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A few short decades ago, home life was different: phones were not carried in pockets, but were attached to the wall; individuals didn’t have their own lines, but families shared one phone in their house. Now, phone users not only have unlimited access to calls, but can also privately message whoever they want, can post any detail about their life on social media, and can answer any question they think of on the internet in a matter of seconds.


This is only one of the major differences that have evolved in the American household, and every passing decade brings with it more such changes. The changes between the last decades of the 1600s and the beginning of the 1700s were even starker as colonists went from living in caves to living in log houses. As the 18th century went on, brick houses and settlements became popular for the wealthier inhabitants, turning into settlements and towns by the end of the century.


It is interesting to compare the more-developed houses of the 1700s to the houses we have now. The luxuries we have available to us would leave any early American completely aghast and utterly shocked. From the development of electricity to smart home technology, we have truly come a long way in home life in the past three centuries.

Energy and Power

Electricity wasn’t discovered until the 19th century, so in the 1700s colonists had to rely on flames for light and power. Candles and oil lamps lit their homes, fireplaces and wood-fired ovens and stoves cooked their food, as well as provided heat. In fact, although lamps were invented in 70,000 BC, significant design improvements were added in the 1700s.


Now, not only are all American homes supplied with electricity, but many states are optimized for solar energy use and actively encourage the use of solar power in citizens’ homes. This energy maintains comfortable temperatures in the house, provides appliances with power, and can even provide luxuries such as heated floors.


With the internet of things increasingly enveloping home technology, homeowners can now control their lights, televisions, temperature, home security, and more on their devices. With the development of smart home technology like Alexa and Google Assistant, users don’t even need to push a button to control these features and can simply voice commands to their devices.

Bedroom Commodities

If someone from this millennium had to stay in a 1700s home, they would have a hard time getting to sleep. They would be used to sleeping on smart bed technology that can warm your feet; adjust comfort levels on both sides of the bed; sense your breathing, movement, and heart rate; and can even help you stop snoring.


Ok, maybe not everyone has smart bed technology in their bedrooms — yet —  but most people own modern mattresses. They might be made out of memory foam that hugs people’s bodies like a cloud would or be topped with a foam pad that makes people never want to their bed.


In the 1700’s, the upper class were barely transitioning to mattresses covered in fabric and filled with soft materials, such as coconut fiber. Before that, materials such as wool, straw, and animal hair made up the stuffing of mattresses.

From Bedpans to Bidets

Another significant feature in these now-antique houses were bedpans, used so that tenants didn’t have to leave their bedrooms in the middle of the night to visit the outhouse. Though a flushing water closet was designed as early as the 16th century for Queen Elizabeth I, the invention wasn’t practiced and didn’t catch on until the end of the 19th century.


In contrast, modern technology has evolved to even transform toilets. Now, homes in America not only come with multiple flushing toilets, but bidets are becoming more and more popular. Now, these fancy toilets come with a washing feature, seat warmers, night lights, and even speakers that play music to make using toilets a more private experience.


Many Americans today would be completely lost staying in even the most updated house in the 18th century, and most Americans from the 18th century would be completely overwhelmed in a technologically advanced house today. Taking a look at the major differences in household technology, we can get a sense of our past and how far we’ve come.

Picture by Preservation Maryland


 About the Author

Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.