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© McCord Museum
Genre scene
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper - Wood engraving
8.7 x 13.7 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

From the outset, advertising targeted housewives, recognizing their role as managers of the family budget and their influence on product purchases or brand selection. Winning the favour of the mistress of the household was all the more important since a great many new products were directly related to housework: soaps, yeast, stove polish, washing machines, sewing machines. To persuade them to purchase a product, advertisements focussed on three major themes: a promise to lighten the daily workload, appreciation of a competent, well-organized housewife, and the ideal of a mother totally devoted to her family. Consuming wisely became an essential quality of a good wife and mother.


This picture illustrates the virtues of the new washing machine, touted as a labour-saving device.


Despite the promises of the ad, technological progress was very slow. Well-off families therefore employed servants to do the washing or sent some of it out to commercial laundries.


Doing the washing used to be an arduous task that took up a whole day, traditionally Monday. As we can see here, big pots had to be filled with water and boiled on the stove, the water emptied into a large tub and the clothes scrubbed vigorously, then rinsed, wrung and hung out to dry.


Towards the end of the 19th century, commercial laundries were often run by Chinese immigrants. There were many Chinese laundries in the larger Canadian cities.

© Musée McCord Museum