Washing Over the Centuries
Clothes washing devices go back to the 17th century, and forms of scrub boards and clothes beaters go back even further. In the U.S., the first patent for a machine for “clothes washing” was issued to Nathaniel Briggs in 1797. The washers of the 19th century consisted of tubs or drums with hand operated gears and cranks. Alva J. Fisher invented a washing machine powered by an electric motor that was brought to market in 1908 by the Hurley Machine Company under the brand name Thor. Fisher is generally given credit for inventing the first “modern day” washing machine though there is some debate on this.
Fred Maytag introduced a hand powered wooden tub washing machine in 1907 to supplement his farm implement business. It wasn't until 1911 that he added an electric motor, the same year that Upton Machine Company, which later became Whirlpool, was started. Considering that this was the era of Henry Ford and the Wright brothers, it is easy to imagine the many industries that began in the early 20th century.
In 1937 the first automatic washer, invented by John W. Chamberlain, was introduced by Bendix Aviation Corporation. Ten years later (1947), it was the forerunner of the Whirlpool Corporation that built the first top load automatic washer. This post WWII period was a period of rapid growth in the appliance industry. Automatic washers were soon accompanied by automatic dryers.
While top loading washers were predominant in the U.S. throughout the last half of the 20th Century, in the last decade front loading washers have become very popular. They're much more energy efficienct than the traditional top loading agitator type machines, and because they don't have an agitator they have a greater capacity.
Even more recently, HE (High Efficiency) top loading washers with no center-post agitators have been introduced to compete with front loading washers. These machines combine the advantages of a top loading machine and those of a front loading machine. For more information on the the different types of washing machines available click on the link below to be directed to a previous blog for a comparison:
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