It’ll all come out in the wash!

Pavilion Nicola here. I’m on my travels this week, staying in an 18th century pavilion! It sounds idyllic – and it is except for the lack of facilities! All of which led me to wonder what it would have been like living and working in a place like this in the centuries before labour-saving devices were invented. In particular I’ve been doing some research into laundry and the care of clothes and thought I would share some of my findings with you.

Passing the Buck

The phrase “to pass the buck” is commonly thought to derive from poker, but long before the game wasWasherwomen  invented there was another buck, a wooden tub for the laundry. Washing clothes was a very long and time-consuming business so when you got tired you needed to pass the buck on to someone else. In The Merry Wives of Windsor Shakespeare uses the “buck wash” for comic effect when Falstaff is bundled into the buck basket along with all the “foul shirts and smocks, socks, stockings and greasy napkins.”

 Another phrase deriving from the washing process was “to wash your dirty linen in public.” Until the 17th century the most common way to wash clothes was to beat them clean in a stream or lake as in the picture above, or in a communal washhouse. Greasy dirt such as tallow from candles or fat from cooking required a more thorough process though. Clothes were first soaked in an alkaline solution called lye, which was prepared several days before the laundering began. Lye was made from the fine white ash collected from ovens and furnaces. This was placed in a sieve and water was poured through it and stirred so that it became infused with the alkaline salts from the ash. Greasy clothes would be left to soak in the lye for a number of hours and were rinsed and re-soaked until the water was clean. It could be an incredibly lengthy business; In January 1660 Elizabeth Pepys woke the maids at 4am to start the wash and by 1am the next day they were still hard at it! The more well to do paid a “whitster” (one who whitens things) to do their washing for them and you can see why.

Moorfields The open spaces around London were at a premium when it came to drying clothes. At Moorfields, which you can see in the map on the left, the washing was attached to hooks on posts and was wound tightly around them until the water had been squeezed out. It was then laid out to dry on the ground or hung from clothes lines. Some things haven’t changed that much!

Slaving over a hot Copper

Laundry in country houses was dealt with in a similar way. At Ashdown House the laundry, pictured Laundry right, was a quarter mile from the main house, adjoining the stables, so that the noise, steam and smell of the process did not intrude on the Craven family and their guests. More than one illicit liaison between the grooms and the laundry maids was the result! At Ashdown there were three laundry rooms. First was the washhouse, which held wooden washing boards and troughs and a huge copper with a fire constantly burning beneath.  There was a drying loft or closet in case clothes had to be dried indoors on rainy days and there was also the pressing room, home to a range of box and flat irons.

 The clean laundry was laid out in a walled drying area (so that again the family did not need to see their linen drying in public!) A special touch was to scent it by drying it over lavender bushes or rosemary hedges, but theft was a constant problem. It was easy to snatch a sheet that was drying in the breeze! Drying clothes indoors was a last resort because it was so slow, took up a great deal of room and required complicated arrangements of racks and pulleys to air it properly.

Flat iron Ironing was also a complicated business. An inventory from one stately home in 1726 lists four box irons and seven pairs of flat irons. In country houses there was a demarcation between the senior laundress who was entrusted with all the delicate laundry and the maids who did the household washing and servants’ clothes. As households were frequently very large, a careful record was kept of all items before they were sent to the laundry so that when they were returned they could go to the correct person or be stored appropriately. This was the housekeeper’s responsibility and in the grandest households she had a special sorting room set aside for the process.

Cleaning Remedies

Soap was also used for laundry but it was a great deal more expensive than lye and extremely complicated to produce. At the end of the 18th century Nicolas Le Blanc discovered a way to mass-produce soda from salt but soap was taxed up until 1853 so it was still a product that could only be afforded by the rich.

The first book of cleaning remedies was published in 1583. It was called “A Profitable Boke declaring dyvers approved remedies, to take out spottes and staines in silkes, velvets, linen and woollen clothes.” Pretty comprehensive. It recommended grease and oil be treated with ground sheep’s hooves, warm cow’s milk to remove wine and vinegar stains and that gold and silk embroidery be washed in urine, strong beer or ale.

The Early Laundrette

By the middle of the 18th century there were a number of specialist cleaning shops established in LondonThe Strand  where you could take your clothes to be treated. In 1742 Jane Franklin of Maiden Lane placed an advertisement in the Daily Advertiser offering to clean “silver and gold laced cloth, buttons and buttonholes.” Dry scouring was an option – an early form of dry cleaning. The material was rubbed on both sides with a mixture of turpentine and fuller’s earth and then the mixture brushed off with a hard brush followed by a soft brush and finally a clean cloth. In the early 19th century Thompsons in The Strand (pictured) provided a comprehensive mending, dyeing and cleaning service for shawls and fine muslins from India. An impoverished heroine might well have taken her clothes there for a spot of refurbishment!

Dyeing for a change of clothes

Jane Austen At the beginning of the 19th century it cost between 3 shillings and six pence and five shilling to dye a gown, and 2 shillings and six pence to dye a pair of breeches. This was a relatively cheap and useful way to refresh one’s wardrobe but the process was an uncertain one. In 1808 Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra: “How is your blue gown? Mine is all to pieces – I think there must have been something wrong in the dye… That is four shillings thrown away!” Blue dye came from woad or indigo, yellow from saffron and weld, and red from various different roots and also from cochineal, though that was more expensive as it was imported from South America. There was no fixed green dye until 1809, green gowns being made from covering blue dye with yellow.

Banishing the Moth

Moths and fleas were the greatest enemy of clothes that were kept in storage and there were many recipes and methods suggested to deal with them. Powdered elecampane root and orange peel were considered very powerful in banishing the moth. The lighter summer clothes could be scented with herbs; lavender, bay, thyme, rose and tansy. Heavy fur-trimmed outdoor and winter clothes were treated with benjamin and storax. Linens were kept in special bags of violet or damask. It’s rather nice to think of our heroines wafting around in clothes scented with herbs!

Which labour saving device of the modern day could you simply not manage without?

125 thoughts on “It’ll all come out in the wash!”

  1. Hi Nicola.
    This was great reading and brought back memories (and no I’m not that old!). When I was little (1950s) I remember we had a wash house, with a copper, and two cement troughs. The troughs had a wringer, or maybe it was called a mangle? When we went a bit up-market and incorporated the wash house into the rest of the house, it became the laundry. And we got a washing machine and the copper was used to pickle eggs. I also remember the clothes line (before we Australians invented the rotary clothes line) which was slung from post to post, around a corner, rather like a right angle) and held up with clothes props. I remember on top of the middle post was the radio arial, and a kookaburra used to sit right on top and laugh. We also still had the old flat irons. I remember one was like the one in your illustration. I seem to remember you could fill it with either hot water, or hot coals or something. I remember my mother used to spit on the bottom of the iron and listen to the sizzle to gauge how hot it was. She still did this even when we got the first electric iron because it wasn’t automatic and had to be turned on and off all the time otherwise the clothes would be burnt.
    After all that, I still think I could survive without most labour saving devices from today, EXCEPT the washing machine. Wet clothes and linen are so heavy to lift and wring and the water so hard on the hands. Yes definitely the washing machine.

