to my husband’s grandparents. It has a radio and record player inside. The two lower side doors are storage compartments.


Oldtimeradiodownloads.com and archive.org are terrific websites to explore old radio programs, period music, and more. The above radio programs are linked to one of these locations. There is great stuff to be found with a little exploring. I hope you enjoy these radio programs as much as I do.

Beaded Edge Milk Glass

Since I used these plates in my last post, I thought I’d tell you a little about them. These are some of my favorites from my collection. I think the fruits are so vibrant and cheerful. They remind me of warm weather and sunshine.

Made from the late 1930s to the 1950s by the Westmoreland Glass Company, these Beaded Edge plates came in plain and painted versions. The decorated versions had fruits, flowers, birds, or holiday designs painted in the center. I have all eight fruit patterns in the 7.5″ plates. There were many other items available in this pattern.

Victory Lunch Boxes, Part 3: Menus

I enjoy looking at lunch box menus from the early 1940s. They were economical and creative, helping provide a variety of nutritious options to homemakers whose families craved food that was both tasty and less monotonous than the meals many families were eating during rationing. Women were having to find new ways to use old foods and were trying to use new, often less desirable foods to appeal to their families tastes. It was easy to get in a rut when things were so difficult and new. Using magazines and cookbooks to find new ideas was the home front housewife’s version of Pinterest and internet searches.

Here are several sets of menus to show you a wide variety of what lunch boxes might contain during WWII. It’s difficult to get some of these pages to line up straight in photographs, but I want to include them anyway. Note how the lists are broken into categories. School children were expected to eat different things than a “hard worker” was, and even women were divided up into working women and housewives. The creators of these menus were trying to make the menus filling and nutritious while still allowing for things like using rationing points and the availability of food items. Many menus I have seen use dinner leftovers from the night before, another way to avoid food waste in a time where people were trying to use up every last bit of food they had.

Enjoy these menus and let me know if you try any of them.

Wartime Lunches, Philadelphia Electric Company, 1940s.

This is an example of a set of menus that includes a dinner menu for the night before. I like to compare the menu contents to see what part of the dinner is used for the lunch box, and also to compare the food in the workman, child, and homemaker lists. The homemaker often gets much less food.

Good Housekeeping Cook Book, 1944 edition.

American Woman’s Cook Book, 1940 edition.

This is from just before the United States joined the war, but it still is a nice example of what school children were carrying in their lunch boxes.

Woman’s Day, October 1942.

WW2 Ration Cook-In: Lunch

Shortages in my hometown have forced me to adjust my meal plans for today. The closest small grocery store is thirty minutes away. The nearest major grocery store is an hour and a half away. We are only making one trip a week and are trying to stay out of town as much as possible, and have been utilizing our small local store. Normally this is not a problem.

During our last grocery run, however, there were still serious shortages. I had planned on adding soup to this lunch menu, but the ingredients were not available. It’s frustrating, but at the same time, I think it’s an interesting tie to the food rationing and shortages that I write about.

I love Spam advertisements from the 1930s and 1940s. They were colorful and fun, and during the war years were helpful to the home front housewife because they provided meal ideas during a time when meal planning had become more of a challenge. A 1938 Spam ad included a quick recipe for an open-faced hot Spam sandwich. I decided to try to recreate that idea.

This is a typical Spam ad from late 1942. The ads are usually colorful, full page ads that portrayed conversational situations that made their product look and sound appealing.

Hot Spam Sandwich

Butter a slice of bread. Slice the Spam and put two slices side by side on top of the buttered bread. Add a slice of American cheese over the Spam. Broil until cheese is melted and bread is toasted. Top with a slice of toasted bread. Other ingredients may be added before or after broiling. Some suggestions include fried egg, onion, peppers, or any sauces or condiments desired. Serve warm with soup and potato chips for a warm, filling lunch.

