ELECTRIFICATION OF THE KITCHEN
Food Prepared by Hand
In the Museum’s collection, we have kitchen tools that represent domestic life before the electrification of Mission. For example, butter churns were often used in rural communities where people raised cattle, or lived a distance from grocery stores. Before electric or gas stoves, wood burning stoves doubled as a station to cook food, but also to heat a household, and required significant labour to operate. Storing food was another precarious job – prior to electric refrigeration, people stored their perishable food in meat safes, or canned food in glass jars to enjoy in the winter months.
Electricity in Mission
Mission’s electrical system was implemented in 1894 by former sailor and Mission resident, Hori Windebank. The system was powered by three dams on Windebank Creek, and also a generator located in the basement of the Bellevue Hotel, a building owned and operated by Windebank. Initially, the small power system brought light and heat for the hotel and for a few nearby homes.
The commercial electrification of Mission came from the Western Canada Power Company, which derived its energy from the Stave Falls dam. Electricity was available to Mission City and Hatzic as of December 1911. Today, electricity is an integral power source, but at the time of its introduction Mission citizens needed reassuring that it was safe for home use. A Western Canada Power Company advertisement in the Fraser Valley Record on Dec 14, 1911, boasted electricity’s potential: “Electric light neither consumes oxygen from the air nor can it give off injurious products of combustion – hence it is the most healthful illuminant.”
New and Novelty
The advent of electricity in the home led to exciting new kitchen appliances, which made food preparation quicker and easier. One of the most popular electric kitchen appliances was the toaster – over a million were sold in the US during the 1920s!
The toaster featured in the gallery below is marked with the brand name Hotpoint, the same company and inventor of the electric iron. Featuring side-opening metal doors pierced with an ornate design and a trapezoid-shaped body, this attractive appliance was used directly on the breakfast table.
Early versions of the toaster, like this one, browned one side of the bread at a time and did not have timers. Users were required to watch their bread to achieve their desired toast shade, and flip the slice to repeat the process.
Photographs courtesy of the Mission Community Archives