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Guest blog by Emily Raynor, University of Leeds

This is the fifth of a series of blogs written by Liberal Arts students at the University of Leeds to celebrate the centenary of the Electrical Association for Women in 2024. This project has been supported by Professor Graeme Gooday. These blogs on early EAW activities are based on themes that the students selected from reading digitised versions of the first two volumes (1926-1935) of The Electrical Age (for Women). You can read Emily’s first blog here.


The Electrical Association for Women published a quarterly journal from 1926 named The Electrical Age (until 1932 called The Electrical Age for Women), which informed readers about electrical developments in domestic technology, along with reports about the Association’s work in advising women.  Like many contemporary popular magazines, The Electrical Age included advertising from commercial organisations that sought to turn the magazine’s readers into customers for their products – unsurprisingly, the large majority of advertising related to electrical products for the home. The revenue from this advertising helped to keep publication costs down, and thus made The Electrical Age more affordable to readers.

The advertisements, interspersed between the magazine’s articles, promoted items ranging from electric domestic appliances for cooking and heating, to decorative products for the home. Upon finding that a striking variety of advertising techniques were used throughout to market these goods, I wanted to take a closer look at a few interesting examples that were used to promote them to a wide audience throughout The Electrical Age. One key theme I have decided to explore is emotional appeal, specifically the emphasis on products that served the British national interest. A second theme is social proof, found in the form of quotations and stories from customers who had enjoyed the items advertised. My final theme is comparative advertising, which juxtaposed the advantages of electric commodities in contrast to alternatives.

These advertisements date from the 1930s, and may include language or imagery that is offensive, outdated or misrepresentative.

Emotional patriotic appeal

A recurrent pattern found in advertisements published in these journals from the 1930s was an emphasis on the fact that products were developed in Britain, or were made by British workers, and that therefore, British readers should consider them – and preferably then buy them – in order to support their country. The message of these advertisements was that if an item were British, it then was, the companies implied, the best option on the market. Additionally, these advertisements further implied that readers would be doing a disservice to their nation if they did not support its industries by buying the British goods being promoted; the advertisers’ emotive aim was clearly to evoke a patriotic response from readers of The Electrical Age.

Advert showing light fittings and lampshades with illustration of tailor
Advertisement for ‘Hailware’ light fittings, Hailwood &Ackroyd (Electrical Age January 1932 p. 302)

This emotive theme can be seen in the above advertisement for ‘Hailware’ by Hailwood & Ackroyd, Ltd., from the January 1932 issue of the journal. It reads, “Support British industry and keep British money in Britain and help deserving British workers”, and implies that if one did not buy Hailware, they would not be supporting their country, making them feel guilty and therefore more encouraged to purchase the product in response.

Advertisement for Ediswan vacuum cleaner (Electrical Age January 1935 p. 817)

Another example of patriotic appeal is the above advertisement from the January 1935 issue for an electric vacuum cleaner by the Edison Swan Electric Co. Ltd., which claims that “The Ediswan vacuum cleaner is Britain’s answer to foreign competition.” The emphasis creates an emotionally appealing advertisement for a specific group of people – British people in the 1930s who felt a strong sense of patriotism. The wording encourages these readers to choose the Ediswan vacuum cleaner over foreign rivals.

Social proof

A different advertising technique that reoccurred continuously throughout the journals is social proof, which is evidence that customers have tried and tested the products being advertised by a business, and found that they were valuable. The advertisers’ assumption was that Electrical Age readers, upon learning that goods have been recommended by others, with opinions that are respected by them, would be more inclined to purchase said goods. These advertisements contained testimonies, ranging from those of housewives, who other housewives could trust to be knowledgeable of alternatives to the products being promoted, to those of husbands of Electrical Age readers, whom both the men reading the journal and housewives themselves were assumed by advertisers to trust.

Advertisement for Siddons cast iron utensils (Electrical Age July 1933 p. 506)

One example of social proof in the July 1933 issue is the above advertisement for electric cast iron utensils by J & J Siddons, which includes a real housewife’s testimony. Her words read: “I have proved by actual experience that Siddons Cast Iron Electric Utensils are superior to all others”, and she further lists reasons for her belief. This quotation would then be read by Electrical Age readers, who would be expected to consider whether their current equipment worked for them as well that of the housewife in the advertisement. Such advertising clearly assumed that an actual customer’s opinion would be more effective in securing new sales than an advertiser’s own words.

