The kitchen of tomorrow

One of the most gratifying reading from the 1955 American Home magazines comes from the futuristic ideas that always seemed to exist in magazines of that time.  So much had happened in the previous fifty years to bring peace and happiness and an easier life overall to the American housewife.  It seemed that the majority of the drudgery could be eliminated by machine: washing machines, dishwashers, push-button stoves . . . one could only dream about what other inventions would come along in future years.  It’s no surprise, then, that in 1955 people were dreaming about “The Kitchen of Tomorrow.”


I had to read the text on this picture a few times in order to understand it completely.  They lost me at the “delivery boy” reference.  Evidently it seems that the grocery store delivery boy would somehow place grocery items into the fridge from the outside of the house, which seems a little . . . odd.  But futuristic!


Buttons!  MORE buttons!  I understand the appeal of push-button technology, yet the practical (or perhaps cynical) person I am realizes that buttons (and the electricity associated with them) stop working sometimes.  A lady with a kitchen like this would be calling the Button Repair Guy . . . a lot.


And after this, they’d use big floppy disks to store recipes to display on their Apple IIe!  The technology seems ridiculous to us now, but it’d be the modern-day equivalent of having a laptop on the counter while you cook, which I do quite often.  Unfortunately, no one thought about what would happen when the card became damaged and ended up dumping 2 cups of salt into your batch of chocolate chip cookies.


A revolving dishwasher basket!  This would be useful, of course, if you were feeding a farm crew of 25 and were short on dishes.  I think most people are content to load the dishwasher and let them all be washed at the same time.  Ultrasonic cleaning, no less — a dream machine of the green movement.  Did they actually make a prototype of this machine?  Did it work?

Something tells me “no” on that one.

(Update:  I’m wrong.)


This picture goes with item #4, but I’m not quite sure which part of the caption this picture is illustrating.  All I can see is the rapture induced by the prospect of BUTTONS!  Push this one!  Push that one!  Oh, the joy of being a housewife of the future!



So while the wife is hyperventilating with happiness over the multitude of buttons she can push, the husband is stationed above the glass domed roaster, watching in drooling anticipation for the meal ahead.  There’s something creepy about this kitchen. Perhaps they should rename it as “The Kitchen of Tomorrow for the Voyeuristic and Tactile.”


Ha ha!  Those women are so predictable.  Give ’em a makeup drawer and they’ll love it every time.

The concept of a built-in makeup drawer hardly seems like a component of The Kitchen of Tomorrow, nor does it seem high tech.  Oh well.  They outdid themselves with their predictions on audio-visuals, though, because most of that is actually possible today.  Answering machine? Check!  Video phones?  Check!   Shopping without leaving your house?  Check!  Security systems?  Check!

Oddly enough, they want to eliminate button-pushing when it comes to calling people.  Just wave your hand!  I suppose no one thought about the difficulties this would pose when housewife Betty, trying to convey an important point to her husband during a heated discussion, accidentally initiated a call to her mother-in-law.  All by waving her arms!


Well, now they DO have it made.  Your own serving trolly!  Load it up, send it to the living room, where the husband is planted (again) in front of the TV, and your communication-less marriage is complete.  Next up, how to cook food without moving an inch, followed by our segment on how to exist in a marriage without seeing or speaking to your spouse, ever!


Sure, Bob’s making a beeline for the button-ready alcohol because he is well aware that he’s going to have to put a second and third mortgage on the house once all this technology starts breaking.  I imagine this kitchen would look like Old Downtown of one of the major cities of America once the repairs were neglected: rusted track of serving carts gone bad, broken and missing buttons for functions no one can remember, pieces of linen sticking out of the broken linen tray (that got stuck on the third use, thank you very much), and the list goes on.



At this point, I’m just going to assume that the crisp salads and chilled desserts made themselves.


Well, not for sale ever, as it turns out.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a doctor’s appointment to remove this callus off my “button pushing” finger.

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6 Replies to “The kitchen of tomorrow”

  1. How.Totally.Bizarre.

    Very George & Jane Jetson! Makes me wonder if any of it actually worked consistently and what the cost of production was. If that was 1955, cripes—push button phones didn’t come in until the late 70’s/early 80’s. So methinks some part of this suffered in the translation!

    Agree with you that who would want “trolley tracks” laid across your living room rug from the kitchen??

    Interesting to see if any engineers or designers of this are still alive. Or if they put down for posterity the details of just how this never came to be.

    Good job at interpreting all this! Most interesting stuff I’ve read all day!

    1. I think it would be neat to have a kitchen where everything is available at the touch of a button, but it just seems totally impractical at the same time. I think it would have been kind of a letdown to read these inventions and then read the end of the text: it’s for the future, not for now. So stop dreaming and get back to work!

      As for me, I had no earthly idea that they actually made ultrasonic dishwashers until I googled it. I need to get out more.

  2. What struck me about these photos was the formality of life.

    I realize these demonstrators would have worn their Sunday best to be photographed for such an article. But that was also the era when most women wore demure housedresses around the house. If you think about the drudgery of housework—and how it had evolved in 1955 from even more turn-of-the-century drudgery—women still put in a good 6 hours daily. Meal preparation took up a lot of it.

    Back in the late 50’s, I helped with laundry. In the country, we had a wash house with a wringer washer & rinse tubs. Water had to be hosed in through a window from the kitchen. It was an all-day affair: first the delicate whites, then whites, colored fabrics, farmer overalls and last rugs. Then you had to have a bright, sunny day to hang it up & wait for drying until the next batch could go up. Following day was marathon ironing.

    Inventors of our technology foresaw freeing up women so they would have time to hold down a job. For the betterment of society and families.

    Actually, what did all this technology accomplish? This has enabled people to have lots of free time they’re not using constructively. Churches and charities suffer because everyone is “too busy.” I’d like to whisk them back 50 years ago—they’d truly know the meaning of work!

    Maybe it’s age . . . I yearn for the way things were when this feature was written. It was a “kinder, gentler” time; you didn’t need to lock your doors and your fellowman was trustworthy 95% of the time.

    What progress hath wrought.

  3. I know what you mean. I always feel guilty when I am tempted to whine about doing laundry or some other chore, because I have it SO GOOD compared to women of the past. I can load a machine and walk away. A machine not only washes my dishes, but dries them as well. I can certainly understand the draw of this article and the ease that “push button technology” offered women of the ’50s.

    I once found a quote from someone (I think it was Laura Ingalls Wilder) that asked what had happened to all that time we saved with modern inventions. That quote always stuck with me because it’s so true. (I need to go find it again and learn it verbatim.)

    1. I couldn’t help thinking of the possibilities of such an invention: “Stay tuned for our next episode of ‘When Serving Carts Attack!’ ” What controlled these things? What happened when they went berserk? I know my kids’ toys sometimes keep making random noises when the batteries are low . . . would this thing just keep roaming aimlessly around the house when the remote control batteries wore down?

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