The Washing Machine
Ever since the first human decided not to throw away those soiled animal skins and hunt up a new suit, mankind has searched for a way to clean clothes. For thousands of years, the preferred (and only) method had been to haul the family's laundry down to the local river, pick out a nice rock, soak the garments, and literally beat the dirt out. As civilazition advanced, the river was replaced with the boiling tub, and the washboard took over for the rock, yet the process remained essentially the same.
Although the first patent for a washing machine was granted before 1850, it was not a common appliance until the late 1920's. With the old boiler pan method, it was a hot, messy, all day affair, where the dirt was literally 'cooked' out of the family's wash. Even as late as 1912, most homes still did their laundry by hand, on a washboard. The main problem before then had been how to power such a marvelous invention.
Enter electricity, and suddenly, laundry found itself throughly modernized. The wringer washer became the rage, a machine which not only washed , but, with the aid of two fixed rollers, also squeezed the excess water from the laundry. In spite of the Great Depression, by 1936, over 1.4 million washing machines were sold in America.
But it was in the years following WWII that the washing machine became the "must have" appliance that it is today. With the invention of the spin cycle, the wringer washer became obsolete. Now there was a machine which would not only wash and rinse, but it could spin out the excess water, a whole load at a time. Progress is indeed a beautiful thing.
The new machines, however much improved they may have been, were expensive. The answer was the coin operated laundromat, or Washiteria. Enterprising buisnessmen would buy rows of the new machines which were made available for use by all for as little as 10 cents a load. Even with multiple machines, doing the family's wash took several hours, and the local washiteria became a kind of social center. Friends did their laundry on the same day in order to visit and pass the time. One could catch up on all the latest neighborhood news and gossip while folding pants and tackling ring-around-the-collar. There were vending machines for cold soda-pop and snacks, as well as miniature boxes of laundry soap for the forgetful.
Before long, almost every woman had used the wonderfully efficient machines at the local Washiteria, and wanted one for her very own. With more women entering the workforce, convenience dictated that the modern home have it's own up to date washing machine. Manufactured in a variety of decorator colors over the years, the washing machine has appeared in chocolate brown, calamine lotion pink, harvest gold, avacodo, bone, sleek, modern black, and the best selling, ever popular white. It has evolved from the basic hot/cold wash cycle to machines offering more than a dozen combinations of water temperature, load size, and agitation settings.
Today in America, the washing machine and it's partner in fighting grime, the dryer, stand proudly as two of the great cultural icons of the modern age.
Want to know more?
Mr. Smartypants Washiteria Facts
How Guys Do Laundry by Dave Berry