Sunday March 28, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Washing Machine
On this Day:
In 1797, Nathaniel Briggs of New Hampshire patented a washing machine in the USA. But of course people didn’t just start washing clothes in 1797!
A washing machine (laundry machine, clothes washer, or washer) is a home appliance used to wash laundry. The term is mostly applied to machines that use water as opposed to dry cleaning (which uses alternative cleaning fluids and is performed by specialist businesses) or ultrasonic cleaners. The user adds laundry detergent, which is sold in liquid or powder form, to the wash water.
Laundering by hand involves soaking, beating, scrubbing, and rinsing dirty textiles. Before indoor plumbing, the maids, washerwoman (laundress), or housewife also had to carry all the water used for washing, boiling, and rinsing the laundry; according to an 1886 calculation, some women in the United States fetched water eight to ten times every day from a pump, well, or spring for these purposes. Water for the laundry would be hand carried, heated on a fire for washing, then poured into the tub. That made the warm soapy water precious; it would be reused, first to wash the least soiled clothing, then to wash progressively dirtier laundry.
Removal of soap and water from the clothing after washing was a separate process. First, soap would be rinsed out with clear water. After rinsing, the soaking wet clothing would be formed into a roll and twisted by hand to extract water. The entire process often occupied an entire day of hard work, plus drying and ironing.
Nearly 5 billion of the world’s population of 7 billion as of 2010 still hand-wash their clothes.
The first English patent under the category of washing machines was issued in 1691. A drawing of an early washing machine appeared in the January 1752 issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine, a British publication. Jacob Christian Schäffer’s washing machine design was published 1767 in Germany. In 1782, Henry Sidgier issued a British patent for a rotating drum washer, and in the 1790s Edward Beetham sold numerous “patent washing mills” in England. One of the first innovations in washing machine technology was the use of enclosed containers or basins that had grooves, fingers, or paddles to help with the scrubbing and rubbing of the clothes. The person using the washer would use a stick to press and rotate the clothes along the textured sides of the basin or container, agitating the clothes to remove dirt and mud. This crude agitator technology was hand-powered, but still more effective than actually hand-washing the clothes.
More advancements were made to washing machine technology in the form of the rotative drum design. Basically, these early design patents consisted of a drum washer that was hand-cranked to make the wooden drums rotate. While the technology was simple enough, it was a milestone in the history of washing machines, as it introduced the idea of “powered” washing drums. As metal drums started to replace the traditional wooden drums, it allowed for the drum to turn above an open fire or an enclosed fire chamber, raising the water temperature for more effective washes.
It would not be until the 19th century when steam power would be used in washing machine designs.
In 1862, a patented “compound rotary washing machine, with rollers for wringing or mangling” by Richard Lansdale of Pendleton, Manchester, was shown at the 1862 London Exhibition.
The first United States Patent titled “Clothes Washing” was granted to Nathaniel Briggs of New Hampshire in 1797. Because of the Patent Office fire in 1836, no description of the device survives. Invention of a washing machine is also attributed to Watervliet Shaker Village, as a patent was issued to an Amos Larcom of Watervliet, New York, in 1829, but it is not certain that Larcom was a Shaker. A device that combined a washing machine with a wringer mechanism did not appear until 1843, when Canadian John E. Turnbull of Saint John, New Brunswick patented a “Clothes Washer With Wringer Rolls.” During the 1850s, Nicholas Bennett from the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society at New Lebanon, New York, invented a “wash mill”, but in 1858 he assigned the patent to David Parker of the Canterbury Shaker Village, where it was registered as the “Improved Washing Machine”.
Margaret Colvin invented the Triumph Rotary Washer, which was exhibited in the Women’s Pavilion at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia. At the same Exhibition, the Shakers won a gold medal for their machine.
Electric washing machines were advertised and discussed in newspapers as early as 1904. Alva J. Fisher has been incorrectly credited with the invention of the electric washer. The US Patent Office shows at least one patent issued before Fisher’s US patent number 966677 (e.g. Woodrow’s US patent number 921195). The “inventor” of the electric washing machine remains unknown.
US electric washing machine sales reached 913,000 units in 1928. However, high unemployment rates in the Depression years reduced sales; by 1932 the number of units shipped was down to about 600,000.
It is presumed that the first laundromat opened in Fort Worth, Texas in 1934. It was run by Andrew Clein. Patrons used coin-in-the-slot facilities to rent washing machines. The term “laundromat” can be found in newspapers as early as 1884 and they were widespread during the Depression. England established public wash rooms for laundry along with bath houses throughout the 19th century.
Washer design improved during the 1930s. The mechanism was now enclosed within a cabinet, and more attention was paid to electrical and mechanical safety. Spin dryers were introduced to replace the dangerous power mangle/wringers of the day.
By 1940, 60% of the 25,000,000 wired homes in the United States had an electric washing machine. Many of these machines featured a power wringer, although built-in spin dryers were not uncommon (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
I’ve been building a car made from old washing machine parts. I’m going to take it out for a spin tomorrow.
Second, a Song:
Well, actually two songs. We couldn’t decide between two songs, so today is a two’fer…
In our opinion this is one of the most creative songs out there.
Kurt Hugo Schneider is a composer, music producer, and director. Most of his work is on his YouTube channel http://youtube.com/KurtHugoSchneider, created in October 2007, now with over 3MM subscribers and over 600MM views.
Kurt was born in Baltimore in 1988 and grew up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He became involved in musical theater in high school and quickly developed a love of music and performance. He majored in mathematics in college, while developing his musical and technical abilities by creating content for his YouTube channel. In 2009, he created the production company NoodleHouse Studios. In 2011 he moved to Los Angeles, where he lives and works–composing, producing , performing, and directing. (per https://www.kurthugoschneider.com/about/).
Here is Kurt playing the Harry Potter theme on his washing machine. I hope you enjoy this!
(Link to the original Harry Potter Theme Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Htaj3o3JD8I)
John Cowan Hartford (December 30, 1937 – June 4, 2001) was an American folk, country, and bluegrass composer and musician known for his mastery of the fiddle and banjo, as well as for his witty lyrics, unique vocal style, and extensive knowledge of Mississippi River lore. His most successful song is “Gentle on My Mind”, which won three Grammy Awards and was listed in “BMI’s Top 100 Songs of the Century”. Hartford performed with a variety of ensembles throughout his career, and is perhaps best known for his solo performances where he would interchange the guitar, banjo, and fiddle from song to song. He also invented his own shuffle tap dance move, and clogged on an amplified piece of plywood while he played and sang. (per Wikipedia).
Here is John Hartford performing the (Good Old) Electric Washing Machine song. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“We don’t do laundry because that requires a lot of water, and water’s at a premium up here. Plus, it’d be pretty complicated, I think, to make a space washer, although I guess you could do it. So we generally throw our clothes out. I think I’ve been wearing this pair of pants for about two months.” – Scott Kelly
In response to the Shoelace Smile, Joe Kalawsky of Surrey, BC, Canada writes:
“Interesting info. Who knew shoelaces had such a history! Plus, we both remember most of the words to Pink Shoelaces and now have that tune in our heads!
Have a great weekend!
Joe & Carol”
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky