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The 1940s was a decade of changes. We went from the Great Depression at the start to World War II and then closed the decade with an uptick in prosperity that few had seen since the 1920s. Women went from scraping by to make ends meet to then doing war work in factories and branches of the military and ended the era as homemakers with access to unprecedented tools to help in her homemaking. Long before the TV dinner and instant everything made kitchen work much lighter, 1940s housewives had a lot of kitchen tools on hand, many of which people today are completely clueless about. Housewives of the era relied on these particular gadgets.

housewife in her kitchen 1949
Housewife in 1949 in her modern kitchen. Via/ The Huntington Digital Library

8) Can Opener

Crank can openers were not common in the 1940s. Instead, most people used an old style of can opener. It took a long time to open a single can and the end result was usually a jagged mess. But, unless the canned goods had a key, then this was the only option for most housewives. Like a churchkey, you pierced the top of the can over and over until you could take the lid off.

old fashioned wood handled can opener
Via/ eBay

7) Fish Skinner

People still use these devices today, but it’s much less common since so many cuts of fish come already filleted and skinned. Back in the old days it was much more common to have a whole fish from the lake or from the market.

vintage roller fish scaler tool
Via/ eBay

6) Bean Stringer

Growing your own food also meant having the proper tools to process a bumper crop. This gadget has a blade on one edge for cutting off the pointy ends of the beans. Then the round part is where you pull the beans through for them to be sliced lengthwise while at the same time the stringy parts are removed. Of course there’s the simpler way of getting the kids to snap and de-string beans on the porch. Both ways worked well.

vintage green bean strigner
Via/ eBay

5) Pie Crust Trimmer

Long before frozen pie crusts were found in the freezer section of every single grocery, pie crusts were homemade and they were trimmed with a pie crust trimmer. Since pizza was also not a common food at the time, pizza cutters weren’t an option. Some of these wheeled tools created straight lines and some created decorative, wavy lines.

vintage pie crust trimmer
Via/ eBay

4) Flat Egg Whisk

One type of whisk that was popular in the 1930s and 1940s was the flat whisk, which had the advantage of taking up less space in a drawer or hung up with the spoons and spatulas. Another popular whisk was the crank whisk, but those were more expensive.

flat egg whisk from the 1940s
Via/ Flickr

3) Jar Lifter

Most housewives in the 1940s would have done some kind of canning, whether it be preserving the whole garden or just making jams and jellies in summer. For this purpose you need a jar lifter to make the process much simpler. It used to be something you saw in most kitchens, but now most people don’t do any kind of canning.

vintage jar lifter for canning
Via/ eBay

2) Clothes Sprinkler

Along with plenty of kitchen tools, housewives in the 1940s used sprinklers to add slight moisture to the clothes for ironing. In an era when very few clothes were knit and clothes dryers were not yet common, wrinkles had to be diligently ironed every week to keep everyone looking their best. And, this was of course before spray bottles were available as well. This type of top could be adding to a soda bottle or any other glass bottle with the right size opening.

old fashioned sprinkler top for ironing clothes
Via/ eBay

1) Spice Rack

Most women of the era would have had a spice rack over the stove. The number of spices commonly in use at the time wasn’t that great and so a small shelf over the range was enough in most kitchens. It wasn’t like today, where spices usually take up their own section of the cabinets!

Many home cooks would have had a few baking spices like allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon, as well as salt, pepper, sage, dill, or rosemary for savory dishes. Diverse recipes (like Indian, Italian, and Mexican) at the time were not commonly printed in ladies’ magazines and cookbooks. Spices like cumin, red pepper flakes, curry, and even oregano were not used by most American housewives of the era.

post-war American kitchen
Via/ The Huntington Digital Library
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