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Who Invented the Washing Machine?


Determining who invented the washing machine is difficult to do. Due to a lack of a standard definition for washing machine, thousands of machines were classified as one. Numerous inventors’ creations have led to the designs of modern washers. Numerous patents exist, but evidence demonstrates that washers were in existence even before patents were issued.

Patents as Proof of Invention

It is often assumed that whoever obtained a patent first was the original inventor of the item patented. However, this is not necessarily true, especially in the United States. The patent is not always assigned to the first to file a patent application. This is certainly the case with washing machines.

Historical Milestones

Due to the lack of adequate documentation, it cannot be determined who truly thought of the first washer. Therefore, it is best to simply consider the washing machine as a group invention, with several outstanding contributors to its development. Here is a list of the known historical milestones along the washing machine’s evolution:

  • 1691 – First British patent was issued, not much is known about this machine or its inventor
  • 1767 – Jacob Christian Schaffer published his design
  • 1782 – Henry Sidgier patented a rotating drum washer
  • 1797 – Nathaniel Briggs received patent for an “improvement “in washing clothes.
  • 1843 – John E. Turnbull patented the “Clothes washer with wringer rolls
  • 1851 – James King patented a washing machine to use a drum
  • 1858 – Hamilton Smith introduced the first rotary washing machine
  • 1874 – William Blackstone patents a hand-driven wooden washing machine
  • About 1900 – Louis Goldenberg invented the electric washing machine; however, Ford Motor Company owned the patent for it
  • Early 1900s – Metal tubs start replacing wooden tubs
  • 1907 – Maytag Corporation starts producing a washing machine with a flywheel
  • 1908 – Alva J. Fisher patented an electric-powered washing machine
  • 1922 – Maytag Corporation introduces the agitator system
  • 1937 – John W. Chamberlain of Bendix Aviation invented the first automatic washing machine
  • 1947 – The first top loading automatic washing machine is introduced
  • 1951 – First computer controlled machine appears

Since the 1990s, the main improvements have been made in areas of reducing the amounts of water, detergent, and energy consumed by washing machines.



Maxwell, Lee. “Who Invented the Electric Washing Machine?.” Washing Machine Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2010.

“Milestones in the History of Washing Machines and Dryers.” Find out about the science behind P&G products with ScienceInTheBox. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2010.

The, the 1960’s. “Washing Mashine History- Gizmo Highway Technology Guide.” Gizmo Highway – Online Technology Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2010.

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