Promoting the “all-electric life”

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From left, Lucille Quackenbush, Helen Kinney and Jo Horn sold lightbulbs and electric appliance accessories on the first floor of OPPD's downtown Electric Building. The "lamp counter" was in operation until 1970. OPPD archive photo

Electricity may be something we take for granted today, but not so long ago, a home filled with electric appliances was the exception to the rule.

Just 60 years ago, a basic electric appliance was still new enough to be considered a modern marvel of technology and a sign of prosperity and progress. To that end, OPPD went out into the community to market the new electric products available and demonstrate how much easier life could be with them.

The “go all-electric” campaign promoted electric living as a “clean, smart, safe, efficient, economical, dependable and modern lifestyle,” and was designed to appeal to customers’ desire to be part of the “in crowd.” One ad from the 1950s campaigns read: “Go Modern – Go Electric.”

This 1938 photo shows the merchandise on display at the Nebraska Power (precursor to OPPD) Electric Building downtown. Although the utility didn't sell the items, they continued to display them in this "electric shop," encouraging customers to buy from local dealers. OPPD archive photo.
This 1938 photo shows the merchandise on display at the Nebraska Power (precursor to OPPD) Electric Building downtown. Although the utility didn’t sell the items, they continued to display them in this “electric shop,” encouraging customers to buy from local dealers. OPPD archive photo

OPPD spread the word through print ads, bus signs and billboards that featured bouncy, breezy and charmingly corny pitches. Many of the old ads targeted women of the households, emphasizing how much easier their lives would be with electric conveniences. Products that made the biggest stir with customers were the microwave oven and garage door opener.

Early promotional efforts also included a weekly dramatic radio show, “Favorite Story,” on KOIL as well as tours of model electric homes, appliance demonstrations, and cooking classes at OPPD’s all-electric kitchens.

The utility brought sophisticated lighting schemes and other more advanced electrical applications to trade and industry exhibitions. The OPPD House of Light drew 24,000 visitors during the 1949 Midwest Home Show.

But it wasn’t just electrification OPPD was touting, it was also the appliances that used it. OPPD worked with appliance distributors, dealers and contractors to help sell appliances, with the utility even displaying the latest lines in its Electric Shop showroom.

The latest electric appliances shine in a display window at OPPD's downtown headquarters. At the time, the utility displayed items for area dealers. OPPD archive photo
The latest electric appliances shine in a display window at OPPD’s downtown headquarters. At the time, the utility displayed items for area dealers. OPPD archive photo
The "Electric Shop" at OPPD's downtown headquarters shines onto the street outside. The shop featured the newest electric appliances for sale at area dealers. OPPD archive photo
The “Electric Shop” at OPPD’s downtown headquarters shines onto the street outside. The shop featured the newest electric appliances for sale at area dealers. OPPD archive photo

 

Laura King-Homan

About Laura King-Homan

Laura King-Homan is the managing editor of The Wire and a communications specialist at the Omaha Public Power District. She has nearly 20 years of print journalism and design experience, including the Omaha World-Herald.

2 thoughts on “Promoting the “all-electric life””

  1. this is very cool! I didn’t know they such displays. I think it would be interesting to do a window of the old ways again.

  2. How times have changed! Once electricity was available at the customer’s meter, people started buying labor saving appliances. Where manufactured or natural gas wasn’t available, electric stoves replaced wood or coal burning stoves! Load building was the name of the game in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. Utilities couldn’t build power plants, transmission lines, substations, and distribution lines fast enough!
    The gas industry also changed during the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. How many carbureted blue gas plants, and their telescoping gas holders do you see?
    Now because of environmental concerns, and advances in technology, we are seeing a switch to wind and solar power.

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