The Bureau of Home Economics was created July 1, 1923, to meet the need of 26,000,000 homemakers in the United States for help in solving the problems they face daily. For many years the Department of Agriculture had carried on investigations in nutrition and experiments in the preparation, canning, and use of food materials, in a division called the Office of Home Economics. This was expanded into a Bureau in order to widen the scope of the work and make more fundamental studies possible.
The research of the Bureau is organized under three divisions: Foods and Nutrition, Textiles and Clothing, and Economics. The primary function of each division is the solution of problems for the homemaker through scientific research. Some of these problems require long investigation; others are less complicated, but their solution in any case contributes toward greater comfort and satisfaction in home life. Many projects deal with nutrition, food preparation, and clothing standards, and are related to the personal requirements of members of the family group. All of the numerous and varied pieces of research and resulting publications of the Bureau may be said to tie in with the Better Homes movement in its larger sense. More specific home-improvement suggestions will be available from the Bureau in future years when expansion allows for the development of a division for housing and equipment studies and another to consider art as it is related to the home. In considering for these pages the studies now under way that contribute to the physical aspect of the home environment the list seems somewhat limited.
1 This article was prepared for this publication.
The Division of Textiles and Clothing, in its work on the utilization of wool and cotton, is conducting projects dealing with the care and uses of textile materials. These include studies on the laundering and cleaning of cotton and wool materials used in home furnishing. Certain studies have had as their object the development of recommended practices in home laundering and stain removal. Facts on these subjects are published for the homemaker in Farmers' Bulletins 1474, Stain Removal from Fabrics: Home Methods, and 1497, Methods and Equipment for Home Laundering. Studies of design as related to home furnishing (carried on co-operatively with the Extension Service) are giving special attention to the use of household textiles. The results will be published in a series of popular publications, two of which are now ready for distribution: Farmers' Bulletin 1633, Window Curtaining, and Leaflet 76, Slip Covers. Two slide sets, "A Guide to Fabric Selection" and "First Aid in Window Curtaining," have been prepared. They are sent out to clubs on request to the Office of Cooperative Extension Work of the United States Department of Agriculture. A set on living-room arrangements is in preparation.
The Bureau has cooperated with the American Home Economics Association in its effort to secure some method such as labeling whereby information on quality specifications of consumer's goods may be available for the homemaker. A pamphlet entitled Household Purchasing: Suggestions for Club Programs has been prepared and is for sale by the American Home Economics Association, Mills Building, Washington, D.C. The Textile Division of the Bureau has made some studies on the standardization of household textiles and has published two articles along this fine: "Some Specifications of Wide Cotton Sheetings Bought on the Retail Counter," Textile World, LXXVI, No. 9 (1929), 53, and "Where Sheets Wear Out," ibid., LXXV, No. 15 (1929), 69.
The 'Division of Economics considers the standards of living prevailing in different types of families, the costs of maintaining these standards, including the cost of housing, and the organization and efficiency of the work of the home under varying conditions. Practical methods of budgeting and accounting are being devised to aid the homemaker in the management of her family finances. Suggestions for keeping household accounts are given in Farmers' Bulletin 1553, Planning and Recording Family Expenditures.
Closely related to and determining somewhat the money expenditure are time and energy expenditures. These are in turn affected by the type, amount, and arrangement of equipment for carrying on household duties. Arranging the kitchen for efficiency is discussed in Farmers' Bulletin 1513, Convenient Kitchens, and in an article, "Abolishing the Inefficient Kitchen," in the Journal of Home Economics, XXI (1929), 475. There is also a set of eight charts called "The Convenient Kitchen," for sale by the superintendent of documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.; and a set of lantern slides, "Come into the Kitchen" which may be borrowed through the Office of Cooperative Extension Work.
Records have been collected from both rural and city homemakers on the way they distribute their time among their various household tasks, including the care of small children. These records cover facts about the size of the house and the amount and type of labor-saving equipment the woman is using. A popular discussion of the time studies may be found in the articles "Is the Modern Housewife a Lady of Leisure?" Survey, LXII (1929), 301; and "Reducing the Demands of Housekeeping," Child Welfare Magazine, XXI (1927), 380. Studies are also under way to determine the relative costs of having work done in the home with or without modern equipment and of having it done by a commercial agency.
The work of the Division of Foods and Nutrition concerns itself mainly with the finding of facts upon which to base standards of nutrition and food utilization and care. Any study of equipment is incidental to the foregoing investigations. Researches on food care and storage have developed a great deal of material on home refrigeration and canning equipment. Farmers' Bulletin 1471, Canning Fruits and Vegetables at Home, describes and pictures the types of canning equipment recommended by the Bureau. Published material on refrigerators consists of a set of six charts, "Household Refrigeration," for sale by the superintendent of documents; a bibliography, "Household Refrigeration,"distributed by the Bureau; and several articles: "Research on Home Refrigerators," Refrigerating Engineering, XVI (1928), 41; "Temperature and Ice Consumption in an Ice Cooled Refrigerator as Affected by Room Temperature," ibid., XVIII (1929), 93; "Test of Five Ice-cooled Household Refrigerators," Ice and Refrigeration, LXXVIII, No. 1 (1930), 49.
Facts determined by scientific investigation in the three divisions of the Bureau are available to homemakers in bulletins, in charts, and in magazine articles as mentioned above. A complete list of bulletins, sent on request, shows the scope of subject matter available free to home-makers. Hundreds of letters in which homemakers ask their specific questions are answered each week. Information goes out also through releases to the press and through two types of radio programs, one given each week over a national network of about thirty-nine stations and the other mailed five times a week to be read over more than one hundred and thirty local stations in various parts of the United States. The Bureau is in touch with homemakers indirectly through the extension agents in the Department appointed under the Smith Lever Act, who through their club programs carry information from Bureau studies. Technical as well as popular bulletins and the illustrative material prepared in the Bureau are used by home-economics departments in the training of teachers, extension leaders, and prospective homemakers all over the country.