Saturday, July 20, 2013

Rocks to Agitators to No Agitators, Washing Machines

We bought this automatic washer a couple years ago when the last automatic washer died.  If I had known the old one was  an outdated antique, I would have opened the lid and taken a photo of the agitator inside.  The new washers don't have agitators.  They have a rotating tub.  The washer gets the clothes clean so I haven't bothered to figure out why.

As long as I can remember agitators were a part of top-loading washing machines.  They were a bit like a screw.  They rotated left, then right as the clothes were being washed.

I can remember that until I was four or five we had a washing machine  like the one below which I photographed at the Madison County Historical Museum in London, Ohio.  I don't remember all the details of operating it.  I do remember the soapy water was squeezed out of the clothes with the wringer.  The clothes were rinsed and then squeezed through the wringer again.

                      Madison County Historical Museum

There was a tub arrangement associated with the washer.  Someone reading this blog probably could tell me more about the whole system.

                        Madison County Historical Museum

When I was four, my twin sisters were born and shortly afterward, Dad bought an automatic washing machine, a great new invention.  It was a Bendix, with two inserts for the tub.  One was used if the machine was being used to wash clothes, the other if the machine was being used to wash dishes.

Tom's family didn't have indoor plumbing when he was four or five so his mother used an old way to wash clothes.  In the summer, this rack with a wringer in the middle  was placed outside close to the clothesline where the clothes were hung.  Tubs were placed on either side and filled with water, one tub with soapy water, one tub with rinse water.

We didn't see this in a museum but at the barber shop the last time Tom went to get his hair cut.  One of the barbers collects, buys and sells antiques. Here is a view of the wringer with the side benches folded up front and back.

                                                   Front view.

                                                           Side View

The patent on this model was given in 18?6.  I cannot read the third number.

Clothes were scrubbed on washboards.

                       Madison County Historical Museum

Washing clothes is much easier these days and I am thankful.


  1. In the UK, the normal washing machines open from the side, and the drum is rotated - so you can sort of see how they mix things up by gravity, as they spin. I hadn't really used a top-loading washer before my visit to the US last year.

  2. I have about a ten year old Stacker a Maytag..I hope it never wears out!
    My Mother in law had two tubs similar to the white ones pictured. She washed in the machine and then the clothes went through the ringer into the first rinse water..they were swished around..then into the ringer again and swished around and them through the ringer one last time. I also watched my Grandma do a soak and scrub tub..then into the washer and then the rinse. It was a time consuming way to wash for sure. Often times the water in the washer was real hot and you had a piece of grab the clothes with and then put them close enough to the wringer so it would catch the clothes...watching out not to put too many pieces through the wringer at once..or your fingers.:)

    1. Thanks for the explanation. I edited the blog using what you told me.

  3. Yeah right the side opener washing machine are good because by it we can see all the thing clearly.

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