A Highly Biased History of Washing Machines

Good morning All!


In the beginning, humans wore animal skins for clothes.  After some indefinite period of time, but probably not too very long afterwards, Ugg, the caveman, noticed that his clothes had gathered both dirt and smells over time, and so he directed Uggette, his wife, to fix the problem, since he didn’t feel like killing another animal that day.  Uggette, who was busy tending the several little Uggs and Uggettes they had been blessed with, was having a bad day anyhow, so she told Ugg to shove off, and to demonstrate the point, pushed him into the nearby running stream.  When Ugg recovered from his shock, and got back out of the stream, he noticed two things:  1) he was very wet and 2) his clothes looked and smelled better then they did before he was pushed into the stream.  At that moment, laundry was born.

Uggette's Descendants, Washing Laundry in a Stream

Well, things rocked on for thousands of years and while inventors were busy inventing things like better stone weapons, then better bronze weapons, then better iron weapons and better stone ploughs, then better bronze ploughs, then better iron ploughs, Uggette’s female descendants were still hauling clothes to nearby streams to wash them.  They would wet the clothes in the water course, and then while the clothes were in the water, bang the clothes between rocks or place the clothes on a rock and bang them with a stick.  Not only did the banging help remove more dirt and stains than water flowing over clothes would do on its own, it also allowed Uggette’s descendants to release their pent-up hostility toward Uggette for not choosing a kinder, gentler way of telling Ugg that she really wasn’t in the mood to deal with clothing that day.

Antique Hand Iron

Things continued to rock on for thousands of years, and while new fabrics (most of which wrinkled exceedingly well, requiring the invention of ironing, as if laundry didn’t take up enough time on its own) were invented, not much was down on the laundry side until the invention first of soap, then of the washboard.  No one is really sure when washboards were invented or who invented them, but basically a washboard is a board with ridges on it.  A person lays the clothes on the washboard, and rubs a bar of soap vigorously over the clothes on the washboard.  What is certain is that the first metal washboard was invented in 1833, when Stephen Rust of Manlius, NY who either did his own laundry or loved his wife (or both) patented a “Wash Board” with a piece of “fluted tin, sheet, iron, copper or zink” on it.  In addition, someone else also invented the “wringer” which allowed the clothes, once scrubbed and rinsed, to be wrung free of water better than a person could do with their own hands.  This allowed the clothes to dry more quickly on the clothesline.  (No one is quite certain when the clothesline was invented.  I suspect one of Uggette’s little tykes was bored one day, and decided to take some of the newly washed clothes when Uggette wasn’t looking and threw them over a tree branch to be funny.  Although not amused, Uggette did notice once she found the clothes that they had dried more quickly then the clothes that had not been thrown onto a tree branch and so the idea of hanging things out to dry had been born.)

Advertisements for hand-washing implements

After waiting as long as possible, wasting their time inventing things like the steam engine, electric power generators, the light bulb, the riding lawn mower, the car, airplanes and radio, in 1908, inventors finally abandoned the grudge handed down through the generations for Uggette’s historic dumping of Ugg in the stream, and invented the first electric-powered washing machine, the Thor, changing laundry forever.

The Patent for the Mighty Thor

I suppose, if it took tens of thousands of years for the electric washing machine to be invented, I will just have to hope that my great-great-great granddaughter will live to see the day of the automatic sorter-washer-dryer-folder.  Patience is, after all, a virtue – Uggette’s story proved that!

We've come a long way but still have miles to go!

Have a great day everyone!


6 responses to “A Highly Biased History of Washing Machines

  1. haha! Light bulbs, generators, what a waste of time! Funny story, but even better yet, I learned something about our history! 🙂

  2. funny. Reading this while I’m doing the wash. 🙂

  3. Oh Nancy, this is great! My husband is sitting in the other room, probably wondering why I am laughing so hard. Thanks for making my day!

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