    Reply
  2. Hi Nicola.
    This was great reading and brought back memories (and no I’m not that old!). When I was little (1950s) I remember we had a wash house, with a copper, and two cement troughs. The troughs had a wringer, or maybe it was called a mangle? When we went a bit up-market and incorporated the wash house into the rest of the house, it became the laundry. And we got a washing machine and the copper was used to pickle eggs. I also remember the clothes line (before we Australians invented the rotary clothes line) which was slung from post to post, around a corner, rather like a right angle) and held up with clothes props. I remember on top of the middle post was the radio arial, and a kookaburra used to sit right on top and laugh. We also still had the old flat irons. I remember one was like the one in your illustration. I seem to remember you could fill it with either hot water, or hot coals or something. I remember my mother used to spit on the bottom of the iron and listen to the sizzle to gauge how hot it was. She still did this even when we got the first electric iron because it wasn’t automatic and had to be turned on and off all the time otherwise the clothes would be burnt.
    After all that, I still think I could survive without most labour saving devices from today, EXCEPT the washing machine. Wet clothes and linen are so heavy to lift and wring and the water so hard on the hands. Yes definitely the washing machine.

    Reply
  3. Hi Nicola.
    This was great reading and brought back memories (and no I’m not that old!). When I was little (1950s) I remember we had a wash house, with a copper, and two cement troughs. The troughs had a wringer, or maybe it was called a mangle? When we went a bit up-market and incorporated the wash house into the rest of the house, it became the laundry. And we got a washing machine and the copper was used to pickle eggs. I also remember the clothes line (before we Australians invented the rotary clothes line) which was slung from post to post, around a corner, rather like a right angle) and held up with clothes props. I remember on top of the middle post was the radio arial, and a kookaburra used to sit right on top and laugh. We also still had the old flat irons. I remember one was like the one in your illustration. I seem to remember you could fill it with either hot water, or hot coals or something. I remember my mother used to spit on the bottom of the iron and listen to the sizzle to gauge how hot it was. She still did this even when we got the first electric iron because it wasn’t automatic and had to be turned on and off all the time otherwise the clothes would be burnt.
    After all that, I still think I could survive without most labour saving devices from today, EXCEPT the washing machine. Wet clothes and linen are so heavy to lift and wring and the water so hard on the hands. Yes definitely the washing machine.

    Reply
  4. Hi Nicola.
    This was great reading and brought back memories (and no I’m not that old!). When I was little (1950s) I remember we had a wash house, with a copper, and two cement troughs. The troughs had a wringer, or maybe it was called a mangle? When we went a bit up-market and incorporated the wash house into the rest of the house, it became the laundry. And we got a washing machine and the copper was used to pickle eggs. I also remember the clothes line (before we Australians invented the rotary clothes line) which was slung from post to post, around a corner, rather like a right angle) and held up with clothes props. I remember on top of the middle post was the radio arial, and a kookaburra used to sit right on top and laugh. We also still had the old flat irons. I remember one was like the one in your illustration. I seem to remember you could fill it with either hot water, or hot coals or something. I remember my mother used to spit on the bottom of the iron and listen to the sizzle to gauge how hot it was. She still did this even when we got the first electric iron because it wasn’t automatic and had to be turned on and off all the time otherwise the clothes would be burnt.
    After all that, I still think I could survive without most labour saving devices from today, EXCEPT the washing machine. Wet clothes and linen are so heavy to lift and wring and the water so hard on the hands. Yes definitely the washing machine.

    Reply
  5. Hi Nicola.
    This was great reading and brought back memories (and no I’m not that old!). When I was little (1950s) I remember we had a wash house, with a copper, and two cement troughs. The troughs had a wringer, or maybe it was called a mangle? When we went a bit up-market and incorporated the wash house into the rest of the house, it became the laundry. And we got a washing machine and the copper was used to pickle eggs. I also remember the clothes line (before we Australians invented the rotary clothes line) which was slung from post to post, around a corner, rather like a right angle) and held up with clothes props. I remember on top of the middle post was the radio arial, and a kookaburra used to sit right on top and laugh. We also still had the old flat irons. I remember one was like the one in your illustration. I seem to remember you could fill it with either hot water, or hot coals or something. I remember my mother used to spit on the bottom of the iron and listen to the sizzle to gauge how hot it was. She still did this even when we got the first electric iron because it wasn’t automatic and had to be turned on and off all the time otherwise the clothes would be burnt.
    After all that, I still think I could survive without most labour saving devices from today, EXCEPT the washing machine. Wet clothes and linen are so heavy to lift and wring and the water so hard on the hands. Yes definitely the washing machine.

    Reply
  6. Excellent post, Nicola. My grandmother used to make lavender bags, freshly refilled every year or two )it was my job to unpick the old ones, and refill them with freshly dried lavender. Her sheets, towels and clothing always smelled faintly of lavender.
    And obviously my mother used to use a copper to boil up the sheets, etc, because although i don’t really remember her doing that, my father used to keep a hive on top of the old copper, and that honey was always labelled “Copper Hive” which my friends thought quite romantic.
    I agree with Jenny, a washing machine is something I’d hate to do without. And I refuse to let anyone rip out my rotary clothes line — it might be ugly, but it’s convenient and I love the smell of washing dried in the sun. I had a drier, but I gave it away.

    Reply
  7. Excellent post, Nicola. My grandmother used to make lavender bags, freshly refilled every year or two )it was my job to unpick the old ones, and refill them with freshly dried lavender. Her sheets, towels and clothing always smelled faintly of lavender.
    And obviously my mother used to use a copper to boil up the sheets, etc, because although i don’t really remember her doing that, my father used to keep a hive on top of the old copper, and that honey was always labelled “Copper Hive” which my friends thought quite romantic.
    I agree with Jenny, a washing machine is something I’d hate to do without. And I refuse to let anyone rip out my rotary clothes line — it might be ugly, but it’s convenient and I love the smell of washing dried in the sun. I had a drier, but I gave it away.

    Reply
  8. Excellent post, Nicola. My grandmother used to make lavender bags, freshly refilled every year or two )it was my job to unpick the old ones, and refill them with freshly dried lavender. Her sheets, towels and clothing always smelled faintly of lavender.
    And obviously my mother used to use a copper to boil up the sheets, etc, because although i don’t really remember her doing that, my father used to keep a hive on top of the old copper, and that honey was always labelled “Copper Hive” which my friends thought quite romantic.
    I agree with Jenny, a washing machine is something I’d hate to do without. And I refuse to let anyone rip out my rotary clothes line — it might be ugly, but it’s convenient and I love the smell of washing dried in the sun. I had a drier, but I gave it away.

    Reply
  9. Excellent post, Nicola. My grandmother used to make lavender bags, freshly refilled every year or two )it was my job to unpick the old ones, and refill them with freshly dried lavender. Her sheets, towels and clothing always smelled faintly of lavender.
    And obviously my mother used to use a copper to boil up the sheets, etc, because although i don’t really remember her doing that, my father used to keep a hive on top of the old copper, and that honey was always labelled “Copper Hive” which my friends thought quite romantic.
    I agree with Jenny, a washing machine is something I’d hate to do without. And I refuse to let anyone rip out my rotary clothes line — it might be ugly, but it’s convenient and I love the smell of washing dried in the sun. I had a drier, but I gave it away.

    Reply
  10. Excellent post, Nicola. My grandmother used to make lavender bags, freshly refilled every year or two )it was my job to unpick the old ones, and refill them with freshly dried lavender. Her sheets, towels and clothing always smelled faintly of lavender.
    And obviously my mother used to use a copper to boil up the sheets, etc, because although i don’t really remember her doing that, my father used to keep a hive on top of the old copper, and that honey was always labelled “Copper Hive” which my friends thought quite romantic.
    I agree with Jenny, a washing machine is something I’d hate to do without. And I refuse to let anyone rip out my rotary clothes line — it might be ugly, but it’s convenient and I love the smell of washing dried in the sun. I had a drier, but I gave it away.

