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Appliances History Learning Center

Oh, the "Iron"-y

The washing machine is deemed to be one of the most important appliances in its time. It is still put at the top of the list today because it continues to eliminate the agonizing labor of washing clothes by hand.

The scrub board was the earliest machine invented in 1787 and only slightly improved the way we kept our clothes clean. It started with wood material and as time progressed, the addition of metal scrub boards were eventually added to the design.


In 1858, Hamilton Smith was given the patent for the rotary washing machine. It was not until 1874 that a man named William Blackstone built the first household hand-powered washing machine as a birthday present for wife. Even though this design was hand-cranked, it saved time especially for women of this time period.

As for The Mighty Thor, this machine definitely packed quite the punch in 1908 when it was introduced by a Hurley engineer named Alva Fisher. The design used mimicked a drum along with a tub and an electric motor which eased the strain of using the hand crank.

Dryers have also come a long way since the 1800’s. Beginning in England and France, the earliest form of “machine” drying was known as the ventilator. Pochon decided to take a metal drum, shaped almost like barrel, and place holes in it. It was then turned over a fire until the clothes inside was dry and then removed. The earliest patent was granted to George T. Sampson in 1885 when he used the heat from a stove to dry clothes. It was a step further on Pochon’s initial ventilator idea.



In the early 1900’s J. Roos Moore designed an electrically operated dryer that did not hit the market until around 1938. Industrial designer, Brooks Stevens, then took it upon himself to tweak Moore’s design by adding a glass window.
All these designs set the bar for improvement on laundry. The idea of combination washer and dryers also came into play in the 1930’s when the first machine to wash, rinse, and dry was introduced by John Chamberlin. Since then, we have taken these ideas to new levels with the various options given to us.

We have learned that saving time and money is the best way to go. So why cant your washer/dryer support you on this mission? Todays washer and dryers are relatively the same as their grandparent models with the exception of high-tech features that are built to make everyday lives easier. They are built to last you a long while so make sure that you choose the best washer, dryer, or combo that fits your needs. Start with choosing your style of washer (you can choose the matching dryer if needed), make sure that you measure the area properly to size, count your towels (to determine capacity), and think of at least 5 features that you expect to see from your machine.


Here's A Tip!

While combination washer/dryers are convenient for some, considering a washer and dryer set is not only eye-catching but most are engineered to work together. This means that the cycles can accommodate to one another, which promote longer lasting clothing.