Recently I was reading a journal that my great grandfather had written in 1905. Among the pages I came across a short note entitled, Washing Machines:
“A home without a washing machine today is as rare as one without a telephone or radio, but then it was a great exception. I bought a 1900 washer in 1904 and it was my job to get up early and operate it. The motive, (its) power, was a couple of strong springs that had to be kept in motion.”
The earliest manual washing machines imitated the motion of the human hand on the washboard, by using a lever to move one curved surface over another and rubbing clothes between two ribbed surfaces. This type of washer was first patented in the United States in 1846 and survived as late as 1927 in the Montgomery Ward catalog. The first electric clothes washers, in which a motor rotated the tub, were introduced into America about 1900. The motor was not protected beneath the machine and water often dripped into it causing short-circuits and jolting shocks. By 1911, it was possible to buy oscillating, cylinder, domestic washing machines with sheet metal tubs mounted on angle-iron frames with perforated metal or wooden slat cylinders inside.