    Reply
  11. What a cool post! I just wrote a scene where my heroine has to have wine removed from her gown during a ball (there’s lots of info on cleaning clothes in The Lady’s Stratagem for anyone who’s interested).
    I’m confused about there being no green dyes until 1809. There are natural dyes that will give you a wide range of greens (fustic [described at least as early as the mid-18th century] or weld [use dates back to the Romans at least] + iron and/or copper as the mordant).

    Reply
  12. What a cool post! I just wrote a scene where my heroine has to have wine removed from her gown during a ball (there’s lots of info on cleaning clothes in The Lady’s Stratagem for anyone who’s interested).
    I’m confused about there being no green dyes until 1809. There are natural dyes that will give you a wide range of greens (fustic [described at least as early as the mid-18th century] or weld [use dates back to the Romans at least] + iron and/or copper as the mordant).

    Reply
  13. What a cool post! I just wrote a scene where my heroine has to have wine removed from her gown during a ball (there’s lots of info on cleaning clothes in The Lady’s Stratagem for anyone who’s interested).
    I’m confused about there being no green dyes until 1809. There are natural dyes that will give you a wide range of greens (fustic [described at least as early as the mid-18th century] or weld [use dates back to the Romans at least] + iron and/or copper as the mordant).

    Reply
  14. What a cool post! I just wrote a scene where my heroine has to have wine removed from her gown during a ball (there’s lots of info on cleaning clothes in The Lady’s Stratagem for anyone who’s interested).
    I’m confused about there being no green dyes until 1809. There are natural dyes that will give you a wide range of greens (fustic [described at least as early as the mid-18th century] or weld [use dates back to the Romans at least] + iron and/or copper as the mordant).

    Reply
  15. What a cool post! I just wrote a scene where my heroine has to have wine removed from her gown during a ball (there’s lots of info on cleaning clothes in The Lady’s Stratagem for anyone who’s interested).
    I’m confused about there being no green dyes until 1809. There are natural dyes that will give you a wide range of greens (fustic [described at least as early as the mid-18th century] or weld [use dates back to the Romans at least] + iron and/or copper as the mordant).

    Reply
  16. As a girl I had no idea how difficult it was to do laundry prior to the 20th C until I was in elementary school and read one of the Little House books (I think it was “Little House in the Big Woods”), which described just how back-breaking and time-consuming the process was. I had no idea that one had to begin by making one’s own cleaning agent, and I still remember the description of how caustic the lye soap was.
    My mother used a clothesline for many years (she loved the smell of clothing and sheets that had dried in the sun), but she at least had the convenience of a grocery store and electric washer. Many townhouse and condo communities in the US do not allow you to dry clothes on a line; it’s against the homeowners’ association rules. Seems like a shame to me, but I don’t live in such an area so can’t really comment.

    Reply
  17. As a girl I had no idea how difficult it was to do laundry prior to the 20th C until I was in elementary school and read one of the Little House books (I think it was “Little House in the Big Woods”), which described just how back-breaking and time-consuming the process was. I had no idea that one had to begin by making one’s own cleaning agent, and I still remember the description of how caustic the lye soap was.
    My mother used a clothesline for many years (she loved the smell of clothing and sheets that had dried in the sun), but she at least had the convenience of a grocery store and electric washer. Many townhouse and condo communities in the US do not allow you to dry clothes on a line; it’s against the homeowners’ association rules. Seems like a shame to me, but I don’t live in such an area so can’t really comment.

    Reply
  18. As a girl I had no idea how difficult it was to do laundry prior to the 20th C until I was in elementary school and read one of the Little House books (I think it was “Little House in the Big Woods”), which described just how back-breaking and time-consuming the process was. I had no idea that one had to begin by making one’s own cleaning agent, and I still remember the description of how caustic the lye soap was.
    My mother used a clothesline for many years (she loved the smell of clothing and sheets that had dried in the sun), but she at least had the convenience of a grocery store and electric washer. Many townhouse and condo communities in the US do not allow you to dry clothes on a line; it’s against the homeowners’ association rules. Seems like a shame to me, but I don’t live in such an area so can’t really comment.

    Reply
  19. As a girl I had no idea how difficult it was to do laundry prior to the 20th C until I was in elementary school and read one of the Little House books (I think it was “Little House in the Big Woods”), which described just how back-breaking and time-consuming the process was. I had no idea that one had to begin by making one’s own cleaning agent, and I still remember the description of how caustic the lye soap was.
    My mother used a clothesline for many years (she loved the smell of clothing and sheets that had dried in the sun), but she at least had the convenience of a grocery store and electric washer. Many townhouse and condo communities in the US do not allow you to dry clothes on a line; it’s against the homeowners’ association rules. Seems like a shame to me, but I don’t live in such an area so can’t really comment.

    Reply
  20. As a girl I had no idea how difficult it was to do laundry prior to the 20th C until I was in elementary school and read one of the Little House books (I think it was “Little House in the Big Woods”), which described just how back-breaking and time-consuming the process was. I had no idea that one had to begin by making one’s own cleaning agent, and I still remember the description of how caustic the lye soap was.
    My mother used a clothesline for many years (she loved the smell of clothing and sheets that had dried in the sun), but she at least had the convenience of a grocery store and electric washer. Many townhouse and condo communities in the US do not allow you to dry clothes on a line; it’s against the homeowners’ association rules. Seems like a shame to me, but I don’t live in such an area so can’t really comment.

    Reply
  21. I’ll pick the dishwasher…couldn’t do without it now.
    Remember as a kid…we had a clothesline…one of my chores was hanging out the wet clothes and bringing them in when dry.

    Reply
  22. I’ll pick the dishwasher…couldn’t do without it now.
    Remember as a kid…we had a clothesline…one of my chores was hanging out the wet clothes and bringing them in when dry.

    Reply
  23. I’ll pick the dishwasher…couldn’t do without it now.
    Remember as a kid…we had a clothesline…one of my chores was hanging out the wet clothes and bringing them in when dry.

    Reply
  24. I’ll pick the dishwasher…couldn’t do without it now.
    Remember as a kid…we had a clothesline…one of my chores was hanging out the wet clothes and bringing them in when dry.

    Reply
  25. I’ll pick the dishwasher…couldn’t do without it now.
    Remember as a kid…we had a clothesline…one of my chores was hanging out the wet clothes and bringing them in when dry.

    Reply
  26. Nicola
    I could not do without my washing machine LOL there is no way I would enjoy all that hand washing. I do remember when I was a child having a copper in the laundry an electric one and my uncle’s home had a really old copper with place to put the wood under it to heat it although it wasn’t used anymore it was still in the old laundry.
    Have Fun
    Helen

    Reply
  27. Nicola
    I could not do without my washing machine LOL there is no way I would enjoy all that hand washing. I do remember when I was a child having a copper in the laundry an electric one and my uncle’s home had a really old copper with place to put the wood under it to heat it although it wasn’t used anymore it was still in the old laundry.
    Have Fun
    Helen

    Reply
  28. Nicola
    I could not do without my washing machine LOL there is no way I would enjoy all that hand washing. I do remember when I was a child having a copper in the laundry an electric one and my uncle’s home had a really old copper with place to put the wood under it to heat it although it wasn’t used anymore it was still in the old laundry.
    Have Fun
    Helen

    Reply
  29. Nicola
    I could not do without my washing machine LOL there is no way I would enjoy all that hand washing. I do remember when I was a child having a copper in the laundry an electric one and my uncle’s home had a really old copper with place to put the wood under it to heat it although it wasn’t used anymore it was still in the old laundry.
    Have Fun
    Helen

    Reply
  30. Nicola
    I could not do without my washing machine LOL there is no way I would enjoy all that hand washing. I do remember when I was a child having a copper in the laundry an electric one and my uncle’s home had a really old copper with place to put the wood under it to heat it although it wasn’t used anymore it was still in the old laundry.
    Have Fun
    Helen

    Reply
  31. My Nana in England had a washing tub with a mangle on top and Monday was wash day – for the whole street. After a long morning of washing, wringing and rinsing, the clothes and sheets went on the line or on a “maiden” in front of the fire.
    We have lived in our present home without a dryer, dishwasher or stove for 20 years and I don’t miss them. I agree with everyone else that the washer has become essential in our modern lives. I can’t imagine spending a whole day washing clothes and sheets! Without it our clothes would get worn for a lot longer than one day though, that’s for sure!