Advertisement for Hague & McKenzie (Electrical Age April 1933 p. 465)

The April 1933 issue shows a different form of advertisement using social proof. This is for a specialist brand of cooking utensils – aluminium cookware by Hague & McKenzie Ltd. Unusually in this advertisement, however, the testimony included is from a husband, rather than the presumed female reader of The Electrical Age. This issue appeared the year after the journal changed its name from the Electrical Age for Women to simply the Electrical Age, which was a transition clearly made to make the publication accessible to a wider audience of both genders. The use of male social proof may thus have been a strategic way of appealing to any male readers.

This advertisement quotes a husband who found that his and his wife’s old cookware was ineffective, and electricity was costing them more than it should – until they purchased the products advertised. Reading this lived and recounted experience would thus have encouraged male readers to authorise purchase of Hague & McKenzie Ltd.’s cookware. Housewives would also be a group impacted by this advertisement, since many of them did not have an income of their own and would have needed their husbands to agree with them about a product prior to purchasing it, which they may feel more inclined to do if said product has been approved by a fellow husband.

Comparative advertising

The third technique found in multiple issues in The Electrical Age is comparative advertising. This involved advertisers openly juxtaposing their electrical goods and non-electrical alternatives available in order to highlight the superiority of the products they are selling to potential consumers. This technique would have been useful for businesses as it made the virtues of their product clearer for their audience – anyone could understand the comparison being made, and therefore any reader could be persuaded to choose an electrical product over a traditional gas or coal-based alternative.

Advertisement for Johnson & Phillips (Electrical Age October 1927 p. 240)

In this advertisement from the October 1927 issue for a substation by Johnson & Phillips, Ltd., we can see this technique in action. Rather than aiming to sell a product directly to readers of The Electrical Age, this advert helped to reassure readers that the arrival of electricity supply in their neighbourhood would not cause unsightly or obtrusive equipment to spoil the streetscape. It reads: “Electricity has many advantages over gas. A substation may add to the appearance of a road of attractive villas, but imagine a gasometer in similar surroundings!”, implying that one of the reasons for Electrical Age readers to prefer electricity over gas was aesthetic – because it is more visually appealing than the traditional large ugly gasometer.

Advertisement for Ferranti (Electrical Age January 1931 p. 112)

Finally, this advertisement for an electric fire from Ferranti Limited, found in the January 1931 issue of The Electrical Age, also illustrates comparative advertising in an aesthetic vein. The text explains that Ferranti Ltd’s electric fire “is really better value than other forms of heating, such as coal, gas, or less radiant electric fires”. Notably, this advertisement plays down all alternatives to the item being sold, without providing any quantitative evidence to validate Ferranti’s claim. Instead, the comfortable image of a family gathered around an electric fire was intended to show how clean and luxuriant this newer form of heating would be. The scene being advertised to the journal’s readers is therefore a universally appealing one.


Whilst we do not have direct evidence of the success of these three forms of advertising, their recurrence throughout multiple issues of The Electrical Age strongly suggests that the companies found at least some reward in these methods. Advertisers sometimes used the same image and message from one issue to another, allowing more of the journal’s readers to encounter their advertisements and products. Therefore, because the techniques being used aimed to appeal to wide audiences, it is fair to assume that they were profitable for the companies creating the goods being promoted.

About the author

My name is Emmy Raynor, and I am studying Liberal Arts at the University of Leeds, majoring in Cultural Studies. I was born in France and lived in Paris for the first half of my life, before moving to London in 2012.

I am inspired by women that, despite having had a significant amount of impact on many facets of society throughout history, have been overlooked – to various degrees – in favour of men. Because of this, I am particularly interested in the lesser-well-known, but incredibly influential women of the E.A.W. who have played a key role in the growth of the electrical industry.

  • Hello Emmy:

    Regarding the "Buy British" thread, you have to remember the 1930's were part of the "great depression" and local job creation was very important to the UK .

     The Hailware shades and fittings were probably only for the British market as they used the Bayonet lighting fixture.

    That was developed to get around the Edison screw base legal problem.

    It should be also noted that during that time there was a Electric lamp cartel that required all filament lamps designs to have a limited lifetime of about 1,000 operating hours.

    Peter Brooks

    Palm Bay