“The Battle of the Centuries” was a dish washing contest between Mrs. Drudge and Mrs. Modern, between hand washing vs. electric dishwashers at the 1939/40 New York World’s Fair. This contest promoted all the benefits of modern appliances and is part of the history of new and improved technology in the modern age.

The Cooper Hewitt Library has a large collection of magazines that were directed at female audiences. The magazine Better Homes and Gardens (BHAG) has always assumed a leadership role in creating trends in cooking, home design, and modern living for Americans and the rest of the world. The admen of BHAG tried to appeal to women of different social classes who wanted to create better lives for their families. Their advertisements were designed by integrating informative texts with vivid visual language.  After World War II, there was a huge push to get women back into the home and the kitchen, and to carry on womanly duties, like raising children and looking after the home. The admen directed women in the 1950’s kitchen to see how they could become happy, efficient housewives by using this new dishwasher.

This magazine ad conveys a sense of family: mother, father, and two children. The mother speaks while holding up a goblet; her husband and child lean forward to listen to what she says- possibly about what the dishwasher can do and how it works. The headline reads “No other Dishwasher like this new Westinghouse. The Secret is in the Roll-Out WASHWELL.” Above the illustrations, there is a caption in italics “… of course, it’s electric!” referring to the efficiency and convenience of modern appliances. An electric mixer stands on the counter and along the bottom of the ad is a series of electrical appliances – all of them by Westinghouse, and part of the modern home. The bottom of the ad contains Westinghouse’s slogan: “You can be SURE…if it’s WESTINGHOUSE.” Above the slogan, the admen cue another subheading, “See TV’s Top Dramatic Show…‘Westinghouse STUDIO ONE’…Every Week,” to remind people that Westinghouse also sponsors television series – the new family entertainment!


Weixin Jin is a graduate student in the Design History and Curatorial Studies program at Parsons / Cooper Hewitt. Jin is a researcher in the fields of Decorative Design and Museum Studies, and a lead author of Design Museum, published in 2014.

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