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"Electric Oven." Patent no. 39916, filed by Thomas Ahearn, 1892

 

Patent no. 39916. Filing year 1892.

"Electric Oven," Thomas Ahearn.

Having already impressed the people of Ottawa by inventing the heated streetcar in 1892, Thomas Ahearn took his electrical inventiveness one step further that same year by preparing Canada's first electrically cooked meal.

By 1887 Ahearn had already secured a monopoly on electrical power generation in the Ottawa region, and early in 1892, he patented an electric water heater. This local entrepreneur clearly saw the vast potential for electrically produced heat, as several related patents soon followed: an electric flat iron (patent no. 39917), the above-noted system for heating streetcars electrically (patent no. 39507), a method of heating an automatic water supply electrically (patent no. 39508), and the electric oven.

To celebrate this last innovation, Ahearn organized a meal to be remembered, at the Ottawa Windsor Hotel on August 29, 1892. The "Electric Dinner" featured consommé royal soup, Saginaw trout, sugar-cured ham, stuffed loin of veal, lamb cutlets, apple pie, chocolate cake and various other dishes, all prepared with what Ahearn called his "cooking heaters." As he proclaimed on the evening's menu, "Every item on this menu has been cooked by the electric heating appliance invented and patented by Mr. T. Ahearn of Ahearn and Soper of this City and is the first instance in the history of the world of an entire meal being cooked by electricity. The bread and meats were cooked in an electric oven and the liquids in other electric heaters."

Whether this electric meal was the world's first is hard to confirm, as this was the heyday of electrical inventions. Regardless, Ahearn's attempts to capitalize on his electric oven went sadly awry. He traded his patent rights to the American Heating Corporation in exchange for stock, and the company went bankrupt before he saw any return on his investment.

That was the one snag in an otherwise glorious career. Over the years, Ahearn was the president of nine companies and utilities and held six directorships. He also built the country's first coast-to-coast telegraph communications network in 1897. Thirty years later, he conceived and organized Canada's first coast-to-coast radio broadcast. His other inventions include a version of the telephone, sound-reproducing mechanisms, a talking machine and sound machinery.

The electric oven, for its part, was ahead of its time. Although models were available for sale in the 1890s, the technology was unstable and, regardless, the necessary electrical infrastructure was not yet widely established. As a result, gas stoves dominated the market well into the 20th century; it was only by 1930 that advances in technology made electric stoves an attractive option, particularly for domestic kitchens.

References

Mayer, Roy. Inventing Canada: One Hundred Years of Innovation. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 1997.

"Ahearn and Soper: Innovative Thinkers Who Shaped Transit in Ottawa".OC Transpo.
http://octranspo.com/about_OC/History/Ahearn_Soper.htm
(accessed October 10, 2005).

"Gas and Electric Stoves." Edinformatics.
www.edinformatics.com/inventions_inventors/electric_stove.htm
(accessed October 10, 2005).