    Reply
  32. My Nana in England had a washing tub with a mangle on top and Monday was wash day – for the whole street. After a long morning of washing, wringing and rinsing, the clothes and sheets went on the line or on a “maiden” in front of the fire.
    We have lived in our present home without a dryer, dishwasher or stove for 20 years and I don’t miss them. I agree with everyone else that the washer has become essential in our modern lives. I can’t imagine spending a whole day washing clothes and sheets! Without it our clothes would get worn for a lot longer than one day though, that’s for sure!

    Reply
  33. My Nana in England had a washing tub with a mangle on top and Monday was wash day – for the whole street. After a long morning of washing, wringing and rinsing, the clothes and sheets went on the line or on a “maiden” in front of the fire.
    We have lived in our present home without a dryer, dishwasher or stove for 20 years and I don’t miss them. I agree with everyone else that the washer has become essential in our modern lives. I can’t imagine spending a whole day washing clothes and sheets! Without it our clothes would get worn for a lot longer than one day though, that’s for sure!

    Reply
  34. My Nana in England had a washing tub with a mangle on top and Monday was wash day – for the whole street. After a long morning of washing, wringing and rinsing, the clothes and sheets went on the line or on a “maiden” in front of the fire.
    We have lived in our present home without a dryer, dishwasher or stove for 20 years and I don’t miss them. I agree with everyone else that the washer has become essential in our modern lives. I can’t imagine spending a whole day washing clothes and sheets! Without it our clothes would get worn for a lot longer than one day though, that’s for sure!

    Reply
  35. My Nana in England had a washing tub with a mangle on top and Monday was wash day – for the whole street. After a long morning of washing, wringing and rinsing, the clothes and sheets went on the line or on a “maiden” in front of the fire.
    We have lived in our present home without a dryer, dishwasher or stove for 20 years and I don’t miss them. I agree with everyone else that the washer has become essential in our modern lives. I can’t imagine spending a whole day washing clothes and sheets! Without it our clothes would get worn for a lot longer than one day though, that’s for sure!

    Reply
  36. Sue’s comment reminded me that Monday was a classic washday here, too, when I was a child. And that women were quite competitive about whose sheets were the whitest. They used to use ‘blue bags’ to brighten the whites in the wash.

    Reply
  37. Sue’s comment reminded me that Monday was a classic washday here, too, when I was a child. And that women were quite competitive about whose sheets were the whitest. They used to use ‘blue bags’ to brighten the whites in the wash.

    Reply
  38. Sue’s comment reminded me that Monday was a classic washday here, too, when I was a child. And that women were quite competitive about whose sheets were the whitest. They used to use ‘blue bags’ to brighten the whites in the wash.

    Reply
  39. Sue’s comment reminded me that Monday was a classic washday here, too, when I was a child. And that women were quite competitive about whose sheets were the whitest. They used to use ‘blue bags’ to brighten the whites in the wash.

    Reply
  40. Sue’s comment reminded me that Monday was a classic washday here, too, when I was a child. And that women were quite competitive about whose sheets were the whitest. They used to use ‘blue bags’ to brighten the whites in the wash.

    Reply
  41. What a wonderfully informative post, Nicola! It did, however, make me terribly tired! What a lot of work to get one’s clothes clean!
    I do remember my Mammaw had a top ringer washing machine for many years. As a child I was very enthusiastic to help. I doubt I would be so eager now!
    I do love the smell of sheets dried on a line. When I lived in Germany I had to wash many of my clothes by hand and then hang them out on a line in the apple orchard where I lived. It was lovely except in winter!
    I think I would definitely keep the washing machine of all modern conveniences. I can cook over a fire fairly well, but beating my clothes on a rock or running through a ringer is NOT for me!

    Reply
  42. What a wonderfully informative post, Nicola! It did, however, make me terribly tired! What a lot of work to get one’s clothes clean!
    I do remember my Mammaw had a top ringer washing machine for many years. As a child I was very enthusiastic to help. I doubt I would be so eager now!
    I do love the smell of sheets dried on a line. When I lived in Germany I had to wash many of my clothes by hand and then hang them out on a line in the apple orchard where I lived. It was lovely except in winter!
    I think I would definitely keep the washing machine of all modern conveniences. I can cook over a fire fairly well, but beating my clothes on a rock or running through a ringer is NOT for me!

    Reply
  43. What a wonderfully informative post, Nicola! It did, however, make me terribly tired! What a lot of work to get one’s clothes clean!
    I do remember my Mammaw had a top ringer washing machine for many years. As a child I was very enthusiastic to help. I doubt I would be so eager now!
    I do love the smell of sheets dried on a line. When I lived in Germany I had to wash many of my clothes by hand and then hang them out on a line in the apple orchard where I lived. It was lovely except in winter!
    I think I would definitely keep the washing machine of all modern conveniences. I can cook over a fire fairly well, but beating my clothes on a rock or running through a ringer is NOT for me!

    Reply
  44. What a wonderfully informative post, Nicola! It did, however, make me terribly tired! What a lot of work to get one’s clothes clean!
    I do remember my Mammaw had a top ringer washing machine for many years. As a child I was very enthusiastic to help. I doubt I would be so eager now!
    I do love the smell of sheets dried on a line. When I lived in Germany I had to wash many of my clothes by hand and then hang them out on a line in the apple orchard where I lived. It was lovely except in winter!
    I think I would definitely keep the washing machine of all modern conveniences. I can cook over a fire fairly well, but beating my clothes on a rock or running through a ringer is NOT for me!

    Reply
  45. What a wonderfully informative post, Nicola! It did, however, make me terribly tired! What a lot of work to get one’s clothes clean!
    I do remember my Mammaw had a top ringer washing machine for many years. As a child I was very enthusiastic to help. I doubt I would be so eager now!
    I do love the smell of sheets dried on a line. When I lived in Germany I had to wash many of my clothes by hand and then hang them out on a line in the apple orchard where I lived. It was lovely except in winter!
    I think I would definitely keep the washing machine of all modern conveniences. I can cook over a fire fairly well, but beating my clothes on a rock or running through a ringer is NOT for me!

    Reply
  46. Just reading about this makes me want to head straight to the fainting couch, Nicola! I must admit that I have zero historical laundry experience,and am frankly grateful for that. We had a laundry man who would come by to pick up and drop laundry off. Not because we were rich–we most certainly were NOT!–but because the well that supplied our water could be erratic, so using it for laundry wasn’t advisable.
    I want not only the washing machine, but also the dryer. (No, I’ve never slept on air dried sheets that I know of!)

    Reply
  47. Just reading about this makes me want to head straight to the fainting couch, Nicola! I must admit that I have zero historical laundry experience,and am frankly grateful for that. We had a laundry man who would come by to pick up and drop laundry off. Not because we were rich–we most certainly were NOT!–but because the well that supplied our water could be erratic, so using it for laundry wasn’t advisable.
    I want not only the washing machine, but also the dryer. (No, I’ve never slept on air dried sheets that I know of!)

