Published April 30, 2014
Looking Back: Dexter Enhanced Washing Machine
MACOMB TOWNSHIP — This Dexter Enhanced Washing Machine dates back to 1890 and was donated to the Macomb Township Historical Commission by Jane M. Boeling, the great-great-granddaughter of the Rev. Johannes Friedrich Boeling, who founded seven Lutheran churches in the area.
The Dexter machine was belt-driven and powered manually or with a gasoline motor. A pulley would turn a set of gears that spun the agitator and wringer. The device was regarded as state-of-the-art at the turn of the 20th century. However, owning a washing machine was limited to a select few, due to its high cost.
Prior to the introduction of the washing machine, clothes were cleaned by pounding them on rocks and rubbing them with abrasive sand. It wasn’t until the invention of the scrub board in 1797, and the use of a drum in 1851, that washing machines began to resemble modern-day appliances.
In 1858, Hamilton Smith patented the rotary washing machine, and in 1874, William Blackstone designed the first device for use in the home. The Mighty Thor was the first electric-powered washing machine, and it was introduced in 1908 by the Hurley Machine Company in Chicago.
The introduction of the washing machine impacted the entire country, including the area that evolved into Macomb Township. For those who could afford one, it became a most welcome and time-saving invention.
Photo and text provided by Stan Skavery of the Macomb Township Historical Commission