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Washing Machine, The First

Engineering in History

Until the late 1800s, home washing machines were hand-powered, while commercial machines were driven by steam and belts. That all changed in 1908 with the introduction of the Thor, the first commercial electric washer. The Thor, the invention of Alva J. Fisher, was marketed by the Hurley Machine Company of Chicago. It was a drum-type washing machine with a galvanized tub. Throughout the 20th century, Thor continued to make innovations in washing machine technology. In 2008, the trademark was bought out by Los Angeles-based Appliances International and soon introduced a new line under the Thor name. Even as Thor was changing the commercial laundry business, other companies had their eye on the consumer market, perhaps most notably the Maytag Corporation that got its start in 1893 when F.L. Maytag began manufacturing farm implements in Newton, Iowa. Business was slow in winter, so to add to his line of products, Maytag introduced a wooden tub washing machine in 1907. Not long after, Maytag decided to devote himself full-time to the washing machine business. The Whirlpool Corporation, another well-known brand, debuted in 1911 as the Upton Machine Co., in St. Joseph, Mich., producing electric motor-driven wringer washers.

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