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The early washing machines were nothing like what we have today. The scrub board was invented in 1797 and began a race to develop a washing machine that was bigger and better. James King broke ground in 1851 with a washing machine, the first of its kind, to use a drum. Although it was still hand powered, King’s model did resemble the modern washing machine. The rotary machine was patented by Hamilton Smith in 1858. The rotary washing machine gave way to the Thor washing machine which was invented by Alva J. Fisher. It was a drum type washing machine that had a galvanized tub and even an electric motor. It was introduced to the public in 1908 by the Hurley Machine Company of Chicago, Illinois. The patent was issued in 1910.

Maytag, Whirlpool and Schulthess

F.L. Maytag began manufacturing farm implements in Newton, Iowa as the Maytag Corporation in 1893. His business lagged in the winter so he decided to boost his winter product line by offering a wooden tub washing machine that he introduced in 1907. Eventually, his washing machine business became his primary business and he soon took it to a full time level.

The Upton Machine Company started out in 1911 and eventually became the Whirlpool Corporation. Upton was founded in St. Joseph, Michigan and produced wringer washers that were electric motor driven.

In 1909, the Schulthess Group began producing their first washing machines. In fact, it was the Schulthess Group that was the backing for a washer invented in 1949 that used a punched card control. Production of Europe’s first automatic washing machines began in 1951 and in 1978 production began for the first microchip controlled automatic washing machines.

From Wash Tub to Washing Machine

Laundry washing was once a true chore. Women heated water and scrubbed clothing on a wash board, sweating and straining. It was hard labor. However, as the industrial age took hold and various inventions began to make life easier and less of a struggle, the washing machine began to evolve as well. About the time that the first automobiles were being developed, washing machines were being automated. This would change the way that women carried out their days because they no longer were required to slave away the day over laundry.

As time wore on and the patent office piles up with patents, the world saw a variety of washing machines and some significant benchmarks for their progress:

* 1691 – First English patent issued for washing and wringing machine

* 1797 – First United States patent issued to Nathaniel Briggs for clothes washing (fire destroyed the patent office, thus destroying all descriptions and information on it)

* 1908 – First electric washing machine is mass produced

* 1928 – In the United States, sales for washing machines increased, hitting 913,000 units

* 1934 – The first Laundromat opened in Fort Worth, Texas

* 1937 – First automatic washing machine introduced by Bendix

* 1947 – First top loading washing machine introduced by General Electric

Washing machines nowadays have advanced to such a degree that they basically do everything themselves. All the operator has to do is put the clothes in the washer, select the temperature and wash settings and go about their business. There is a washing machine for virtually every need from water economy to tackling tough stains. Washers now are available in top loading and front loading; apartment size, regular capacity or large capacity and even industrial capacity. There is now a washing machine that fits nearly every need, desire and space.


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