First U.S. patent for washing machine

Pity the homemakers before the machine age. Clothes had to be washed in the bathtubs, usually with nothing more than household soap, and then hung out on lines outside to dry. When families consisted of six or eight or more children, it must have been an enormous undertaking. Not surprising, then, that patents for washing machines appeared just after the perfection of steam power — automatizing the washing of clothes was an obvious time and energy saver, and the relatively simple motions of the wash making the machine fairly easy to build.

On this day, March 28, in 1797 the first United States patent for “Clothes Washing” was granted a New Hampshire man, Nathanial Briggs.

Not much is known about Briggs – a massive fire in December of 1836 obliterated many of the Patent Office records – but it’s safe to assume his invention was as much to simplify his own life as it was to profit. A New Brunswick man improved on Brigg’s invention to build a washing machine with a wringing mechanism, and by early 1900s the first patents for electric washers and driers began appearing.