Scrubbin’

Mr. McTIGUE, a 45-year-old bus driver, prefers to live in the Thirties. He inhabits a house built 1936, collects things from the period, even wears clothes of the era, tailor-made from authentic materials. And he has no washing machine, instead he uses wash board and mangle for his rugs.
If he does not now and then accidentally traipse to the launderette down the road? I still remember the smell of washing day. Every house had a Waschküche, wash kitchen literally; a large room in the basement suitable for wet work. In the house I grew up in, was a large laundry cauldron. I do not remember whether the water had to be poured into it with buckets or if it already was connected to the water pipe. The water was heated by fire under it – so the cauldron must have been sitting on a masonry subconstruction. It was mainly used (or at least my memory tricks me into believing this) for weiße War’, white textiles like covers etc. It was heavy labour and my mother was very glad when the first washing machine came into the family – at the begin of the Seventies, after we had moved into the big town.
The first working washing machine by the way was constructed, and built, in Regensburg in the late 18th century, by Jacob Christian SCHAEFFER (Ger., Eng.) (1718-1790). In the older literature it is called the Regensburger Maschine, but google was not very interested by this lemma. SCHAEFFER was a protestant theologian and worked in the field of biology. He left a not unimportant collection (museum Schaefferianum), a natural history collection, corresponded with LINNÈ (Ger., Eng.) and de RÉAUMUR (Ger., Eng.). His machine was actually built and sold, it is not clear in which numbers, and seemingly no exemplar survived, here is his description (pdf, picture of the machine at the end). I wonder what happened to his collection after his death.

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22 thoughts on “Scrubbin’

  1. Wow. In some ways, I understand why that man would enjoy living in the past… of course, if he needs antibiotics or any other important medical attention, I’m sure he’d be happy to forget where he thinks he’s living.

    Interesting information on the washing machine. I would NOT want to live without out one.

  2. The antibiotics would work, narrow but work: The 1939 (!) nobel for medicine should go to a German called Domagk for a working anitbioticum (something called Prontosil. Domagk was jailed by the Gestapo to make sure that he did not travel to Sweden.). Fleming made his famous discovery 1928 and described what later became Penicilin, but did not elaborate. So McTigue can use antibiotics and be still in the timeframe.
    Washing machine must be in reach.

  3. Ah the scrub board and concrete sink outside, when I lived in Panama in the dark ages. Such memories it brings back. Later I had the modern things but bought a house with no plumbing set up for them. So it has been since 1976 that I have to travel to do laundry.

  4. 35 years. For some years I had an old, top loading machine in the kitchen. It was another appartement. Here my kitchen is much too small to have even a “wash boy” in it, so I use one of the machines in the laundry kitchen in the basement: 1.50 and bring your own detergent. They are made by Miele and nearly indestructable.

  5. Even in the C21st, I’m barely domesticated. I’m so pleased to have my washing machine and dryer downstairs, even if Boy uses them more than I do.

    I really do not fancy the thought of spending a whole day every week, up to my elbows in suds, scrubbing and beating clothes and linens.

  6. My maternal grandmother lived in the country and used to wash their clothes in a large iron cauldron outside on an open fire.

    My paternal grandmother lived in the city and had an electric wringer washing machine.

    My flat in Berlin does not have a dryer, so I am drying my clothes outside for the first time in 50 years.

  7. I remember to have seen a feature about two artists, who also went back in time. They were actually living in the 18th century, but forgot their names, sorry Norma.

    I have no idea what magic powders were used, Nurse Myra. I only remember that the laundry had to soak, but I have no idea what was added to the water.

    Could be de-stressing, slamming laundry against a stone or something with gusto …

    Dryers are not that common here, von LX. Hanging laundry in the sunshine can add a nice fresh air to it.

  8. Good Morning MsScarlet, you snug in – tongs … I can not remember these. There was a large wooden beater or stamper. But of course, nobody would reach into nearly boiling water to fish out heavy soaked pieces of laundry, she must have used something like tongs.

  9. I had to look for dhobi, Austere:
    “Each dhobi marks a unique symbol or character on garments belonging to a particular household. This is marked in black indelible ink to prevent it from being washed off.” (From the wiki-article)
    The formula of this ink must be interesting! And I wonder how these signs must look. Washers here used to use a sign from yarn, a small symbol stitched in somewhere – I think it is absolutely outdated today and I could not find something in the web. “Wäschezeichen” only leads to the modern symbols for temperature or washing programs to use, nothing that indicates to whom (person or household) the piece of clothing belongs.

  10. Those twin tub washing machines with the wooden tongs, bring back a lot of memories. Quite often the washer would packed in, my mother would fill the bath with warm water and biological wash powder and encourage us children to stamp up and down on the clothes. The scene was like something out of Dickens. But we enjoyed it and it got our feet clean.

  11. When I was a child, we sent all sheets, towels and napkins to the laundry. A big basket went every week and my mother and I thought it was no end of a bother to have to unpack and check it all on its return. Most clothes went to the dry cleaners, the rest was hand-washed. Then my father bought a twin-tub washing machine. Mother hated it and father had to do the laundry!

  12. Great article, Herr Mago! I’m forwarding that item to friends.

    I would not want to do without a washing machine though.

    A friend recently visited me from out of town. As I was showing her around my house, I commented on how much I like having my own washer and dryer.

    She observed that while I was saying that to her, I actually HUGGED my washing machine.

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