One of the most effective mass marketing home campaigns of all time was the “Live Better Electrically” (LBE) program of the post-World War II era. It began in the mid 1950s when the General Electric (GE) and Westinghouse corporations decided to co-sponsor a multi-million dollar nationwide campaign to promote the sales of electric appliances and to tout the benefits of electric power for residential homes. General Electric provided the main support for the program, which launched in March of 1956.
At the time, utility companies were rushing to meet the increased demand for electricity in postwar Ameri-ca. However, as more power plants came on line the cost of electricity decreased. To increase company profits, homeowners were encouraged to consume more power through the purchase of a variety of elec-tric products. For GE and Westinghouse, the creation of a new market for electric heat also promised to increase company profits. Additionally, the two corporations not only sold residential electric heating units and a variety of household appliances, but they also sold electrical generating equipment to utility companies nationwide.
Supported nationwide by 900+ electric utilities and 180 electricity manufacturers, the electric-ity industry launched the LBE campaign through a variety of media outlets. The initial launch came with the offer to send a free 70+ page brochure to homeowners which told them how their lives could be enriched by the use of electricity and purchase of electric appliances.
To further the new program, in October 1957 the National Electrical Manufacturers Associa-tion launched the "Gold Medallion Homes" campaign, which sought to sell initially 20,000 all-electric homes nationwide within a year.
The LBE initiative and Medallion Homes program were heavily promoted through a va-riety of magazine and newspaper ads, as well as TV spots, and even radio jingles. The main campaign spokesman was then-actor Ronald Reagan, the host of "General Elec-tric Theater." As part of the show, Reagan took television audiences on a tour of his own Pacific Palisades home, as well as a variety of GE Research facilities and manufac-turing plants. Guest speakers included television and radio comedian, personality, and singer Fran Allison (for Whirlpool), and actress, consumer advocate, and current affairs commentator, Betty Furness (for Westinghouse).
To earn a LBE Gold Medallion em-blem a house had to be solely sourced with electricity for heat, light, and power. The house also had to have an electric range or built-in oven and surface units, and an electric refrigerator and/or re-frigerator/freezer in the kitchen.
Other requirements were an electric water heater, plus at least one more major electric appliance selected by the builder or buyer from an approved list. An optional appliance might be a dishwasher, food waste disposer, clothes dryer or even an air conditioner. Full 150 ampere service was also required, with a specified number of outlets and switches per linear foot of wall space. And finally, to meet the requirement of “modern living,” Medallion Homes had high standard for built-in illumination throughout the house, initially an unusual feature within new home construction.
The homes that met LBE standards could be marked with a 3” inch brass gold plaque emblazed with the “Live Better Electrically” logo. The brass plaque was typically found near the front entry door and could be embedded in the concrete sidewalk, patio or doorstep, or affixed to the wall as a stand-alone marker. Some plaques were incorpo-rated into a doorbell or knocker. For those who wanted a less permanent marker, a 6” inch decal could be affixed to a window.
The homes that met LBE standards could be marked with a 3” inch brass plaque em-blazed with the “Live Better Electrically” logo. The brass plaque was typically found near the front entry door and could be embedded in the concrete sidewalk, patio or doorstep, or affixed to the wall as a stand-alone marker. Some plaques were incorpo-rated into a doorbell or knocker. For those who wanted a less permanent marker, a 6” inch decal could be affixed to a window.
Across the county hundreds of developers and builders jumped on the LBE bandwag-on. The Medallion Home badge was a prominent feature of local Parade of Homes pro-grams for numerous years. Entire neighborhoods were planned and built as Gold Me-dallion Homes. With inexpensive power growing across America, GE and Westing-house’s goal for increasing electrical standards in home construction was easily met. For example, many cities across the country by 1958 were proclaiming that over 99% of their city’s new single-family homes were all-electric.
The LBE campaign positioned natural gas, the biggest power source of the time, as an outmoded method to operate appliances like furnaces, cooking ranges, water heat-ers, and clothes dryers. Living in a Gold Medallion home was marketed as the apex of modern living. To heighten their modern, futuristic feel, many all-electric homes also had unusual electrical amenities such as electric curtain rods and baseboard heating, or even such unusual items as task lighting under a woman’s dressing table for pedicures.
To recap around 1952 Gold Medallion Homes signified Total Electric Homes. In the early 50's most average American Homes were still not wired for total electricity. To promote Electricity Usage and Modern Electrical Appliances, power companies in the Northeast crafted the Gold Medallion marketing plan to boost wattage to homes. Each home would have a gold medallion embedded in the foundation to recognize it for being a "total Electric Home".