History of Washing Machines

The earliest washing machine was the scrub board.

Girl loading washing machine in laundromat
Blasius Erlinger / Getty Images

Ancient peoples cleaned their clothes by pounding them on rocks or rubbing them with abrasive sands and washing the dirt away in local streams. Evidence of ancient washing soap was found at Sapo Hill in Rome, where the ashes containing the fat of sacrificial animals was used as a soap.

Scrub Board

The earliest washing "machine" was the scrub board, or wash board, invented in 1797. American James King patented the first washing machine to use a drum in 1851 -- the drum made King's machine resemble a modern machine; however, it was still hand-powered.

Rotary Washing Machine

In 1858, Hamilton Smith patented the rotary washing machine.

In 1874, William Blackstone of Indiana built a birthday present for his wife. It was a machine which removed and washed away dirt from clothes. This was the first washing machine designed for convenient use in the home.

Mighty Thor

The Thor was the first electric-powered washing machine. Introduced in 1908 by the Hurley Machine Company of Chicago, Illinois, the Thor washing machine was invented by Alva J. Fisher. The Thor was a drum type washng machine with a galvanized tub and an electric motor. A patent was issued on August 9, 1910. View US patent #966677.

Facts About a Few Famous Washing Machine Companies

The Maytag Corporation began in 1893 when F.L. Maytag began manufacturing farm implements in Newton, Iowa. Business was slow in winter, so to add to his line of products he introduced a wooden-tub washing machine in 1907.

Maytag soon devoted himself full-time to the washing machine business.

The Whirlpool Corporation started in 1911 as the Upton Machine Co., founded in St. Joseph, Michigan, to produce electric motor-driven wringer washers.

The origins of the Schulthess Group goes back over 150 years. In 1909, they began production of their first washing machines.

In 1949, the Schulthess Group backed the invention of punched card control for washing machines. In 1951, production of Europe's first automatic washing machines started. In 1978, the first microchip-controlled automatic washing machines were produced.

Modern Washers

In the early 1990s, microcontrollers were used for the timing process, replacing electromechanical timers.

In 1994, Staber Industries released the System 2000 washing machine, which is the only top-loading, horizontal-axis washer to be manufactured in the United States. 

In 1998, Fisher & Paykel introduced its SmartDrive washing machine line in the US. This washing machine uses a computer-controlled system to determine certain factors such as load size and automatically adjusts the wash cycle to match. 

Continue > History of Clothes Dryers

< History of Washing Machines

In the early 1800s, clothes dryers were first being invented in England and France. One common kind of early clothes dryer was the ventilator, the first one known to be built was made by a Frenchman named Pochon. The ventilator was a barrel-shaped metal drum with holes in it. It was turned by hand over a fire.

One early American patent for a clothes dryer was granted to George T.

Sampson on June 7, 1892. Sampson's dryer used the heat from a stove to dry clothes and is an example of a ventilator type machine. View - U.S. patent #476,416

 

Electrical Clothes Dryers

Electrical clothes dryers appeared around 1915. Modern clothes dryers include such features as electronic sensors that detect when clothes are dry.

 

Continue > History of Kitchen Appliances