Vintage Maytag Washers
Vintage Maytag Washers as seen and advertised in the early 1900’s were made in Newton, Iowa. It was first started by Frederick Maytag in 1893 to manufacture farming equipment. They didn’t start to make the washing machine until around 1905. One thing of interest to me was that in addition to the electric version, Maytag made a gasoline version that was useful to people living in rural areas that did not have access to electricity yet. We start off with an endorsement from the Tribune Institute that tested The Maytag Washer and Wringer in 1921, followed by some of the better advertising of the day.
The Maytag is an all metal machine, including wringer and cylinder. The wringer, besides being of metal, is low, adding only 7 inches to the height of the machine compared to the usual 17 inches and the rollers open wide by throwing back the metal top piece by its cut-in handle. This makes for an unusually safe wringer. It is very easy to operate the release and the rolls are separated 3 inches (usually it is no more than 1 1/2 to 2 inches in most washers) and at the same time the rolls are thrown out of gear on each side so that there is no “pull” on anything caught in the wringer. Any garment being caught in the wringer would be immediately released, and one’s whole arm might go into the wringer without any unpleasant pressure being felt. This also makes overloading impossible.
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Another point is the hinged cover that is drawn back as illustrated in the photograph (below), and when that is in place, together with the low wringer, the cabinet sides, with battle-grey paint color, it has a low degree of viability and would hardly be known for a washer at all and could all but pass for a work table of good standing. It is 36.5 inches high and therefor affords as a suitable working table top.
The hinged side, shown open, discloses another unusual feature of design, namely, the large wheel on the shaft, driving the tub and the very small wheel on the motor shaft, thus reducing the speed. The cylinder makes 37 revolutions a minute without reversing, the motor, 1,725 revolutions. A tightener is placed above the small motor pulley to afford a sufficient arc of contact and unless the belt is kept taut the tightener and the motor pulley will bump with a very disagreeable noise. The tightening of the belt however, is quite easily effected. The chain shown drives the wringer through a system of gears.
The final distinguishing feature of the Maytag washer is the all metal, cast aluminum cylinder. This is 21 inches in diameter and 15 inches long. Apart from its material, it has two special points, (1) the five grated openings, 5/8 inch deep and running across the entire length of the otherwise solid cylinder, through which the water is forced as the cylinder revolves which creates a “mill race” effect which plays a large part in its cleaning. (2) the two swinging, collapsing doors, which fall into the tub in a slight downward thrust, the door with the thumb-hole being broken in first. The door with no hole is pulled into place first, on closing the cylinder, being held in place by a projection on its side, and the door with the thumb hole is then pull onto place and locked also by a projection on the cylinder. There is a spring at the end of the bearings which permits a slight sideways motion sufficient to clear the projections when opening and closing.
Construction – The frame is well braced and rigid but the model examined in our tests was not exact in its measurements, which made the sheet-iron door difficult to close. The tub itself is of galvanized iron and is riveted to the frame at top and sides. The front of tub has a cast iron plate four inches wide riveted to its entire width inside to hold it rigid enough to carry the driving wheel, bearing and gear to drive cylinder. The washer takes a floor space 27.5 inches wide (tub is 22 ½ inches with the projection of six more for the wringer gearing and 21.5 inches deep). The clearance height, including the low wringer, is only 43.5 inches.
Details of Operation – There is no motor control on the machine, the cord being permanently plugged in at the motor, which is started or stopped at the lamp socket, where a connection is made by a separable, horizontal bladed standard plug. This arrangement, we think, is not so desirable, as a snap switch should be provided at the machine, making it more convenient to start or stop the motor, thus saving electricity. If one has to walk to the lamp socket each time she is apt to let the motor run between operations and waste current, although the amount of power needed for the motor is small (1.7 cents per hour).
First advertisement for a vintage Maytag Washer was found the Devils Lake Inter-Ocean in N. Dakota in 1911 and is very simple –
This following ad was found in the Willmar Tribune, Minnesota in 1912 and included a graphic of a vintage Maytag Washer
The Maytag Gasoline Washer