Yale Union Laundry Strike

Invention of the Electric Washing Machine

An ad from 1920 showing a Thor electric washing machine for home use
The Saturday Evening Post. Advertisement for a Thor Electric Washing Machine. November 20, 1920. The Internet Archive, digitized by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Indianapolis, IN. archive.org.

The first electric washing machine, “The Mighty Thor,” was built in 1908 by Hurley Machine Company.

The invention of the electric washing machine designed for home use would eventually contribute to the decline of industrial laundry in the United States. Other contributing factors would be post-war developments in manufacturing, rising incomes, and a domestic culture increasingly centralized on commodifying basic human needs.

Shown is an ad for a Thor washing machine from 1920, the same time period that laundry was experiencing mass worker unrest, and the same year the Home Service Company was formed as a way to consolidate commercial laundry interest.