A to Z of Innovations at Expos: Washing machine

A to Z of Innovations at Expos: Washing machine

Most modern products are the result of years of continuous innovations. The washing machine is one such product. For years, innovators have been looking into this household chore to save time, energy and water. One of these innovators, Richard Lansdale, took the opportunity to showcase his creation – the Compound Rotary Washing Machine – at World Expo 1862 in London.

Lansdale’s device was one of the world’s first patented mechanical washing machines, gathering praise at the Expo for its compound action and ease of use. The clothes and water were placed in a 30-gallon (114-litre) barrel set on four centres, allowing for a double rotation when the handle was turned. This technique – which required almost no technical prowess - resulted in an efficient wash by fully agitating the laundry. Additionally, the machine included rollers to wring the clothes dry after washing.

Offering a significant improvement on existing methods to clothes washing, Lansdale’s washing machine was one of several models developed in the 19th century. At other Expos, other models made also their debuts. Expo 1876 Philadelphia, 14 years later, saw another version – the Triumph Rotary Washer by Margaret Colvin, that she patented, and whose model would later be manufactured by her husband. But it was not until the 20th century, with the invention of electrical machines, that doing the laundry became more autonomous, and slightly less laborious.

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