May 8, 2021
Laundromats and washing machines changed the lives of people everywhere around the turn of the 20th century. Before their invention, people toiled for hours hand washing and wringing heavy wet clothes in the brutal dark ages. The earliest forms of equipment can’t even be classified as washing machines since they were so dangerous, people literally disfigured themselves just washing clothes!
Those who couldn’t afford a house servant or the perilous early washing equipment, pooled their resources to use a large copper tub over a fire. Eventually, a reasonable washing machine came into existence, fittingly during the Great Depression. Naturally, the vast majority of Americans could barely afford food, much less a washing machine. That disconnect gave birth to the “washateria” or laundromat. Here’s the history of the laundromat and the machines that brought them into being.
The term laundromat wasn’t coined until the 1940s. Therefore, when C.A. Tannahill rented out his machines by the hour in Fort Worth, Texas, he called it a “washateria.” “Washateria” came from mashing “wash” and cafeteria together, in hopes of conveying washing with the practicality of a cafeteria.