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Alva Josiah FISHER
1907-1908 - The electric washing machine is invented (Alva J. Fisher, United States)

"Dateline 1907 - Chicago Cubs sweep World Series, defeating Detroit Tigers in four games. A washing machine operated by electricity rather than by hand has been marketed by the Hurley Machine Company. The Hurley uses a small motor to spin a drum that holds clothes, water and soap. Its main competition is the Maytag Pastime. The Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory were formally merged and admitted as the 45th state of the union. A light bulb with tungsten filament is being marketed by General Electric, which says it gives better light. A light, portable vacuum cleaner is being marketed by the Hoover Suction-Sweeper Company..."

The Wabaunsee County Signal-Enterprise, Alma, Wabaunsee County, Kansas, Thursday, February 8, 2007

"The first washing machine powered by electricity was invented by Alva J. Fisher in 1908. Fisher worked for the Hurley Washing Machine in Chicago and named his creation The Thor.

Previous to the invention of the electric-powered washing machine, James King invented a machine that used a drum device in 1851 that is still in use today for some machines. His machine was hand powered. In 1858 Hamilton Smith created the first rotary powered washing machine. Rotary power uses a 4-stroke combustion cycle. Both of these inventions are what made Alva J. Fisher's invention of the electric washing machine possible."

How chores change...

Today's housewife will surely stop feeling sorry for herself after reading this article. For example:

The frontier woman didn't do the family laundry often, because she didn't have time or strength to lug water or make soap. But probably in the sunny and windy days of late March, she would gather up the grimiest things and lug them to the edge of the creek. There she would find a nice big flat stone and pound out the dirt. Sort of an early Bendix.

If she were lucky enough to save some animal fat over the winter, she would mix up a mess of sap - from wood ash lye. Or she could hunt some leaves of the soapwort plant to make a suds of sorts.

Once the dirt whirled away in the rapid cold stream, she would wring the bulky things by hand, and hang them over the nearest bush to dry.

Of course, as years went by, she might get rich enough to buy a big copper kettle. Then she could boil the dirt out of the clothes at the fireplace, and to the stream to rinse.

Even pumps in the backyard didn't take away much of the back-breaking labor. There was still the pounding, stirring, wringing, hanging.

It wasn't until 1858, and then right here in Pittsburgh, that Hamilton E. Smith patented the first mechanical washing machine. It had revolving paddles in a boxlike tub. The woman turned the hand crank to force the clothes through the water.

Finally in 1910, Alva J. Fisher of Chicago, invented an electric machine with a 1/ 4 h.p. motor and an agitator in the middle to beat the clothes. The housewife soaked the clothes overnight in huge tubs, often boiled the dirt out, then lifted the heavy things into the machine.

Everything now is automatic - all the 20th Century housewife must do is load the washer, pop in the soap, and plug in the plug.

It's a far cry from the cold creek and smooth stone routine. But even better days are ahead. Someday we will have disposable clothes to wear once and toss away. Then we can quit worrying about soap and plugs and the rest.

Laundry day will be abolished.

The Pittsburgh Press
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
June 20, 1965

The Thor Washing Machine Comet Elec. Co. Eugene Daily Guard Eugene, Oregon Thursday, December
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Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May 16, 1917
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A War Time Necessity for the Home Thor Electric Washing Machine The Crawfordsville Review Crawf
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Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, July 14, 1920
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The Spokesman Review, Spokane, Washington, November 4, 1931
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Sarasota Herald-Tribune Saraota, Florida February 16, 1947

Time, patience running out as historic house faces demolition
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sarasota, Florida, January 9, 1995

Learn more about the life of flag photo of Alva Josiah FISHER   Alva Josiah FISHER.