Huh, who knew there was so much to learn about washing machines.  Not I, that’s for sure.  We’re continuing our photoblog series “The Antiques Toad Show” here today with a look at an antique clothes washing machine we found on our adventure last year when we were given complete after-hours access to the Metchosin Pioneer Museum by our best friends Dad, The Curator, for a comprehensive photo shoot.

Antique Beatty Agitator Washing Machine (c. 1920's) - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Antique Beatty Agitator Washing Machine (c. 1920's) - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

I don’t know about you, but I have to admit I am guilty at times for taking certain things for granted.  Electricity is a great example of this, in my books…  it’s one of those things that we rely on, yet frequently we plug things into walls and flip switches to light up rooms without giving any of it a second thought.

But life wasn’t always this simple or easy.

From ideafinder.com, “Washing Machine History – Invention of the Washing Machine“:

“In the early days, without running water, gas, or electricity even the most simplified hand-laundry used staggering amounts of time and labor. One wash, one boiling and one rinse used about fifty gallons of water—or four hundred pounds—which had to be moved from pump or well or faucet to stove and tub, in buckets and wash boilers that might weigh as much as forty or fifty pounds. Rubbing, wringing, and lifting water-laden clothes and linens, including large articles like sheets, tablecloths, and men’s heavy work clothes, wearied women’s arms and wrists and exposed them to caustic substances.

They lugged weighty tubs and baskets full of wet laundry outside, picked up an article, hung it on the line, and returned to take it all down; they ironed by heating several irons on the stove and alternating them as they cooled, never straying far from the hot stove.”

I don’t know about you, but I almost need a nap after reading all that!

Necessity is truly the mother of all invention, and obviously something needed to be designed to help deal with this.

Antique Beatty Agitator Washing Machine (c. 1920's) - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Antique Beatty Agitator Washing Machine (c. 1920's) - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

The first generation automated washing machines had a propensity to destroy the clothing and electrocute the operator.

From ideafinder.com, “Washing Machine History – Invention of the Washing Machine“:

“The earliest manual washing machines imitated the motion of the human hand on the washboard, by using a lever to move one curved surface over another and rubbing clothes between two ribbed surfaces. This type of washer was first patented in the United States in 1846 and survived as late as 1927 in the Montgomery Ward catalogue. The first electric clothes washers, in which a motor rotated the tub, were introduced into America about 1900. The motor was not protected beneath the machine and water often dripped into it causing short-circuits and jolting shocks.”

Being an engineer myself, I’d have to say that these would be considered design flaws.  But, hey, at least it made life a lot easier for folks, so if you survived cleaning your clothes you’d be apt to say that the machine was a glowing success!

Antique Beatty Agitator Washing Machine (c. 1920's) - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Antique Beatty Agitator Washing Machine (c. 1920's) - Metchosin Pioneer Museum, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

I believe this is the wringer assembly of the machine.  Check out the cracked texture in the 2 wringing tubes, as well as the weathering and rust that comes to life.  It’s really hard to imagine that such a rudimentary and rough-looking machine would have been heralded as a revolution in modern-day living, but indeed it was.

To even add further interest and intrigue to this story, we found that the Beatty Company was one of the first companies in the world to design an agitating washing machine…  and it’s a Canadian company!

From ideafinder.com, “Washing Machine History – Invention of the Washing Machine“:

“Beatty Brothers of Fergus, Ontario was the first company to produce an agitator washing machine. The early Beatty machines had ribbed copper tubs which were nickel or nickel-chromium plated. In the US, the first firm to adopt agitator technology was Maytag.”

So, the next time you toss your dirty socks into your modern front-loading computer operated washing machine, think about life just 100 years ago.  Today, our modern machines can take care of half our wardrobe at the same time we’re watching the Super Bowl on our widescreen high def TV set in the front room.  I can honestly tell you that I’ll never take ours for granted again, that’s for sure.

Thanks so very much for your visit today, we really appreciate it.  As always, we love to hear from all our visitors so please don’t hesitate to leave us any comments you may have.  Until next time, have a great day, my friends!




  1. avatar ChrisdMRF says:

    This is great Toad, Love the detail shots here and the fact that something we take for granted would have been such hard work.

  2. Great images, Scott, and a wonderful back story. Well Done!

  3. avatar Mrs. Mudpuppy says:

    Soooo glad I don’t have to use this beast on my weekly laundry days! That’s why no one needed to go to a gym, everyday was a workout! Thanks for sharing Toad!

    • Thank YOU Mrs. Mudpuppy for your fabulous comments here and for taking the time to visit! I’m not sure, though, that doing laundry by hand is any more difficult than, say, climbing up the side of a mountain or anything. LOL 🙂

  4. “Antique Toad’s Show”… I love it! What a cool find. Love your close ups showing the detailed textures of patina and cracked rollers.

  5. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    This is so cool Toad. I’ve seen some old washing machines, but this one takes the cake. The images are terrific. I especially love the cracked wringer. Outstanding. Have a great weekend

  6. Wow fantastic post Toad. We do take alot for granted and the history you’ve presented here is fascinating. I love the images. The detail is outstanding. If you get a chance I have some vintage cameras on my post today that you might find interesting but now that I’ve read your post you’ve inspired me to do a bit more research and a write up on vintage cameras which I actually collect. Hmmm a project is forming in my mind 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration.

    • This is such a huge honor to bestow upon us Edith, especially coming from you!! I have your blog post on my list here and will be hitting it by Monday the latest.. really really looking forward to it! Thank you once again for all your friendship, support and encouragement! You are one the key folks who drives us to continue in our work and we sure do appreciate it!

