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Appliances from the 1950s

Pink washer and dryerWhen David and Stacie Tuell moved into their house in Topeka in the 1990s, they inherited a pristine pair of pink appliances. The previous owners had remodeled their 1937- era home around 1956. In keeping with the styles of the 1950s, the owners chose pink and chrome appliances for the kitchen. The pink Frigidaire washer and dryer were anniversary gifts from husband to wife.

Families in the 1950s liked the new technology and wanted to simplify their lives. Timesaving appliances became all the rage and offered “automatic,” “live-water action,” “easy-loading,” and “really clean” results! With these new products, advertisers promised users they would gain a full day each week.

The Tuell’s laundry set was made between 1955 and 1957 by General Motors. The washer was a top-loading model. The dryer was front-loading and had a lint trap located in the bottom front. Both appliances were offered in pink and gray.

As women were returning to more traditional roles after World War II, the color pink made a comeback. Mamie Eisenhower chose pink for a suit at her husband’s inaugural in 1953. “Mamie Pink” and “First Lady Pink” started a trend that carried through the decade. By 1955, pink had become the top color in house furnishings and clothing for both men and women. “Think Pink!” was a dance number in the popular motion picture, Funny Face; “Paint the Town Pink” was a fashionable saying.

The Tuells were impressed that their washer and dryer still were in good working condition. David made a few repairs to keep the washer running and the family continued to use the appliances, yet, the dryer ran too hot. “Hot enough to cook a turkey,” Stacie said.

“It was so hot that when David rented a polyester Elvis costume one Halloween, his attempt to wash and dry the outfit ended in ruin.”

Concerned about finding replacement parts, the Tuells made the difficult decision to donate the set to the Kansas Museum of History. Stacie Tuell was so attached to the set that she cried as they were taken away. When the Museum placed the appliances on exhibit in its What’s New case in 1997, the Tuells came to visit and young daughter Jessica posed alongside the washer and dryer.

The Museum’s collection of pink appliances also includes a double oven, counter top, dishwasher, and ice crusher. These appliances had similar beginnings.

The Lindgren family found several pink appliances when they moved into their Junction City home in the early 1960s. These included a pink Admiral Imperial double oven and pink Admiral cook top. These appliances, made in 1955, offered the most popular colors and features of the day. The built-in oven had three wire racks and a clock with three settings: minute/minder, start time, and cooking/hours. When the Lindgrens remodeled their home in 1996, they decided to donate the set to the Museum.

Dorothy Utter’s pink and chrome Frigidaire builtin dishwasher was made in 1960. Purchased and used in Topeka, the dishwasher has two pink plastic coated metal dish racks that extend out for easy loading. Frigidaire promised their product “Gets Dishes Really Clean—Automatically!” With “22 whirling sprays,” the washer cycle is “hotter than hands can stand – cleaner than hands can clean – faster than hands can move.”

When Katie Armitage of Lawrence read the newspaper story about the pink washer and dryer, she decided to donate the pink Maid of Honor ice crusher she had purchased at a garage sale. This unit, made in 1955, had a crank handle and fit on top of a plastic container.

Pink kitchens fell out of fashion in the next decade. These first color appliances inspired the trends that followed—Harvest Gold, Avocado Green, and Burnt Orange. Because they were automatic and affordable, they made household chores easier and helped to change the lifestyles of generations to come.

Entry: Appliances from the 1950s

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: January 2010

Date Modified: May 2012

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.