A note about potato chips: Production of potato chips temporarily came to a halt during WWII. They were deemed to be non-essential and potato chip factories were told to stop production. Protests helped change the War Production Board’s mind, and potato chips continued to be made. Potato chips were a popular wartime snack, especially when sweet snacks were not as available due to sugar shortages and rationing. They also were popular with troops overseas.


Spam was a staple in American pantries during the war. It’s also a staple in mine since I do a lot of wartime-style cooking. I prefer Spam fried. I think most of my family does. I also find it rather salty to eat very often. The hot sandwich was filling, but I think that next time I’ll fry the the Spam instead.

I can see the appeal of canned meats. They weren’t rationed and helped a home front housewife add meat and protein to sometimes limited diets. Victory garden vegetables could be used to add some flavor and texture variety. This would be a quick and low point lunch that would be handy to have in a home front housewife’s cooking arsenal.

Day 3 of the WW2 Ration Cook-In is dinner. Join us on Instagram by following along or cooking with us. Use #ww2rationcookin so we can see what you make! Don’t forget to visit the other hosts’ websites and Instagrams to see what they are creating.





Victory Lunch Boxes, Part 1: What do I pack?

I think I’ve mentioned before that I live on a very rural ranch. Sometimes when it rains, we get stranded at our house until the roads dry out enough to drive on. That’s my situation right now, and since I can’t go to town for groceries, I’m going to use the upcoming week to write about boxed lunches. I’ll split the topic into three parts. Today I’m writing about what foods a home front housewife should choose to pack. Next, I’ll tell you how she would have packed them. Finally, I’ll give you some menus and recipes for different lunch packing scenarios. Some tips and tricks will be thrown in, too.

Since I know you might be wondering, we have supplies for cooking for ourselves, but not the ingredients necessary for the lunch box recipes. We live in a place where this kind of rain doesn’t happen often. This has been an unusually wet year. The inconvenience of being stranded occasionally is offset by many perks of living where we do, and thanks to modern meteorology we can prepare ahead of time for situations like these.

On to the lunch boxes!

I have a large collection of cook books and pamphlets from the war years. Many of them have entire sections on lunch box packing. In fact, more than one cookbook said that lunch boxes were part of the war program. Since more and more people were working outside the home, well packed lunch boxes were an important part of the day’s nutrition.

I’ve mentioned before that the American government was pushing healthy eating as a way for home front fighters to help win the war. Healthy citizens made for stronger populations, and healthy boys grew up to be strong soldiers. Wartime publications stressed the importance of eating a good lunch during the workday to keep fueled and healthy.

So what would the home front housewife be shopping for?

Most of the cookbooks I have suggest the same types of foods in a lunch box food guide that closely follows government food guidelines. Here’s a typical guide.

  • meat, eggs, poultry, cheese, fish: These can be combined in a main dish, salad, or sandwich.
  • vegetables: At least one serving in sandwich fillings, salads, main dishes, or in relishes.
  • fruit: At least one should be included, but it can be in any form.
  • bread: numerous sources stressed that the breads included should change frequently to provide variety.
  • milk: The lunch box seems to have been a way to help get your daily milk quota in. This was a pint for adults and a quart for children. The milk could be a drink, in a main dish, in a soup, or in a dessert.

