The reactionary gasbags are at it again.
With great indignation they are whining “First the Feds came for our guns. Next, they came for our God. Now they are coming for our gas stoves!
Holy Rachel Ray! Chill out.
Can’t stand the heat -Get out of the kitchen!
While some Republicans are on a low simmer, many are boiling over in rage at yet another perceived overreach of government.
Dubbed stovegate, the outrage was triggered by comments that a member of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission made. Floating the possibility of regulating or banning gas stoves because research suggests their harmful emissions pose health hazards, quickly ignited a heated debate.
It’s been known for quite a while that gas stoves unleash indoor pollutants like soot, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide.
The hazards of cooking with gas are hardly news, but the facts have been drowned out by the well-oiled gas industry and its extensive gas crusades.
For nearly a century the benefits of this magic fuel have been well publicized, completely ignoring the idea of what it might mean to combust a fossil fuel in our home sweet home.
The Art of the Spiel
Over the last hundred years, gas companies have engaged in an all-out campaign to convince Americans that cooking with a gas flame is superior to electric, bombarding us with ads portraying gas stoves as a desirable, cleaner, and healthier way to cook.
The Modern Miracle Fuel
When gas stoves first appeared after the turn of the 20th century they were in fact nothing short of a miracle contributing enormously to easing the exhausting work of the home cook.
In 1920 my grandmother Sadie was a newly married bride eager to join the up-to-date young modern set that was defining the postwar world. Her racy Packard ran on gas and so would her home!
Along with a new husband, and a new apartment in a swanky elevator-operated building on fashionable Eastern Parkway Brooklyn, Sadie had an up-to-the-minute gas stove. The smooth, white, painted steel appliance with the elegant slender legs that emphasized the lighter mechanics of gas appliances would replace the heavy, ornate black iron coal stove of her Williamsburg childhood.
For a cooking-challenged new wife, the ease and efficiency of a gas range would help her take the guesswork out of baking and easily help her provide her husband with those man-pleasing meals she read about in pages of the women’s magazines.
With no more soot or ashes to worry about, her new gleaming Princess Ware pots and pans would stay bright when she cooked with a clean blue flame. And the whole range cleaned as easily as a China plate! Best of all it would give her plenty of leisure time to shop and attend her various Women’s Clubs.
Modern all the way
By the roaring twenties, coal was becoming as old-fashioned as the horse and buggy and Mrs. Modern would equip her kitchen only with the most contemporary gas or electric appliances. This was an era when there was a widespread transition from wood and coal-fueled stoves and electric and natural gas stoves vying for the public’s loyalty.
Home use of gas once provided a very small market for manufactured gas until the turn of the 20th century. Manufactured gas was the dominant fuel in the early U.S. but during the 19th-century natural gas supplanted it. Though there was no shortage of gas companies, their product was used primarily for lighting city streets, public places, and gas lighting at home.
The gas companies soon began promoting other domestic uses for their fuel especially cooking. With stiff competition from the Electric companies, the gas lighting companies allied themselves with gas appliance manufacturers, forming the “ Commercial Gas Association” in 1905.
This new organization put its considerable energy into merchandising the fuel, developing new appliances, and creating showrooms and displays for demonstrations to the curious public. A national advertising campaign jointly sponsored by gas companies and appliance manufacturers began in 1912 promoting the many uses for its gas.
By 1918 it became the American Gas Association when it merged with American Gas Institute and with that its future was assured in spite of the serious competition from the powerful electric industry.
By the time cooking by gas and electricity had come in, so had the advertising industry and they worked in tandem.
During the 1930s the AGA formed the National Advertising Committee to oversee an aggressive nationwide advertising program promoting gas for cooking, refrigeration, and home heating.
The American Gas Association wanted to imprint the idea in people’s minds that cooking with gas was an economical servant and the most effective way to feed the family.
Relieving women of burdensome chores, they wanted to convince the American housewife that cooking with gas would become a joy instead of a job. Not only that, they assured m’lady “it was a savings on woman power- the economy of time steps and wear and tear the relief from kitchen drudgery and glorious luxury of greater leisure comfort and health.”
Imagine an appliance that promised to bring you happiness three times a day! That was the promise of an Estate Gas range in 1937.
Welcome a modern gleaming Gas range into your kitchen. A willing smiling friend that brings you more happiness morning noon and night.
Natural Gas Natures Perfect Fuel
By the 1930s the industry embraced the term “natural gas” which gave the impression that its product was cleaner than any other fossil fuel. “The discovery of Natural Gas brought to man the greater and most efficient heating fuel which the world has ever known,” boasted one 1934 ad.
Just as milk would one day be aggressively sold to America as Nature’s perfect food, so gas was sold as “Natures perfect fuel.”
Americans Were Cooking With Gas!
It was also during the 1930s that the industry adopted the slogan “Now we’re cooking with gas.”
The phrase was coined by Carroll Everard “Deke” Houlgate who worked in public relations for the American Gas Association, hoping to convince people to use gas, rather than electricity, to power their kitchen stoves.
Instead of going the usual advertising route of the period — print advertisements in newspapers and magazines, radio commercials, and spots running before the latest Hollywood movie release — Deke chose a different direction.
He planted it with Bob Hope’s writers who then wrote it into one of his radio scripts.
“Now we’re cooking with gas” quickly became a catchphrase for the wisecracking Hope who repeated it in both radio and movie performances. Others adopted the phrase, adding it to scripts for popular radio shows like the “Maxwell House Coffee Time” and “The Jack Benny Program.”
Before the start of World War II, the phrase was already American slang, thanks to the radio programs, movies, and even a Daffy Duck cartoon where it was spoken to indicate positive progress or achievement.
There was no going back as nature’s perfect fuel became embedded as the desirable best way to cook.
The future of Gas cooking would continue to grow after WWII.
Urging women to begin planning their new post-war dream kitchen built around one of those beautiful post-war magic gas stoves, gas kitchens were promoted as “ Freedom Gas Kitchens.”
Seventy-Five years later freedom kitchens take on a different meaning, as Republicans bemoan that their freedoms are being ripped out of their kitchen.
And by God, they are locked and loaded to protect them.
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