Open day today with the steam engines operating. The weather gods smiled on us and we had a good response from the public. Trust Board stalwart Ann Barsby made pikelets, cooking with gas of course, and the visitors reported an enjoyable and enlightening experience.
In her lecture, Professor Helen Leach addressed the issue of why our forebears chose to cook with coal gas.
Professor Leach outlined 5 factors that she believes influenced peoples decision making relating to cooking with gas.
Firstly: Gas versus Coal. Gas did not become popular as a haet source until the 1890’s in Britain after a series of innovations such as the Bunsen’s self aerating burner (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bunsen_burner) which turned the gas flame into a hot, blue flame. Such innovations stimulated the production of coal gas. Developments were paralleled with the development of distribution networks, coin metres and cookers for hire.
The second influence was appliances. first appliances were based upon coal range designs, with similar features. Because coal ranges were durable they had a long life and did not need replacing so that at first it was diifficult for gas stoves to make inroads into the market.
Thirdly the Gas stove had to be acceptable. A lot of marketing went into convincing people to adopt gas cookers. Persuasive arguments were based on the cost of gas, ease of use and the fact that savings could be made because fewer servants would be needed.
Another factor was that receptive consumers began to be convinced that gas cookers could save time and money so that by the early 1900’s gas companies in New Zealand were holding cooking demonstrations. Cookbook writers began creating sections on gas cooking.
Finally competition with electricity eventually saw the demise of the gas stove. In Britain electricity was promoted as an alternative to gas in the 1890’s, however it was still 3x more expensive that gas at this time. By 1926 Shacklock was producing its Orion Electric stove. Electric stoves cost approximately three times that of a gas stove at this time. However it was the development of a thermostat on gas stoves which gave gas an edge and allowed gas stoves to maintain a competitive advantage over electric stoves until the 1950’s when Shacklock produced their first thermostat model electric stove. After this gas stoves could no longer compete with electric ranges.