  7. avatar Eden says:

    Nicely done 🙂

  8. When I was very young my mother was the automatic washing machine. Also weekly I’d end up in the washing tub on its stand, but at least she didn’t put me through the wringer. I never even realized there were electric washing machines before that time. I love the photos with their fine detail and textures.

  9. avatar Jim Denham says:

    Who’d have thought that the key to washing clothes at one time was just surviving it? Very cool images and great post! Love the nostalgia!

  10. avatar Rick says:

    Wonderful images. Love all the details and of course the story. Have a great weekend!

  11. that’s a lot of water to be used! And even today’s washing machines, the top loading ones, are not efficient in water consumption. But apart of that, it’s a good knowledge to see how the early washing machine looks like. And as with other good knowledge, I’ll ask my 12 years old daughter read this. B-) Thanx for sharing!

  12. avatar Mike says:

    Another wonderful series and set of images to go with it. I’m betting the Mrs. wishes you knew a little more about washing machines too. Just sayin……

    • Hi Mike, thank you so much for your visit my friend! Um, if you wouldn’t mind to keep those particular thoughts to yourself my friend… I am already working 2 full time jobs here, I don’t need more work! LOL 😉 You rock, my friend, what a great set of comments to leave here for everyone!

  13. avatar Chris Nitz says:

    You know, I think I will just take my clothes to the dry cleaners. Nice find and I dig that second shot. Nice detail and color on all of these.

  14. avatar Jim Nix says:

    nicely done Toad – you do a wonderful job of documenting history!

  15. avatar A.Barlow says:

    Chromium plated?? Wow! That was a nice set man and cool reads. Really interesting stuff.

  16. avatar Adam Allegro says:

    Wow, Toad, that is some interesting info!! I always take these simple luxuries for granted, but need to remember things weren’t always so easy! Living in Italy I am reminded about that every couple of hours though… Electricity going out multiple times daily, broken dishwasher, internet not working, phone turning off, etc… It is worth it to live in this amazing place though!! Wonderful images my friend!!

    • Thanks so very much Adam, you are so very kind for popping by and leaving us these truly great comments! I often forget that not that long ago things were drastically different in the world. I really enjoy doing these sorts of shoots and bringing these items back to the forefront for everyone to enjoy. Thanks so kindly for your visit my friend, it truly means so much to us!

  17. avatar Jason Hines says:

    Kristi says that I am not allowed to do the laundry because I always shrink her clothes so I actually haven’t seen the laundry machine in quite awhile. Nice post my friend!

    • Thanks so much Jason! LOL Those were some mighty fine comments you dropped by and shared with us here, thank you very much my friend! We certainly appreciate all your friendship & support here, Jason, thanks!

  18. avatar ehpem says:

    These are great images – I especially like the roller shot. All that cracking, brought out so well in your processing.

    I am quite happy to take for granted my washing machine and all the work it does! When I am off in the field (rarely these days) I sometimes find myself washing clothes by hand and I know that if I had to do that all the time, I would be pretty darn stinky most of the time.

  19. Another fine set of images to accompany a well written article Toad! I really enjoyed the history lesson! Antiques really fascinate me as Itry to imagine what life would have been like back then. We truly have it great now don’t we? Have a great weekend my friend!

  20. avatar Rob says:

    Imagine washing clothes in a machine like this. The machines have come a long way in keeping our attire clean.

  21. avatar sue barcier says:

    I have a wash stand in great shape from the same company

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      How great is that??! 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to visit, and for leaving us your comments that I am sure everyone will enjoy!

  22. avatar CJ@ProArtz says:

    I’m old enough to remember my mother’s enameled washing machine with a tub with a rotator and ringer. We had to send the clothes, one item at a time, through the ringer to squeeze the soapy water out. Then we put the clean clothes in a washtub of clean water to rinse them, then had to send them through the ringer again. We had to hang the laundry outside in good weather or in the basement in bad weather. Everything had to be ironed. Permanent press fabrics didn’t become popular until I was in college.

    Then, after college, I stepped back in time. I joined the Peace Corps and moved to a small town in the northeast of Brazil where we had no running water or sewage system and electricity only 4 hours each evening —for lighting only. Seamstresses and tailors used foot-pedaled Singers. Radios were attached to car batteries. No one had a phone or TV. Our house didn’t have electricity at all.

    Luckily labor was cheap, so another Volunteer and I hired a boy to carry water from the dam on his donkey. We boiled it for 20 minutes and put it through a water filter for drinking and cooking. We hired woman to wash and press our clothes. She carried them to a dam about a mile outside of town and scrubbed our clothes on rocks. She carried the heavy wet clothes back to town where she hung them to dry. She used an iron, which was indeed made of iron, which she filled with hot coals to press everything. I would guess the iron weight at least 10 pounds. We insisted on her ironing even our underwear to make sure any microbes from the untreated, unfiltered water were killed.

    When the other Volunteer left about six months before I headed home, I moved to a house that had electricity. It also had a “cisterna” to collect rain water, so my laundry woman was able to wash clothes in my back yard instead of carrying them to the dam. She could also hang the clothes in my yard to dry and collect them later (when they weighed less) to take to her home to iron. Even though she spent less time and used my water to do her job I continued to pay her the usual price for her work. I was thrilled that I didn’t have to do it myself.

    When one lives in those conditions, one never takes electricity or water or sewage systems for granted ever again. I know lots of people think the world would come to an end if they couldn’t use their cell phones for an hour. Try living without electricity for a couple of years.

    • What GREAT comments!! Thank you so much for both taking the time to pop by and see us here at The Hollow, and for these terrific comments I know all our visitors will appreciate!! It’s really odd to think about how much things have changed in our modern world in the last 50-100 years and how much we tend to take modern conveniences for granted. Terrific thoughts you’ve shared here, a heartfelt thanks to you!!