Home and Lifestyle
Domestic inventions have historically been time- and labour-saving
devices, utilizing new technology to ease our daily lives. This is a
characteristic that colours Alberta home lifestyle inventions in the
Canadian Patent Record for over a century.
inventions in the first half of the 20th century in Alberta existed in the
realm of everyday life. The inventors were men and women who might be your
neighbours, and the inventions were often designed at the kitchen table
and built in a backyard workshop. Two such examples are the ironing board
and cabinet invented by William Samuel Beggs of
Volmer and a dishwasher patented by Edith Thomas of Trochu in1923. Beggs was motivated by the need to save space for apartment
dwellers, while Edith Thomas was looking to ease the burden of a household
task that was, at the time, often being accomplished without the benefits
of running water or electricity.
great depression of the 1930s and the Second World War brought about
change and challenge throughout the world and into Alberta households.
Buying timesaving inventions for the home was difficult and often an
impossible luxury. This fact is reinforced by the absence of domestic
inventions recorded for the province in the patent record. One success of
the era was Medaltas Sanitas mug. During the first half of the century,
Medalta Potteries dominated the nations pottery market.
During the war, however, when hotels and households stopped buying, the
government and armed forces became the primary customer. When this new
customer requested a mug resistant to bacteria, Medalta invented the
Sanitas mug. After the war, Medalta was able to sell this product to the
domestic market. It is a success story to come out of a time of struggle.
the 1950s, not surprisingly, many Albertans craved the peace and
purchasing power denied to them for nearly two decades. The economy boomed
and a consumer culture took hold. Suburbs, offering the dream of a
peaceful life among family and neighbours rose quickly in the cities of
Electricity also made its way into the rural regions of
the province during this time, adding to the desire for domestic labour-saving
devices. Electric machines became must-have items not only for
cosmopolitan homemakers but for farm families as well. The Alberta
Department of Agriculture sent out home economists to Albertas small
towns and prairie settlements to help modernize farm life. Like
missionaries of an electric future, these home economists promoted
time-saving inventions and the efficiency of the modern home.
through store and appliance catalogues and even the Canadian Patent Record
beginning in the 1950s, few domestic inventions from Alberta appear. At
the time, national name-brand applianceswith large advertising campaigns
and promises of revolutionary technologywere increasingly being purchased
over the locally produced and independently manufactured devices that had
previously been the norm, rather than the exception.
During the latter half of the century, large
manufacturers of household appliances continued to dominate Albertas
market. This is not to say that Albertan inventors have been cut out of
the inventive process, only that they now work for these companies. The
inventing is no longer done at the kitchen table, but in sophisticated
laboratories with high technology. Albertans are as involved in the field
as much as they have ever been.
Fête of Clay by Tom McFall
Copyright © 2003
Heritage Community Foundation All Rights Reserved