Technology is a wonderful thing, but we often take it for granted.
Even relatively young technology, such as our modern washing machines, serves as a good example of this.
So, when was the washing machine invented, anyways?
We don’t know for sure who made the first washing machine, although one of the first designs dates back to 1761 and is attributed to a German man named Jacob Christian Schaffer. This was a hand-powered model, however, and the first electric washer wouldn’t come around until 1901!
In this article, we’re going to tell you a little more about the rise of the washing machine – from its humble origins as a wooden tub with a hand-crank to the first electric model which was named after the Norse God of Thunder – read on and we’ll tell you all about it!
Early Forerunners Of The Modern Washer
While we don’t know for sure who made the first washing machine, we do know who made one of the earliest.
A German scientist, theosophist, and philosopher named Jacob Christian Schaffer published his design for what amounted to a wooden barrel-type tub, with a crank mechanism that allowed hand-agitation of the clothing inside.
While these didn’t really catch on, one Henry Sidgier stepped up the washer game with the first rotating drum washer and a man named Edward Beetham had a successful run selling ‘patent washing mills’ throughout England during the 1790s.
Sadly, within 30 years the ‘Scrubboard’ or ‘Washboard’ method of washing would become the method of choice, but this wouldn’t last, as the idea of a machine washer was too good to simply leave alone.
Rotary and Drum models make their debut
Another crank-operated washing machine featuring a drum and requiring much less work on the part of the washer made its debut in 151.
James King was the man responsible and he kept upgrading his machines so that by 1861 they had not only a spinning drum but a wringer for squeezing out excess water.
While these were ‘top of the line’ for their day, the machines didn’t come cheap – only commercial laundry venues could afford them, but that would change soon and the domino that was knocked over to start the rest falling in place came in the form of a birthday gift in 1874.
A thoughtful husband and a bit of a handyman by the name of William Blackstone felt that his wife was spending too much of her time and effort with the wash, and to her delight, he created a smaller model washer that could be used in the home.
‘Thor’ brings the lightning | Electricity enters the game
Fast-forward to 1901 and the God of Thunder makes his appearance to supercharge the laundry technology industry – well, at least in name. An inventor named Alva J.
Fisher created a hybrid washer that employed an electric motor, along with a galvanized tub, and deemed this first electric washer ‘The Thor!’
The Hurley Washing Machine company, recognizing the genius of this device, made their own washers in 1908, based on Fisher’s designs, and managed to make something different enough to get their own patent in 1910.
By this time, wooden drum washers were a thing of the past, as everyone now used metal drums.
Needless to say, with electricity doing the lion’s share of the work, washing machine technology was definitely here to stay.
By the end of the 20th century and even today, some people still use old-timey washboards, but most of those washboards are being used as musical instruments!
Final Words About The History of Washing Machines
While we can’t pinpoint the first washing machine, we definitely know that it went through a lot of iterations before turning into the amazing machines of today.
The first models were a bit on the primitive side and while they couldn’t compete with simple washboards, the potential and the demand were simply too much for inventors and business venturists to leave alone.
These days, we have Smart technology that not only does the wash, but can use less water and power, and in some cases can even message you when it’s done.
It took a little over 2 and a half centuries to get here but we can confidently say that Washing technology sure has come an amazingly long way!