M988.120.2 | Washboard

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Taylor Scott & Co.
1910-1930, 20th century
59 x 32 cm
Gift of Mr. John David Holmes
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Washboard (1)
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Keys to History

This washboard dates from the 1910s to the 1930s. Even if washing machines existed since the 1890s, the traditional washboards continued to be used. The 1927 spring-summer edition of the Eaton's catalogue attests to this fact, offering three models of washboards in addition to various models of manual and electric washing machines. Washboards varied in price from 15 to 68 cents, while washing machines sold for prices ranging from $10.25 to $98.

For those who could not afford to have their laundry done by others, or who did not own a washing machine, washing clothes by hand was one of the most arduous household tasks. It was very time consuming and physically exhausting.

Some people soaked their dirty laundry overnight before washing it. The laundry was then placed in a tub of boiling water, and detergent, which was sometimes corrosive, was added. A large spoon or pair of tongs was used to stir the water. The articles were then cleaned by rubbing them vigorously against the washboard's rippled surface. Finally, the laundry had to rinsed in the tub in clean water and twisted to remove excess water before hanging it out to dry.

  • What

    North King, Taylor Scott & Co., the name of the manufacturer, is printed on the wood of this washboard.

  • Where

    This washboard comes from Toronto, Ontario.

  • When

    Hand washing the laundry for a whole family could take over a day.

  • Who

    In the 19th century as well as the 20th, the task of washing clothes fell to the women.