First Electric Washing Machine

Today they are a staple appliance few of us could live without but where did they begin?

The first mass-marketed electric washing machine was the Thor, a tumble washer produced by the Hurley Machine Company in 1908.

The machine worked by tumbling clothes with a wooden drum, in two directions, at eight revolutions per minute. The drum’s rotation mechanisms were powered by a single Westinghouse Electric Company electric motor and connected together via drive belts.

Most innovatively, however, the Thor featured an integrated clutch, which allowed the machine to switch revolution direction and also be held in a stationary position once power was supplied. For a closer look at the machine’s inner workings see the diagram to the left.

Inside the Thor electric clothes washer

Spin – The drum turned at eight revolutions per minute before reversing direction to spin again.

Inside the Thor electric clothes washerWringer – The machine’s chain-driven wringing mechanism could be reversed through the operation of a top-right-mounted lever.

Drum – The Thor’s drum was made of wood, into which a galvanized tub was inserted to hold clothes.

Clutch – A control lever on the left side of the machine was operated to engage and disengage its clutch.

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Power – Unlike modern machines, the Thor did not have an on/off switch, instead requiring users to physically disconnect its power cord to turn it off.