We get a lot of comments at Cavalcade of Food about appliances, especially about the variety of old stoves that we use when preparing our recipes. I’ve been collecting these stoves – usually referred to as “ranges,” for many years. I try to rotate them through the three kitchens that we use to make recipes for Cavalcade of Food. These vintage ranges not only feature marvelous engineering, but many of them are simply beautiful in their design. These were made in that post-war period when the United States was still a manufacturing powerhouse, and one only needs to spend a minute with these ranges to know how well they were built. As a matter of fact, they are very, very heavy! Moving them around provides more than a workout!
The steel used is of heavy gauge, and the porcelain enamel coating is thick and durable. At its factory in Mansfield, Ohio, Westinghouse turned out thousands of stoves like the one I just found to fill the new kitchens of homes in the suburban neighborhoods that were popping up across the country. Other major appliance companies like General Electric, Frigidaire, Hotpoint, Norge, Kelvinator, Crosley and Philco were also filling the market with spectacular new ranges, refrigerators, washers, dryers and other appliances. Today, the survivors of this era remind us of this incredible period of American history.
This latest addition to the CoF collection is a 1950 Westinghouse Model BA-74, also known at the “Commander” model. The Commander was Westinghouse’s top-of-the-line, although the BA-74 was the single-oven model. The very top and most expensive was the double-oven Commander. Instead of a smaller oven on the left side, the BA-74 has a warming drawer. This stove measures 40 inches across. It features “Color Glance” controls, which glow a different color depending on the burner’s heat setting. It also has one “Super Corax” heat unit, which according the above advertisement should reach full heat in 30 seconds. Speed burners were the answer to the criticism about electric ranges being slow to heat up, unlike the instant heat of a gas range.
So, it has been 63 years since this range was manufactured and it is still in good working order. This speaks to the care with which it was given all these years, and the quality of the product coming out of the factory. I can’t help but look at this range and think of my mom and grandma, both of whom were excellent cooks and bakers. They cooked on a range like this, and I feel connected to them when I have the opportunity to do the same.