In the 1950s, in Britain and everywhere else, electrical good were still in their infancy. Most were home grown brands and were manufactured here. Some of those brands still exist but very few still manufacture in Britain.
In the 1950s, when I was child, if you had an electric kettle, it was probably a Russell Hobbs. Your iron and hairdryer would most likely be Morphy Richards and if you were modern enough to have a food mixer it would be a Kenwood. If I wanted to buy a new kettle today, I would go online or visit my local supermarket where I would have numerous brands to choose from and a multitude of styles.
I decided to look into the rise of electrical manufacturers and learned that Bill Russell teamed up with Peter Hobbs in 1952 and began by making a toaster, an electric iron and a then the first coffee maker with a keep warm function. In 1955 they made the world’s first automatic electric kettle.
Donal Morphy joined forces with Charles Richards in 1936 making first electric fires then irons. By the 1950s, many households had electric irons and most of them would have been made by Morphy Richards. When hairdryers became more common – I well remember our first one – they too were dominated by Morphy Richards. The company was one of the few manufacturers to sell appliances with a factory-fitted BS 1363 plug before this became a legal requirement.
A 1950s hairdryer exactly like the one we had.
When food mixers arrived on the scene here the household name was Kenwood. The name is from the manufacturer’s name which was Kenneth Wood. Kenwood began in 1947 and made toasters first then food mixers and processors.
I remember hearing about Kenwood Chefs but we didn’t rise to those dizzy heights. My mum had a small hand mixer like this one.
The main brand in TVs in the 1950s – when television was just a baby – was Bush. The company was founded in 1932 as Bush Radio from the remains of the Graham Amplion company, which had made horn loudspeakers as a subsidiary of the Gaumont British Picture Corporation. The brand name comes from Gaumont’s Shepherd’s Bush studios. From radios they moved on in 1950 to making TVs and in 1959 transistor radios.
Roberts is British company which has been making radios for over 80 years They made the first digital radio in 1999.
The Roberts Revival RD60 DAB was inspired by a handbag belonging to Harry Roberts’ wife Elsie. I have one of these and I didn’t know this!
Dansette was a British brand of record players, radiograms (remember them?), tape recorders, and radios, manufactured by the London firm of J & A Margolin Ltd, The first Dansette record player was manufactured in 1952 and at least one million were sold in the 1950s and 1960s. Dansette became a household name in the late 1950s and 60s when the British music industry shot up in popularity after the arrival of acts such as Cliff Richard, The Beatles and The Shadows. Teenagers would have used various Dansette players to take to and from parties to listen to the latest records.
Everyone of my age remembers these!
In the early 20th century the company registered The Swan brand name. In the 1920s, the company began manufacturing domestic electrical appliances including kettles and irons. They pioneered the first electric element that could be immersed in water. This was a very important breakthrough because it meant that a whole 6 pints of water could be boiled in just over 9 minutes. This led to a whole range of products based around their “immersion element”, including tea urns, kettles, steamers and coffee percolators.
Later, they developed and patented a unique safety cut-out for kettles, where the connector would be automatically disconnected if the element overheated.
Before the 1950s most homes were heating their irons over the gas ring or still putting hot coal in them. I remember staying at my grandmother’s house and she would have two flat irons (non-electric). One would be doing the ironing while the other would be heating on a rack over the fire. When one cooled down it was replaced with the hotter one and put on the rack to heat.