    Reply
  48. Just reading about this makes me want to head straight to the fainting couch, Nicola! I must admit that I have zero historical laundry experience,and am frankly grateful for that. We had a laundry man who would come by to pick up and drop laundry off. Not because we were rich–we most certainly were NOT!–but because the well that supplied our water could be erratic, so using it for laundry wasn’t advisable.
    I want not only the washing machine, but also the dryer. (No, I’ve never slept on air dried sheets that I know of!)

    Reply
  49. Just reading about this makes me want to head straight to the fainting couch, Nicola! I must admit that I have zero historical laundry experience,and am frankly grateful for that. We had a laundry man who would come by to pick up and drop laundry off. Not because we were rich–we most certainly were NOT!–but because the well that supplied our water could be erratic, so using it for laundry wasn’t advisable.
    I want not only the washing machine, but also the dryer. (No, I’ve never slept on air dried sheets that I know of!)

    Reply
  50. Just reading about this makes me want to head straight to the fainting couch, Nicola! I must admit that I have zero historical laundry experience,and am frankly grateful for that. We had a laundry man who would come by to pick up and drop laundry off. Not because we were rich–we most certainly were NOT!–but because the well that supplied our water could be erratic, so using it for laundry wasn’t advisable.
    I want not only the washing machine, but also the dryer. (No, I’ve never slept on air dried sheets that I know of!)

    Reply
  51. Fascinating post, Nicola. I love learning historical details like this . . . but shiver with relief that I don’t have to do laundry the old-fashioned way! An electrical problem knocked out my washer and dryer for a week last fall, and it was a total pain!

    Reply
  52. Fascinating post, Nicola. I love learning historical details like this . . . but shiver with relief that I don’t have to do laundry the old-fashioned way! An electrical problem knocked out my washer and dryer for a week last fall, and it was a total pain!

    Reply
  53. Fascinating post, Nicola. I love learning historical details like this . . . but shiver with relief that I don’t have to do laundry the old-fashioned way! An electrical problem knocked out my washer and dryer for a week last fall, and it was a total pain!

    Reply
  54. Fascinating post, Nicola. I love learning historical details like this . . . but shiver with relief that I don’t have to do laundry the old-fashioned way! An electrical problem knocked out my washer and dryer for a week last fall, and it was a total pain!

    Reply
  55. Fascinating post, Nicola. I love learning historical details like this . . . but shiver with relief that I don’t have to do laundry the old-fashioned way! An electrical problem knocked out my washer and dryer for a week last fall, and it was a total pain!

    Reply
  56. When I was a kid, my parents bought a new house built for them. In those days LA houses had back yards. In back of the garage there was a small room for the washing machine they had then – the old fashioned kind with a wringer on top. They had a cement slab laid down behind the garage for clotheslines, and we used to grow cucumbers and such in the tiny garden that edged it. That’s where the incinerator was too, and one of my tasks was to burn trash. LA wasn’t exactly environmentally conscious in those days, but we thought nothing of it because everybody did the same.
    My mother did laundry for me, my dad and my brothers, and I regret to say that I don’t recall any of us giving her as much help with it as we could have, though hanging sheets and my brothers’ thick heavy Levis must have been back breaking work. Some time after that my mother got a washing machine without the wringer and a dryer, but we still used the clotheslines for sheets and such because they smelled so much better when dried in the sun.
    When I moved out I mastered the art of stuffing quarters in laundry machines, being quite grateful that they have lint filters now and the tedious brushing we had to do is a forgotten thing now.
    The appliance I’d miss most? My electric tea kettle, I think. Whenever the power is off (which happens every few months here seemingly) I get very bent out of shape if I can’t have my morning coffee and evening green tea. I can send the laundry out 🙂

    Reply
  57. When I was a kid, my parents bought a new house built for them. In those days LA houses had back yards. In back of the garage there was a small room for the washing machine they had then – the old fashioned kind with a wringer on top. They had a cement slab laid down behind the garage for clotheslines, and we used to grow cucumbers and such in the tiny garden that edged it. That’s where the incinerator was too, and one of my tasks was to burn trash. LA wasn’t exactly environmentally conscious in those days, but we thought nothing of it because everybody did the same.
    My mother did laundry for me, my dad and my brothers, and I regret to say that I don’t recall any of us giving her as much help with it as we could have, though hanging sheets and my brothers’ thick heavy Levis must have been back breaking work. Some time after that my mother got a washing machine without the wringer and a dryer, but we still used the clotheslines for sheets and such because they smelled so much better when dried in the sun.
    When I moved out I mastered the art of stuffing quarters in laundry machines, being quite grateful that they have lint filters now and the tedious brushing we had to do is a forgotten thing now.
    The appliance I’d miss most? My electric tea kettle, I think. Whenever the power is off (which happens every few months here seemingly) I get very bent out of shape if I can’t have my morning coffee and evening green tea. I can send the laundry out 🙂

    Reply
  58. When I was a kid, my parents bought a new house built for them. In those days LA houses had back yards. In back of the garage there was a small room for the washing machine they had then – the old fashioned kind with a wringer on top. They had a cement slab laid down behind the garage for clotheslines, and we used to grow cucumbers and such in the tiny garden that edged it. That’s where the incinerator was too, and one of my tasks was to burn trash. LA wasn’t exactly environmentally conscious in those days, but we thought nothing of it because everybody did the same.
    My mother did laundry for me, my dad and my brothers, and I regret to say that I don’t recall any of us giving her as much help with it as we could have, though hanging sheets and my brothers’ thick heavy Levis must have been back breaking work. Some time after that my mother got a washing machine without the wringer and a dryer, but we still used the clotheslines for sheets and such because they smelled so much better when dried in the sun.
    When I moved out I mastered the art of stuffing quarters in laundry machines, being quite grateful that they have lint filters now and the tedious brushing we had to do is a forgotten thing now.
    The appliance I’d miss most? My electric tea kettle, I think. Whenever the power is off (which happens every few months here seemingly) I get very bent out of shape if I can’t have my morning coffee and evening green tea. I can send the laundry out 🙂

    Reply
  59. When I was a kid, my parents bought a new house built for them. In those days LA houses had back yards. In back of the garage there was a small room for the washing machine they had then – the old fashioned kind with a wringer on top. They had a cement slab laid down behind the garage for clotheslines, and we used to grow cucumbers and such in the tiny garden that edged it. That’s where the incinerator was too, and one of my tasks was to burn trash. LA wasn’t exactly environmentally conscious in those days, but we thought nothing of it because everybody did the same.
    My mother did laundry for me, my dad and my brothers, and I regret to say that I don’t recall any of us giving her as much help with it as we could have, though hanging sheets and my brothers’ thick heavy Levis must have been back breaking work. Some time after that my mother got a washing machine without the wringer and a dryer, but we still used the clotheslines for sheets and such because they smelled so much better when dried in the sun.
    When I moved out I mastered the art of stuffing quarters in laundry machines, being quite grateful that they have lint filters now and the tedious brushing we had to do is a forgotten thing now.
    The appliance I’d miss most? My electric tea kettle, I think. Whenever the power is off (which happens every few months here seemingly) I get very bent out of shape if I can’t have my morning coffee and evening green tea. I can send the laundry out 🙂

