Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Laundry Delivery


Even back in the days before washing machines, some were fortunate enough to have commercial laundries do their washing and drying. The picture above was taken in the early 1900's, and shows a laundry service that used dog teams to pick up and deliver laundry. The picture was taken in Alaska.

I suggested yesterday that the three biggest quality of life improvements of the last 150 years were indoor plumbing, refrigeration, and automated washer/dryers. Merideth suggested that electricity should be in the top three. I did not include electricity in the top three because the top three can actually all be done without electricity. First, indoor plumbing will work with a windmill. In the old days lots of people had indoor plumbing, and no electricity. The windmill would pump water into a tank that was elevated. Gravity would feed the water into the house. While the pressure was not as much as we enjoy today, toilets would flush, baths and showers worked, and the sink had water. While most of our refrigerators work today on electricity, there are wonderful refrigerators that work on natural gas or propane. There are no moving parts, and the cooling cycle is driven by a flame, which creates the pressures necessary to drive the cooling cycle. In electric refrigerators, the cycle is driven by pressures created by a compressor. Similarly, in the early days there were washers which were driven by small gas motors. Even if we go further down the list, you can have lighting from lanterns that is not that bad. So, even without electricity you can have indoor plumbing, refrigeration, and washer/dryer. While electricity was a big advance, if you want to include it as a "Top Three", which of the existing "Top Three" would you push off the list?

12 comments:

  1. There's a home not far from me that has a refrigerator carved out of a tree trunk. It's positioned over a pit in the ground.

    They say it naturally maintains 55 degrees same as the pit below because the tree trunk is an efficient insulator and it has a solar/battery powered cooling (evidently a Peltier device) to effect a freezer compartment.

    The Giant

    The owner/builder died earlier this year, unfortunately. But I believe they are going to maintain the home as a museum of sorts.

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  2. I guess if I had to lose one of the "big three" it would be the washer, since that could be wind powered too:
    http://tiny.cc/a4b8y

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  3. Here in Florida, Mosquito Control should be on any top three improvements to quality of life.

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  4. In my lifetime I have lived without all three. As a child I didn't know anything about either one. I suppose refrigeration would be the one I wouldn't want to do without. My G-Ma put milk in a bucket(much like a paint bucket) tied a rope to it and lowered it into the well, to keep it cool. You had to make very sure the lid and bail were very secure or you would have a mess on your hands.

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  6. Ever tried to keep a windmill running? It's an everyday struggle in Wyoming winds! I still say electricity - that's my answer and I'm sticking to it! HA Although PJM, you are right. You can run all three without it. They just usually did not. I guess I'd drop the washer off the list if I had to; but why not a top four?

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  7. If I had to lose one... probably indoor toilets. Not because I don't appreciate them, but because some parts of Rome, even pre-Empire, had it using either constant-flush or cistern-based water flow from one of their tech marvels, the aqueducts. So, "past 150 years" may not work.

    As to refrigeration post using pit and tree, cute but heck, root cellers (and wine cellars) are even older but not exactly technological fixes: OTOH, the freezer compartment does work as tech. Pharoahs used to enjoy cool food/drink at breakfast by having frost scraped from especially high columns and buildings where it formed during the night, and I would not count that as coming under the intended meaning of "refrigeration."

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  8. All three of those, and many more can be had if you live in the right place. Windmills aren't viable everywhere, and natural gas/propane are unavailable to most of the country without a huge price tag. Electricity brought those things to almost everyone, at a price they could afford. It's number 1.

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  9. I love this photo. Anything with dogs gets points and these are some handsome pooches.
    As for the Big Three, I suppose I'd give up the washer.

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  10. I love this week's topic. And, despite all of the modern technology avaiable, I STILL seem to spend most of my time doing laundry.

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  11. I agree with the BIG three you selected.

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  12. I wonder if those particular sled dogs ever ran long distances as well? I love that they were working even without ice on the ground.

    Mosquito control is a pretty big one, as is electricity. Can we have a top five? If not then I'd say the washer/dryer has to go first, then refrigeration.

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