When retail electricity was first brought into homes -- existing homes -- the common practice was to remove the base boards right at the floor line -- and BX it in.
The studs could be drilled/ notched -- balloon construction was often to hand -- and you'd be shocked as to how many homes eighty-years ago had no insulation. Everyone just wore a lot of wool clothing -- and thought nothing of it.
The crazy idea of waking up to a warm house -- is about as modern as Romex.
With power only available right down at the floor, short runs to a switched pole lamp made perfect sense. (BTW, the VERY first receptacles used Edison screw type bases. He had the patent -- and was installing his invention at every location possible.) As you might imagine, screwing into a wall socket fell out of favor the second the straight blade plug entered the market.
Now these gadgets had two uses. They could be powered by an ancient Edison screw type receptacle -- still sometimes found -- typically found in 'old-rich' homes -- while providing a sweet transition to the new straight blade receptacles -- now at a table top height -- or whatnot.
Or, they could be powered by a base board straight blade receptacle. In so doing, they'd eliminate the repeated need to bend clear down to the floor to remove this or that plug -- pretty hard on the elderly.
And the first electric appliances came into use... starting with the old hot plate. No-one wanted to leave such a beast plugged in when they were away.
This also extended to coffee makers.
Since old kitchens were never wired -- these gadgets were the perfect stop gap. You'd set them near the breakfast table -- and power up the coffee maker right there.
Dog type extension cords would be DIY'd from the base board up to a kitchen counter. The users were instructed to NOT leave appliances plugged in when not in use, to NOT use extension cords as permanent wiring.
This logic is still in the NEC. This is when and where it got started. These are the original extension cords -- which for most did represent quasi-permanent wiring.
As time went by, BX and Romex retrofits made the very need for these -- under gauged -- DIY wiring methods dated.
( Having routed the BX, the installers could tack the base board back in place -- repairing, painting as needed. They could get in and out in no time... if hand augering was your idea of high speed.)
BTW, the VERY first electric drills were introduced in the twenties. (Metabo in Germany -- a contraction of "to drill holes" in German -- and Black & Decker in the USA) Both firms came out with electric drill motors at almost the same instant. These were huge tools -- with lousy performance. But, lousy beats zero anytime.
(Porter Cable came out with the first electric side winder saw -- with gear reduction, IIRC, at about the same time. The very first efforts went with direct drive -- off of a universal motor.)
The mass production of universal motors changed the world -- and no where more so than the construction trades.
Last edited by Tesla; 12/19/13 04:10 PM.