1920s, Kettles by the Bedside

By the 1920s electric appliances were becoming increasingly popular, and for a while it seemed that kettles would kick teasmades right out of the playing field. Certainly by 1922 the kettle had found its way into the bedroom. The first reference I have found to using an electric kettle for morning tea in bed is by “G B H” in the Yorkshire Post on a page entitle For Women of Today, published in 1922:

The Electric Kettle – How it Scores in the Mornings

Have you ever tried an electric kettle? You can get a little beauty, holding one and a half pints, made of nickel plated copper, at a perfectly reasonable price. I used to laugh at electric kettles. What use were they, with a gas cooker in the scullery. But there happened to be the rub. The gas cooker was in the scullery. What a nuisance to get up on a cold morning without a hot cup of tea first of all to brace one up. What a nuisance to leave an engrossing book to put the kettle on the gas ring for tea! And what a nuisance when, for some unknown reason or other the water got cold, and back to the scullery you had to go to heat some more. What a waste of energy and time this all was.

These worries are over now, gone with the advent of a shining electric kettle. Today, I set a little tray last thing at night, and leave it on a tray outside my bedroom door, with a large pitcher of water covered with a piece of muslin to keep out the dust. Then all I have to do in the morning is to slip out of bed, collect the morning papers, letters, tray, and pitcher of water, fill up the kettle, which stands on a table at my bedside, slip in a plug which is within arm reach, and go through my letters till the water boils.

Sometimes, when I want a rest, I bring in my electric toaster as well, and have tea and hot buttered toast in bed.

On Saturday 19 June 1926 the Electricity Works in Exchange Street, (probably Aylesbury), advertised the bedside kettle in the Bucks Herald, complete with a photograph.

Bedside Electric Kettle, in the Bucks Herald, June 19 1926
Bedside Electric Kettle, in the Bucks Herald, June 19 1926

A standard advert headlined ‘Electric Home Comforts’ appeared in several newspapers including the Uxbridge and West Drayton Gazette on 24th June and the Buckinghamshire Examiner on 21st October 1927. It included this appealing illustration by an anonymous artist.

Electric Home Comforts advertisement 1927
Electric Home Comforts advertisement 1927

I have found several references to bedside kettles being promoted by Council or Corporation Electricity Departments. This one was published in Bristol in 1930:

Have electric plug points in every room. Here are a few suggestions for using them. BEDROOM:
Hair Dryer, Shaving Cup, Curling Irons, Milk Warmer, Bedside Kettle.

By 1932 Bristol corporation had added hair wavers, and a bed fitting for reading, to the list.

Another in the Sussex Agricultural Express, published in 1935, reads:

Electricity Talks No. 22 on the electric kettle: The electric kettle enables us to get boiling water quickly, anywhere, and at any time, merely by connecting up to a wall plug and switching on. Think of it for the early morning tea! You have a switch at the bedside. The kettle can be boiled and the tea brewed while you are still in bed! An electric kettle can be used on the table itself. It is perfectly clean and wonderfully convenient.

Also in 1935, an article quoting Miss Jessie Bond, who made her debut on the British stage nearly sixty years ago, was reproduced in a large number of newspapers. Miss Bond wrote of her girlhood days, comparing them to those of today:

Now a young housewife when she awakes can switch on an electric kettle by her bedside, and in three minutes can brew her own tea with a dainty little bedroom table set.