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Alabama the making and the history
30 July 2021

History of the washing machine.


Today, widespread in households, the washing machine has a long history that makes it the most popular household appliance after the refrigerator. It is the mythical symbol of today's consumer society, but it has not always been as we know it now and has undergone many changes.

Long before washing machines, in the twelfth century, clothes were washed by laundresses who performed this task manually in laundries or rivers. It was a very social profession. In the private service, the gossip of the city was said while washing clothes with the strength of arms.

It was an extremely demanding job from a physical point of view, because the washing machines were on their knees for days, both in summer and in winter, when they had to break the ice that formed in the laundry. The clothes were washed and beaten on wooden or stone boards, washed with soap and sometimes discolored with charcoal. 

The first patent for a mechanical washing machine was granted to Nathaniel Briggs, an American businessman and politician, in 1797 in New Hampshire. However, Jacob Christian Schäffer is the first author. It was a wooden trunk that moved back and forth controlled by a crank. The gesture of the washing machines finally allowed the operation of the first mechanical washing machine, taken over by James King in 1851. It consisted of a wooden cylinder in which the blades were rotated with a crank. , the set was filled with hot water and the clothes could be washed due to the friction of the water against the textile fibers, in the same way that the women to wash rubbed the cloth on stones or wood.

The disappearance of laundries

was in the twentieth century with the advent of the first washing machines. In 1907, Alva L Fisher (1907 - 1965) invented the first electric washing machine. Called THOR, this machine is no longer manually operated, but by a drum driven by an electric motor. It is manufactured by Hurley Machine Corporation of Chicago.

However, it was not sufficiently water resistant and the risk of a short circuit was high. Moreover, this model did not allow the clothes to rotate. However, this machine was the first to use a perforated drum placed in a water tank. The agitation of the clothes is thus facilitated, unlike before, where it was done manually and the clothes were rotated in one direction and then in the other. Today's cars still operate on the same principle.

Since the 1920s, several cars have appeared on the market, available in different models: with horizontal basket, with oscillating basket, agitator at the bottom of the tank, etc. The washing machine can also rotate thanks to a two-speed motor that allows you to switch from the classic washing mode to the spin mode in the same program.

The cars thus become more sophisticated and equipped with options that make them practical and functional. However, they are still very different from the cars that can be used today. They were powered by cranks, wheels and small electric motors that were placed to operate. The presentation of the washing machine was a great success among French families when it was presented at the Paris Fair in 1920.

In 1927 the AUTOMOTO washing machine appeared and was sold as a special model for the city. It was connected to the water heater and integrated in a dryer. This small car model made it possible to democratize the washing machine, leading it to urban consumers who at that time did not have room for this new type of appliance.

In the 1950s, French cities had their first laundries. From 50 to 60 years, serving more and more people living alone and outside the family, whether they are students, young people alone or young couples, it is necessary to be able to wash clothes, but the cost is still a brake.

The introduction of self-service automatic washing machines makes this luxury affordable at a lower cost. From that time and in these prosperous periods, the French wanted to have their own washing machine and the number increased rapidly between 1960 and 1970, because in 1961 less than 30% of the French owned washing machines.

In the 1960s, machines called LADEN included in their operation the centrifugal force exerted inside the drum. 

In the 1980s, advances in electronics made it possible to have several options in terms of washing options and, in particular, the possibility of changing some parameters, namely the water level, the number of rotations and the spin cycle. Since those years, washing machines have improved and multiplied more and more. In 1985, 82% of families had a washing machine.

In the late 1990s, James Dyson, an English inventor and designer, invented a new type of washing machine called the Counter-Rotator, which consists of two cylinders that rotate in opposite directions. This system allows you to reduce washing time by getting cleaner clothes.

Today, washing machines have evolved enormously and offer all kinds of options. Various programs are available, both for delicate clothes and to save even more water. Every consumer can find in a wide range of products that adapt to the needs created in recent decades.

Large companies have built a niche in this market and are constantly competing to be able to offer more and more efficient products.