    Reply
  60. When I was a kid, my parents bought a new house built for them. In those days LA houses had back yards. In back of the garage there was a small room for the washing machine they had then – the old fashioned kind with a wringer on top. They had a cement slab laid down behind the garage for clotheslines, and we used to grow cucumbers and such in the tiny garden that edged it. That’s where the incinerator was too, and one of my tasks was to burn trash. LA wasn’t exactly environmentally conscious in those days, but we thought nothing of it because everybody did the same.
    My mother did laundry for me, my dad and my brothers, and I regret to say that I don’t recall any of us giving her as much help with it as we could have, though hanging sheets and my brothers’ thick heavy Levis must have been back breaking work. Some time after that my mother got a washing machine without the wringer and a dryer, but we still used the clotheslines for sheets and such because they smelled so much better when dried in the sun.
    When I moved out I mastered the art of stuffing quarters in laundry machines, being quite grateful that they have lint filters now and the tedious brushing we had to do is a forgotten thing now.
    The appliance I’d miss most? My electric tea kettle, I think. Whenever the power is off (which happens every few months here seemingly) I get very bent out of shape if I can’t have my morning coffee and evening green tea. I can send the laundry out 🙂

    Reply
  61. Now I’m curious about Sue’s post, where she says “We have lived in our present home without a dryer, dishwasher or stove for 20 years and I don’t miss them.” I understand the alternatives for the dryer (clotheline) and dishwasher (hand washing), but I don’t understand how you cook food if you don’t have a stove. Unless what she calls a stove is something I have a different name for . . .
    And I have to add that I could probably do without some of the home conveniences more easily now that my children are grown. When they were little and we did at least one load of laundry a day (more on weekends when we washed the bedding), I would not have wanted to be without a washer and dryer. The dishwasher was wonderful for sterilizing the bottles — not to mention that the less time I spent on chores meant the more time with the family. Now, when it’s just my husband and myself, the significantly lighter load of dirty clothes and dirty dishes wouldn’t be so hard to handle without electric devices (but I still want my gas stove).

    Reply
  62. Now I’m curious about Sue’s post, where she says “We have lived in our present home without a dryer, dishwasher or stove for 20 years and I don’t miss them.” I understand the alternatives for the dryer (clotheline) and dishwasher (hand washing), but I don’t understand how you cook food if you don’t have a stove. Unless what she calls a stove is something I have a different name for . . .
    And I have to add that I could probably do without some of the home conveniences more easily now that my children are grown. When they were little and we did at least one load of laundry a day (more on weekends when we washed the bedding), I would not have wanted to be without a washer and dryer. The dishwasher was wonderful for sterilizing the bottles — not to mention that the less time I spent on chores meant the more time with the family. Now, when it’s just my husband and myself, the significantly lighter load of dirty clothes and dirty dishes wouldn’t be so hard to handle without electric devices (but I still want my gas stove).

    Reply
  63. Now I’m curious about Sue’s post, where she says “We have lived in our present home without a dryer, dishwasher or stove for 20 years and I don’t miss them.” I understand the alternatives for the dryer (clotheline) and dishwasher (hand washing), but I don’t understand how you cook food if you don’t have a stove. Unless what she calls a stove is something I have a different name for . . .
    And I have to add that I could probably do without some of the home conveniences more easily now that my children are grown. When they were little and we did at least one load of laundry a day (more on weekends when we washed the bedding), I would not have wanted to be without a washer and dryer. The dishwasher was wonderful for sterilizing the bottles — not to mention that the less time I spent on chores meant the more time with the family. Now, when it’s just my husband and myself, the significantly lighter load of dirty clothes and dirty dishes wouldn’t be so hard to handle without electric devices (but I still want my gas stove).

    Reply
  64. Now I’m curious about Sue’s post, where she says “We have lived in our present home without a dryer, dishwasher or stove for 20 years and I don’t miss them.” I understand the alternatives for the dryer (clotheline) and dishwasher (hand washing), but I don’t understand how you cook food if you don’t have a stove. Unless what she calls a stove is something I have a different name for . . .
    And I have to add that I could probably do without some of the home conveniences more easily now that my children are grown. When they were little and we did at least one load of laundry a day (more on weekends when we washed the bedding), I would not have wanted to be without a washer and dryer. The dishwasher was wonderful for sterilizing the bottles — not to mention that the less time I spent on chores meant the more time with the family. Now, when it’s just my husband and myself, the significantly lighter load of dirty clothes and dirty dishes wouldn’t be so hard to handle without electric devices (but I still want my gas stove).

    Reply
  65. Now I’m curious about Sue’s post, where she says “We have lived in our present home without a dryer, dishwasher or stove for 20 years and I don’t miss them.” I understand the alternatives for the dryer (clotheline) and dishwasher (hand washing), but I don’t understand how you cook food if you don’t have a stove. Unless what she calls a stove is something I have a different name for . . .
    And I have to add that I could probably do without some of the home conveniences more easily now that my children are grown. When they were little and we did at least one load of laundry a day (more on weekends when we washed the bedding), I would not have wanted to be without a washer and dryer. The dishwasher was wonderful for sterilizing the bottles — not to mention that the less time I spent on chores meant the more time with the family. Now, when it’s just my husband and myself, the significantly lighter load of dirty clothes and dirty dishes wouldn’t be so hard to handle without electric devices (but I still want my gas stove).

    Reply
  66. Just got back from my 18th century pavilion to find all your lovely comments! Thank you – I’m so pleased you enjoyed the blog!
    Isobel, the book I was reading said that there were no fixed green dyes before 1809. I assumed from that that there were other plant dyes but that they would fade in the wash.

    Reply
  67. Just got back from my 18th century pavilion to find all your lovely comments! Thank you – I’m so pleased you enjoyed the blog!
    Isobel, the book I was reading said that there were no fixed green dyes before 1809. I assumed from that that there were other plant dyes but that they would fade in the wash.

    Reply
  68. Just got back from my 18th century pavilion to find all your lovely comments! Thank you – I’m so pleased you enjoyed the blog!
    Isobel, the book I was reading said that there were no fixed green dyes before 1809. I assumed from that that there were other plant dyes but that they would fade in the wash.

    Reply
  69. Just got back from my 18th century pavilion to find all your lovely comments! Thank you – I’m so pleased you enjoyed the blog!
    Isobel, the book I was reading said that there were no fixed green dyes before 1809. I assumed from that that there were other plant dyes but that they would fade in the wash.

    Reply
  70. Just got back from my 18th century pavilion to find all your lovely comments! Thank you – I’m so pleased you enjoyed the blog!
    Isobel, the book I was reading said that there were no fixed green dyes before 1809. I assumed from that that there were other plant dyes but that they would fade in the wash.

    Reply
  71. All these comments about the mangle remind me of a story told in our family about my great-grandparents on my mother’s side, who had a row and my great-grandfather promptly rolled her skirts up into the mangle and left her stuck there all day. I don’t know why she didn’t just take off her dress to escape, but maybe one didn’t in those days.

    Reply
  72. All these comments about the mangle remind me of a story told in our family about my great-grandparents on my mother’s side, who had a row and my great-grandfather promptly rolled her skirts up into the mangle and left her stuck there all day. I don’t know why she didn’t just take off her dress to escape, but maybe one didn’t in those days.

    Reply
  73. All these comments about the mangle remind me of a story told in our family about my great-grandparents on my mother’s side, who had a row and my great-grandfather promptly rolled her skirts up into the mangle and left her stuck there all day. I don’t know why she didn’t just take off her dress to escape, but maybe one didn’t in those days.

    Reply
  74. All these comments about the mangle remind me of a story told in our family about my great-grandparents on my mother’s side, who had a row and my great-grandfather promptly rolled her skirts up into the mangle and left her stuck there all day. I don’t know why she didn’t just take off her dress to escape, but maybe one didn’t in those days.

    Reply
  75. All these comments about the mangle remind me of a story told in our family about my great-grandparents on my mother’s side, who had a row and my great-grandfather promptly rolled her skirts up into the mangle and left her stuck there all day. I don’t know why she didn’t just take off her dress to escape, but maybe one didn’t in those days.

