Today, hotels offer high-tech amenities that just a generation ago would be astounding — RFID key cards, customisable ambiance at the push of a button, and coming soon, humanoid robot concierges. So what started the high-tech hotel craze? It can all be traced back to the 1920s, when Americans started to demand a decidedly techno-centric flair in their hotels.
At the start of the 1920s only about 35 per cent of Americans had electricity in their homes. But when the Commodore Hotel opened in New York in January of 1919 it was to be a high-tech wonderland utilising the latest that post-WWI inventors had to offer.
From the bedrooms to the elevators to the kitchen, the hotel was a marvel of domestic electrical achievement — even if those of us here in the early 21st century might find them less than impressive. Take, for instance, the illustration above in the July 1921 issue of Science and Invention magazine. An alarm clock in every single room? How futuristic!
“The guest walks over to the clock and sets it and then retires, and in the morning a pleasing chime awakens the slumberer,” the magazine explains.
Below, just a few other high-tech amenities that the Commodore Hotel had to offer, starting with the dishwasher, a modern wonder of hotel efficiency.
The “master clock” that automatically makes sure every guest room is in sync:
The radio control center where the time is monitored and controlled:
And electric elevators that stop at the exact floor level: “not one half foot above or below.”
A futuristic silverware washer:
The potato peeler that “takes care of a whole barrel” to relieve cooks of this “unpopular labour:”
Automatic potato peelers may not scream “high-tech hotel” to those of us today, but you never know what retro gadget will inspire our next futuristic invention. Keep your eyes peeled.
All images scanned from the July 1921 issue of Science and Invention magazine