Washing Display

Washing and Technology

Over the last few months we have been sorting out our washing collection. The collection gives a good overview of the technological development that occurred throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From the dreaded ‘Blue Monday’ to simply putting laundry in the washing machine and pressing a button, the way washing is done has changed dramatically.

Washing boards were used very early on, but wouldn’t really have been much of an improvement on scrubbing against stones. Early washing machines like the Wooden Rocker, Torpedo and the David Maxwell and Sons model were a move forward, but as they were hand operated would still have required a lot of effort. The addition of wringers, as can be seen on the Speed Queen washer from around 1930 helped significantly with drying.

With the advent of the electric motor in 1911 things began to get easier for some. Electricity wasn’t widespread at this time and electric washing machines were not an option for many people. Use of electricity in New Zealand was initially associated with mining, with the Reefton Power Station being commissioned in the 1880s. In the early twentieth century, electricity was made available to rural areas and in the 1920s its use increased at a rate of 22% per year.  

Today’s washing machines are plumbed in, have spin cycles, and automatic timing, which means you can just press a button and walk away. No one need dread Blue Monday again!

Morgan Bennet