Then and Now: Household Products

One of the most unique things about the collection at Andalusia is its number of original items. Naturally, guests who visit museums expect to see original dishes and period pieces. However, beyond the furniture, clothing, and dishware, the collection has many things that under other circumstances, may have been disregarded or cleaned out.  Preserved and shared with the public, guests will find spices and cleaning bottles that Regina and Flannery would have been familiar with inside the kitchen cabinets. Products such as saran plastic wrap, aluminum foil, an air freshener and even silver polish. Many of these products are still used in ordinary households today, just with modern packaging. While these various kitchen and cleaning supplies are mundane objects today, these products would have been relatively new inventions to Flannery and Regina O’Connor.

            Two products that have not changed in terms of versatility and technology are the tubes of saran wrap and aluminum foil on display in the farmhouse kitchen. First designed to be a spray in 1933, by 1949 Dow chemical turned the spray into a more useful saran wrap.[1] Saran wrap hit the shelves in 1956, safe to use to wrap sandwiches and foodstuffs. From city-dwelling homemakers to rural Georgia farmhouses such as Andalusia, saran wrap became a household necessity. Next to the saran wrap, a roll of aluminum foil that Flannery and Regina would have used is also on display in the kitchen. Aluminum foil, invented in 1910, in Switzerland would become commonplace in households in the 1930s as rolls or loose sheets.[2] The particular brand of aluminum foil that the museum displays is Reynolds Wrap. The museum proudly holds these two products to put Flannery and Regina’s life on the farm into perspective. While they lived in rural Georgia, the women maintained rather modern lifestyles. 

Another product laid out in the kitchen is a package of Kordite plastic garbage bags. Unlike saran wrap or aluminum foil, whose design has changed very little over the past 50 years, the evolution of garbage bags was a multistep process. The first plastic garbage bag was invented after World War II in 1950, by a Canadian inventor named Harry Wasylyk. Soon after, an American company would adopt the garbage bag under the Glad brand name. However, the drawstring style of garbage bags would not be standard until 1984, a more convenient way to tie and dispose of household garbage. Though the garbage bag was still new when Regina and Flannery moved into Andalusia in 1951, this is another example of how modern they kept their lifestyle in the farmhouse.

Household products such as saran wrap, aluminum foil, and garbage bags remain recognizable to the general public 50 years later. However, one original product that Flannery used that would not be recognizable to many guests visiting today is the Wizard wick air freshener. Today, air fresheners come in the form of a wall plug or a spray. The first commercialized air freshener came in the form of a bottle with a plug that was a small metal bar with an attached foam piece that would release the scent into the room. In a 1955 Wizard Wick deodorizer commercial, the voice-over explains, “it keeps any room in your home sweet-smelling 24 hours a day.”[3] These deodorizers came in two scents: Wizard green-wick, a pine scent, or Wizard pink-wick, a spring bouquet scent. In the 1950s, many people would smoke cigarettes indoors while socializing. Flannery writes in a letter after entertaining a group who smoked in the dining room, that she “bought an air wick and I aim to set it in a conspicuous spot.”[4] Clearly, Flannery and Regina were not fans of the smell of smoke in the farmhouse.

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A cleaning product that was very popular in Flannery’s time was silver polish. Many families had jewelry or dining sets of silver utilized on special occasions. The thing about silver, although popular and valuable, is that the metal tarnished rather quickly over time and, as such, had to be polished often. Found in Andalusia’s collection is a bottle of Hagerty’s Silver Polish. In researching the provenance of the particular bottle, our curator spoke with Hagerty’s president, Deborah Hagerty. She estimates the bottle dates to their 1956 line of products, the product was among the first of its kind to be labeled as Kosher and began shipping worldwide. After applying regular silver polish, the silver would begin to tarnish in about a week; however, this particular product is a tarnish preventative, extending its protection and coverage. Hagerty mentions, “Today you will see that one Hagerty silver care product sets up the use of the next product.”[5] Hagerty’s is a fifth-generation family-owned company that continues to provide cleaning products to a modern world.[6] Products such as these give insight to the little things that are essential to keeping up a modern household in the 1950s.

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While it has been over 50 years since Flannery or Regina took up residence at Andalusia farms, the items from the time spent there are preserved for display in the museum today. By doing so, guests can envision the farm as it would have been in Flannery’s time. Even in the rural parts of middle Georgia, Regina and Flannery kept up a modern lifestyle with new and timeless products such as the saran wrap, aluminum foil, garbage bags, air fresheners and silver polish. 


[1] “Plastic Wrap Information,” U.S. Packaging & Wrapping LLC., accessed May 14, 2020, https://uspackagingandwrapping.com/plastic-wrap-101.html

[2] “About Alufoil,” History – European Aluminium Foil Association, accessed May 14, 2020, https://www.alufoil.org/en/history.html

[3] Public Social Archive, “Wizard Wick Deodorizer Commercial (1955),” YouTube video, 1:01, April 28, 2020, accessed May 15, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3czpuNumvL4

[4] Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being, ed. Sally Fitzgerald, (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1988), 263.

[5] Deborah Hagerty, email to Curator Meghan Anderson, October 3, 2018.

[6] Liz Pinson, “Five generation strong, W.J. Hagerty & Sons delivers only the best in silver & jewelry care” Southern Jewelry News, June 30 2019, accessed May 15, 2020, https://southernjewelrynews.com/featured-articles/5116-five-generations-strong-w-j-hagerty-sons-delivers-only-the-best-in-silver-jewelry-care.

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