    Reply
  76. I don’t have a dishwasher because I LOVE washing up. But I could not do without my washing machine. And if someone offered to do my ironing I’d take them up on that. The whole 19th century laundry process makes me feel exhausted too!

    Reply
  77. I don’t have a dishwasher because I LOVE washing up. But I could not do without my washing machine. And if someone offered to do my ironing I’d take them up on that. The whole 19th century laundry process makes me feel exhausted too!

    Reply
  78. I don’t have a dishwasher because I LOVE washing up. But I could not do without my washing machine. And if someone offered to do my ironing I’d take them up on that. The whole 19th century laundry process makes me feel exhausted too!

    Reply
  79. I don’t have a dishwasher because I LOVE washing up. But I could not do without my washing machine. And if someone offered to do my ironing I’d take them up on that. The whole 19th century laundry process makes me feel exhausted too!

    Reply
  80. I don’t have a dishwasher because I LOVE washing up. But I could not do without my washing machine. And if someone offered to do my ironing I’d take them up on that. The whole 19th century laundry process makes me feel exhausted too!

    Reply
  81. Hmmm. Still have no idea what they’re talking about. The mordant “fixes” the dye to the fiber. It’s like when you use salt or vinegar to fix the dye on your new jeans.

    Reply
  82. Hmmm. Still have no idea what they’re talking about. The mordant “fixes” the dye to the fiber. It’s like when you use salt or vinegar to fix the dye on your new jeans.

    Reply
  83. Hmmm. Still have no idea what they’re talking about. The mordant “fixes” the dye to the fiber. It’s like when you use salt or vinegar to fix the dye on your new jeans.

    Reply
  84. Hmmm. Still have no idea what they’re talking about. The mordant “fixes” the dye to the fiber. It’s like when you use salt or vinegar to fix the dye on your new jeans.

    Reply
  85. Hmmm. Still have no idea what they’re talking about. The mordant “fixes” the dye to the fiber. It’s like when you use salt or vinegar to fix the dye on your new jeans.

    Reply
  86. Thank you for your post, Nicola. Lots of interesting info—and it makes me all the more grateful for modern household devices like the washing machine! That’s the appliance I’d like least to do without, but the dishwasher is a close second.
    I once read a historical account—sorry I can’t cite the source—about a strange incident involving cloth dye. As you no doubt know, all dyes were natural until the middle of the 19th century, when artificially-produced aniline dyes were introduced. These greatly expanded the range of colors and made dying cheaper. But there could be problems. And one was a lot worse than wearing an outfit with clashing colors.
    Some time in the 1850s in Paris, a young socialite wore to a ball her new gown of emerald green, the latest aniline color. She made quite an impression, but once she returned home she got sick. Her conditioned worsened the following day; before long she died.
    The medical examiner declared she’d been poisoned by—you guessed it—the emerald-green dye. It was so toxic that it had been absorbed through her skin and caused her organs to fail. That dye was quickly taken off the market.
    Another strange tidbit concerning clothing and laundry: I’ve read that during the Middle Ages, the most common laundry detergent was urine. Thank God for Proctor and Gamble!
    I’m looking forward to more of your posts. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  87. Thank you for your post, Nicola. Lots of interesting info—and it makes me all the more grateful for modern household devices like the washing machine! That’s the appliance I’d like least to do without, but the dishwasher is a close second.
    I once read a historical account—sorry I can’t cite the source—about a strange incident involving cloth dye. As you no doubt know, all dyes were natural until the middle of the 19th century, when artificially-produced aniline dyes were introduced. These greatly expanded the range of colors and made dying cheaper. But there could be problems. And one was a lot worse than wearing an outfit with clashing colors.
    Some time in the 1850s in Paris, a young socialite wore to a ball her new gown of emerald green, the latest aniline color. She made quite an impression, but once she returned home she got sick. Her conditioned worsened the following day; before long she died.
    The medical examiner declared she’d been poisoned by—you guessed it—the emerald-green dye. It was so toxic that it had been absorbed through her skin and caused her organs to fail. That dye was quickly taken off the market.
    Another strange tidbit concerning clothing and laundry: I’ve read that during the Middle Ages, the most common laundry detergent was urine. Thank God for Proctor and Gamble!
    I’m looking forward to more of your posts. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  88. Thank you for your post, Nicola. Lots of interesting info—and it makes me all the more grateful for modern household devices like the washing machine! That’s the appliance I’d like least to do without, but the dishwasher is a close second.
    I once read a historical account—sorry I can’t cite the source—about a strange incident involving cloth dye. As you no doubt know, all dyes were natural until the middle of the 19th century, when artificially-produced aniline dyes were introduced. These greatly expanded the range of colors and made dying cheaper. But there could be problems. And one was a lot worse than wearing an outfit with clashing colors.
    Some time in the 1850s in Paris, a young socialite wore to a ball her new gown of emerald green, the latest aniline color. She made quite an impression, but once she returned home she got sick. Her conditioned worsened the following day; before long she died.
    The medical examiner declared she’d been poisoned by—you guessed it—the emerald-green dye. It was so toxic that it had been absorbed through her skin and caused her organs to fail. That dye was quickly taken off the market.
    Another strange tidbit concerning clothing and laundry: I’ve read that during the Middle Ages, the most common laundry detergent was urine. Thank God for Proctor and Gamble!
    I’m looking forward to more of your posts. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  89. Thank you for your post, Nicola. Lots of interesting info—and it makes me all the more grateful for modern household devices like the washing machine! That’s the appliance I’d like least to do without, but the dishwasher is a close second.
    I once read a historical account—sorry I can’t cite the source—about a strange incident involving cloth dye. As you no doubt know, all dyes were natural until the middle of the 19th century, when artificially-produced aniline dyes were introduced. These greatly expanded the range of colors and made dying cheaper. But there could be problems. And one was a lot worse than wearing an outfit with clashing colors.
    Some time in the 1850s in Paris, a young socialite wore to a ball her new gown of emerald green, the latest aniline color. She made quite an impression, but once she returned home she got sick. Her conditioned worsened the following day; before long she died.
    The medical examiner declared she’d been poisoned by—you guessed it—the emerald-green dye. It was so toxic that it had been absorbed through her skin and caused her organs to fail. That dye was quickly taken off the market.
    Another strange tidbit concerning clothing and laundry: I’ve read that during the Middle Ages, the most common laundry detergent was urine. Thank God for Proctor and Gamble!
    I’m looking forward to more of your posts. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  90. Thank you for your post, Nicola. Lots of interesting info—and it makes me all the more grateful for modern household devices like the washing machine! That’s the appliance I’d like least to do without, but the dishwasher is a close second.
    I once read a historical account—sorry I can’t cite the source—about a strange incident involving cloth dye. As you no doubt know, all dyes were natural until the middle of the 19th century, when artificially-produced aniline dyes were introduced. These greatly expanded the range of colors and made dying cheaper. But there could be problems. And one was a lot worse than wearing an outfit with clashing colors.
    Some time in the 1850s in Paris, a young socialite wore to a ball her new gown of emerald green, the latest aniline color. She made quite an impression, but once she returned home she got sick. Her conditioned worsened the following day; before long she died.
    The medical examiner declared she’d been poisoned by—you guessed it—the emerald-green dye. It was so toxic that it had been absorbed through her skin and caused her organs to fail. That dye was quickly taken off the market.
    Another strange tidbit concerning clothing and laundry: I’ve read that during the Middle Ages, the most common laundry detergent was urine. Thank God for Proctor and Gamble!
    I’m looking forward to more of your posts. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  91. MAry Anne, that’s a horrific story about the girl poisoned by her gown! It reminded me of Napoleon. Wasn’t he supposed to have been poisoned by his green wallpaper because it had arsenic in it? And yes, I read that urine was a very efficient detergent. Thank goodness we don’t need to go to those lengths these days!