Tips for the Home Front Housewife

  • Your Gas Range Cookbook, published by the Wyandotte County Gas Company in 1940, suggested that children’s lunches for school should include a hot dish, milk, fruit, and a surprise for children to look forward to discovering. Their suggested menus include surprises like cookies and hot chocolate.
  • Your Victory Lunch Box, 1943, stressed the importance of variety. Creating variety in textures, color, and flavor helped make lunch box lunches more appealing and less monotonous. Adding color and variety in packing materials was also suggested for an appealing looking lunch.
  • Plan today’s meals with tomorrow’s lunch in mind. This was good advice for both packing a lunch and eating at home, but nearly everything I read about lunches included this as a way to make preparing lunches easier and more economical.
  • Keep in mind how long lunchtime is. Someone with a short lunch period needed foods with little or no prep time. A long lunch period allowed for more complicated meals.
  • Working butter or margarine into a creamy spread with a fork made it easier to handle at lunch time.
  • Include small containers of salt, pepper, and sugar.
  • Keep in mind that some things work better in different forms. For example, a whole tomato packed with some salt often worked better than slices on a sandwich.
  • Fill sandwiches, but avoid overfilling so they are not messy.
  • Canned meats are excellent for lunch box meals.
  • Again, look for variety when shopping. Ease of eating was important, but variety was just as important. For example, breads could be varied. Raisin bread, rye bread, muffins, rolls, cakes–these all counted.
  • Raw vegetables are both refreshing, and provide variety in texture, flavor, and color. You could put them on sandwiches or eat alone.
  • Grinding meats with relish or salad dressing keeps the sandwich moist. Mixing condiments with butter and spreading over bread also helps keep a sandwich from being too dry.
  • Besides milk, other suggested drinks included lemonade, iced tea, fruit juices, and vegetable juice.
  • Don’t forget dessert! Having a sweet treat is a nice way to finish the meal. Muffins, cookies, fruits, carefully packed cakes, and even custards and puddings were good suggestions.
  • Creative packing methods make it possible to take most kinds of foods with you in your lunch box. Don’t feel like sandwiches, while a very handy option, are the only thing you can pack. Hearty soups, meatloaves, salads, and pasta dishes are all possibilities.

That looks like a good place to stop for today. Next we’ll look at supplies for packing lunch boxes, tips for hard to pack items, and why having a dedicated lunch box packing station was a good idea.

The images today are from the back of a pamphlet titled “War-time Lunches” from the Philadelphia Electric Company. They show a list of suggestions for thermos dishes, sandwich fillings, and breads to add to your lunch box shopping list.

More posts in this series:

Victory Lunch Boxes, Part 2

What Will I Wear?: Home Front Housewife Edition

For many home front housewives, January was a cold month indeed. Since this month was almost all about January magazine issues, I thought I would show you a couple of images of clothing from a 1941 issue. I’ll then compare those with a 1945 issue. I can imagine a home front housewife pouring over her magazines at the kitchen table after all her chores were done or during a break in the afternoon while she listened to her favorite radio program. Here’s some of what they would have seen.

January 1941

The first issue is Woman’s Home Companion. The date on the one ad is 1940, but the magazine it was in was definitely 1941. Since much of the magazine was still focusing on holiday topics, I imagine the issue was delivered to homes in December.

The first image is an ad for winter boots. I’d wear any of these boots today. I like how they have categorized them into country, town, dress up, and formal boots.

Next is a half ad, half article that shows Companion-Butterick patterns that were available to purchase at local Butterick dealers or by mail order through Woman’s Home Companion. I love the colors, and look at those hats!

The last image is part of an article with suggested Christmas gifts, but I like how it shows options of sweaters, scarves, and slippers that the home front housewife might consider in 1940/41 for her family.

January 1945

I have a January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day. I was not surprised that there were few mentions of clothing. Most of the magazine was filled with articles about how to stretch rationed food or other ways to deal with the war. New clothing was probably not on their minds as much. I was really surprised, though, that the only fashion article in the magazine was about how to buy a new fur coat. There were a couple of ads in the back of the magazine for support girdles, but otherwise, no other fashion. In contrast, the January 1946 issue had several articles about clothing, including one that showed how a tailor made a suit and one that suggested adding material to tighter fitting styles of coats to make them more modern. Neither of these articles would have been published during the war years since fabric was conserved during those years.


I have fun plans for February. I have some February magazine issues. I have a few new cookbooks, booklets, and magazines I want to explore, and of course, Valentine’s Day is coming up! Enjoy your last evening in January 2020 and I’ll see you here again Monday for February’s First Monday Menu.

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