A closer look back—50 years ago

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Of all the NECs that I have had to enforce since the 1947 edition, the one that really still sticks in my mind is the 1959 NEC. It introduced the present-day receptacle spacing for dwellings that we all take for granted. The 1953 NEC said that every 20 feet of wall space had to have a receptacle; the 1956 NEC said that every 12 feet of wall space had to have a receptacle, but those did not specify its location on the wall space.


Now, here comes the 1959 NEC with what I think was a major advance in safety with what was called (at the time by builders) a “draconian” requirement, adding… “installed so that no point on the floor line is more than 6 feet, measured horizontally, from an outlet in that space.” These additional receptacles reduced the need for extension cords and eliminated the practice of builders selling “extras” if the owner asked for more receptacles.

Receptacles installed at the kitchen sink location had to be of the grounding type so we had two interior dwelling locations that required grounding type receptacles, the kitchen sink location and the laundry. (All the washing machines still came with the two-blade attachment cap).

The small appliance circuits were increased 100% to two, but included the laundry. I saved the best part until last: the 1959 NEC code book cost 40 cents!

About the Author

Andre "Andy" Cartal has been a member of the IAEI since 1967, serving as secretary of the Skyland Division, South Jersey Chapter, chairman of the New Jersey Chapter, Eastern Section president and international president. He represented the IAEI on CMP-12, is a member of Underwriters Laboratories Electrical Council, and is a life member of the NFPA. Retired after 50 years of service from the Middle Department Inspection Agency, Andy is a past recipient of the President's Medal of Honor and the Inspector of the Year Award from the State of New Jersey.