    Reply
  92. MAry Anne, that’s a horrific story about the girl poisoned by her gown! It reminded me of Napoleon. Wasn’t he supposed to have been poisoned by his green wallpaper because it had arsenic in it? And yes, I read that urine was a very efficient detergent. Thank goodness we don’t need to go to those lengths these days!

    Reply
  93. MAry Anne, that’s a horrific story about the girl poisoned by her gown! It reminded me of Napoleon. Wasn’t he supposed to have been poisoned by his green wallpaper because it had arsenic in it? And yes, I read that urine was a very efficient detergent. Thank goodness we don’t need to go to those lengths these days!

    Reply
  94. MAry Anne, that’s a horrific story about the girl poisoned by her gown! It reminded me of Napoleon. Wasn’t he supposed to have been poisoned by his green wallpaper because it had arsenic in it? And yes, I read that urine was a very efficient detergent. Thank goodness we don’t need to go to those lengths these days!

    Reply
  95. MAry Anne, that’s a horrific story about the girl poisoned by her gown! It reminded me of Napoleon. Wasn’t he supposed to have been poisoned by his green wallpaper because it had arsenic in it? And yes, I read that urine was a very efficient detergent. Thank goodness we don’t need to go to those lengths these days!

    Reply
  96. Me too, Louisa. In fact I was furious on her behalf! And I would not have stood there all day waiting for him to come home to release me from the mangle either. My grandmother once told me her father wouldn’t have known what to make of me. He liked women to “know their place!”

    Reply
  97. Me too, Louisa. In fact I was furious on her behalf! And I would not have stood there all day waiting for him to come home to release me from the mangle either. My grandmother once told me her father wouldn’t have known what to make of me. He liked women to “know their place!”

    Reply
  98. Me too, Louisa. In fact I was furious on her behalf! And I would not have stood there all day waiting for him to come home to release me from the mangle either. My grandmother once told me her father wouldn’t have known what to make of me. He liked women to “know their place!”

    Reply
  99. Me too, Louisa. In fact I was furious on her behalf! And I would not have stood there all day waiting for him to come home to release me from the mangle either. My grandmother once told me her father wouldn’t have known what to make of me. He liked women to “know their place!”

    Reply
  100. Me too, Louisa. In fact I was furious on her behalf! And I would not have stood there all day waiting for him to come home to release me from the mangle either. My grandmother once told me her father wouldn’t have known what to make of me. He liked women to “know their place!”

    Reply
  101. Thanks for the reply to my comment, Nicola. I’ve heard the same story about Napoleon, but it was said to be just one of two possibilities.
    I’ve read that analysis of his hair indicates he might have been slowly poisoned by arsenic during his years on St. Helena. If that was the case, one source of the toxin could have been his wallpaper. He could have been accidentally poisoned.
    The other source? Let’s put it this way. Napoleon had already escaped from exile on one island, Elba, and gone on to cause serious trouble. Once he was sent to St. Helena, the British authorities were determined history wouldn’t repeat itself. What better way to make sure this wouldn’t happen than . . . well, you get the picture.
    That’s just a theory, of course. I don’t know how anyone nowadays could possibly prove or disprove it. But maybe it’ll inspire some historical novelist with a taste for conspiracies!

    Reply
  102. Thanks for the reply to my comment, Nicola. I’ve heard the same story about Napoleon, but it was said to be just one of two possibilities.
    I’ve read that analysis of his hair indicates he might have been slowly poisoned by arsenic during his years on St. Helena. If that was the case, one source of the toxin could have been his wallpaper. He could have been accidentally poisoned.
    The other source? Let’s put it this way. Napoleon had already escaped from exile on one island, Elba, and gone on to cause serious trouble. Once he was sent to St. Helena, the British authorities were determined history wouldn’t repeat itself. What better way to make sure this wouldn’t happen than . . . well, you get the picture.
    That’s just a theory, of course. I don’t know how anyone nowadays could possibly prove or disprove it. But maybe it’ll inspire some historical novelist with a taste for conspiracies!

    Reply
  103. Thanks for the reply to my comment, Nicola. I’ve heard the same story about Napoleon, but it was said to be just one of two possibilities.
    I’ve read that analysis of his hair indicates he might have been slowly poisoned by arsenic during his years on St. Helena. If that was the case, one source of the toxin could have been his wallpaper. He could have been accidentally poisoned.
    The other source? Let’s put it this way. Napoleon had already escaped from exile on one island, Elba, and gone on to cause serious trouble. Once he was sent to St. Helena, the British authorities were determined history wouldn’t repeat itself. What better way to make sure this wouldn’t happen than . . . well, you get the picture.
    That’s just a theory, of course. I don’t know how anyone nowadays could possibly prove or disprove it. But maybe it’ll inspire some historical novelist with a taste for conspiracies!

    Reply
  104. Thanks for the reply to my comment, Nicola. I’ve heard the same story about Napoleon, but it was said to be just one of two possibilities.
    I’ve read that analysis of his hair indicates he might have been slowly poisoned by arsenic during his years on St. Helena. If that was the case, one source of the toxin could have been his wallpaper. He could have been accidentally poisoned.
    The other source? Let’s put it this way. Napoleon had already escaped from exile on one island, Elba, and gone on to cause serious trouble. Once he was sent to St. Helena, the British authorities were determined history wouldn’t repeat itself. What better way to make sure this wouldn’t happen than . . . well, you get the picture.
    That’s just a theory, of course. I don’t know how anyone nowadays could possibly prove or disprove it. But maybe it’ll inspire some historical novelist with a taste for conspiracies!

    Reply
  105. Thanks for the reply to my comment, Nicola. I’ve heard the same story about Napoleon, but it was said to be just one of two possibilities.
    I’ve read that analysis of his hair indicates he might have been slowly poisoned by arsenic during his years on St. Helena. If that was the case, one source of the toxin could have been his wallpaper. He could have been accidentally poisoned.
    The other source? Let’s put it this way. Napoleon had already escaped from exile on one island, Elba, and gone on to cause serious trouble. Once he was sent to St. Helena, the British authorities were determined history wouldn’t repeat itself. What better way to make sure this wouldn’t happen than . . . well, you get the picture.
    That’s just a theory, of course. I don’t know how anyone nowadays could possibly prove or disprove it. But maybe it’ll inspire some historical novelist with a taste for conspiracies!

    Reply
  106. It’s another of those fascinating historical mysteries, isn’t it, Mary Anne, and definitely a great topic for a book. One of my neighbours is a direct descendant of Napoleon’s jailer on St Helena! Unfortunately there are no family papers giving a clue…

    Reply
  107. It’s another of those fascinating historical mysteries, isn’t it, Mary Anne, and definitely a great topic for a book. One of my neighbours is a direct descendant of Napoleon’s jailer on St Helena! Unfortunately there are no family papers giving a clue…

    Reply
  108. It’s another of those fascinating historical mysteries, isn’t it, Mary Anne, and definitely a great topic for a book. One of my neighbours is a direct descendant of Napoleon’s jailer on St Helena! Unfortunately there are no family papers giving a clue…

    Reply
  109. It’s another of those fascinating historical mysteries, isn’t it, Mary Anne, and definitely a great topic for a book. One of my neighbours is a direct descendant of Napoleon’s jailer on St Helena! Unfortunately there are no family papers giving a clue…

    Reply
  110. It’s another of those fascinating historical mysteries, isn’t it, Mary Anne, and definitely a great topic for a book. One of my neighbours is a direct descendant of Napoleon’s jailer on St Helena! Unfortunately there are no family papers giving a clue…

    Reply

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