MP-1974.133.185 | Woman hanging the washing, Drummondville, QC, about 1900

Woman hanging the washing, Drummondville, QC, about 1900
Charles Howard Millar
About 1900, 19th century or 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
10 x 12 cm
Gift of Mr. Leslie Millar
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  domestic (49) , Drummondville vicinity (1) , hanging (4) , laundry (1) , Occupation (1110) , Photograph (77678) , washing (2) , work (389) , work (126)
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Keys to History

The washing machine evolves at a slow but steady pace during this period.

In 1782, a carpet maker in London attaches a cylindrical drum, made of wooden bars and equipped of a crank, in the centre of a tub. This very simple washing machine is filled and emptied by hand. The wet laundry is then wrung between two wooden ringers. In 1858, an industrialist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, invents a mechanical laundry beater. In 1860, a machine that uses natural gas to heat the water in it is introduced. In 1884, a washing machine with an agitator inside a rotating tub appears. In 1906, Alva Fisher of Chicago builds an electric washing machine.

After the 1890s, most hotels and hospitals in Canada's large cities are equipped with washing machines. The campaigns to improve public hygiene led by several of Montreal's most prominent doctors are producing results.

Source : Brand New and Wonderful: The Rise of Technology [Web tour], by Jacques G. Ruelland, Université de Montréal (see Links)

  • What

    The washing machines introduced toward the end of the 19th century are not very efficient as human power is still required to make them work. Still, for some, they make laundry day, Monday, much less arduous.

  • Where

    In the 19th century, American and Canadian women are the first to benefit from the improvements to washing machines.

  • When

    In 1855, Jean-Baptiste Jolly accidentally spills on a dress a mixture of turpentine and alcohol that he is preparing for a lamp. Instead of soiling the dress, it cleans it. Soon after his discovery, Jolly opens the world's first commercial laundry, in Paris.

  • Who

    Powdered laundry soap is invented in 1903 by two German chemists.