Toilets, Toasters & Telephones: The How and Why of Everyday Objects

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Who invented the toilet? How did the telephone get its shape? Can a refrigerator or a toaster be art? And what does a chocolate bar melting in the lab coat of a scientist have to do with the invention of the microwave? In this fascinating history of everyday objects, Susan Goldman Rubin helps us appreciate anew the things we see all around us. She also introduces the inspired geniuses who are responsible for the way these universal objects look. Filled with entertaining anecdotes and remarkable facts in a ...

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Overview

Who invented the toilet? How did the telephone get its shape? Can a refrigerator or a toaster be art? And what does a chocolate bar melting in the lab coat of a scientist have to do with the invention of the microwave? In this fascinating history of everyday objects, Susan Goldman Rubin helps us appreciate anew the things we see all around us. She also introduces the inspired geniuses who are responsible for the way these universal objects look. Filled with entertaining anecdotes and remarkable facts in a user-friendly format, this informative book includes thirteen black-and-white paintings, thirty vintage photographs, and an extensive bibliography and index. Readers will never again look at a bathtub in quite the same way.

Discusses the evolution of industrial design and the invention of a variety of household appliances.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Ever wonder where the pencil came from? Or how the modern stove evolved? Rubin answers lots of questions on commonplace things besides toilets and toasters in this nicely written and well-designed book. In the end, though, her concern is more about style than history, so kids are introduced to the concept of industrial design. It's all quite useful, filled with well-referenced period illustrations-and, of course, Warnick's elegant watercolor renderings, which make works of art from simple things such as sinks and irons.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Ordinary household fixtures and appliances, such as bathtubs, stoves, and vacuum cleaners, are seldom given any thought. Rubin has researched the history and changing form of 13 of these common objects; through an entertaining text and black-and-white photographs, she shares her findings. Along the way, facts about social customs related to bathing, the origin of using "hello" to answer a telephone call, and even the contributions of typewriter design to computer keyboards are conveyed. Strong emphasis is placed on the importance of ergonomic considerations and aesthetic principles in attracting customers to a product. Entries marked with an asterisk in the extensive bibliography are suitable for young readers. It's likely that some of these materials will be sought after since readers of this book may never use an everyday object again without wondering why it looks the way it does.-Ann G. Brouse, Big Flats Branch Library, NY
Kirkus Reviews
This entertaining history of household objects provides the inventors, the ideas or needs behind the innovations, and the dates they were invented. Separate chapters address bathrooms (toilets, sinks, bathtubs), cooking (stoves, toasters, refrigerators), cleaning up (laundry machines, irons, vacuum cleaners), telephones, pens and pencils, typewriters, and more. Rubin (Emily in Love, 1997, etc.) explains how the idea for the book came about; when she was remodeling her kitchen and chose her new stove, its red knobs so "dazzled" her that she began thinking about good design. Others have thought about good design, too; in 1938, Rubin points out, household objects began to be recognized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as "applied arts." The large black-and-white pictures, especially of the early prototypes, offer clear reference points for the progression of machinery through the ages. Computers, cellular phones, Caller ID—-readers will never take them for granted again after reading about their remarkable predecessors. (index, not seen, notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152014216
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/1/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 144
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.21 (w) x 9.33 (h) x 0.67 (d)

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