• FA-124197 © Technisches Museum Wien
  • FA-124199 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Everyday Life
Household Technology
Everyday Life - directions for use
1900 - 1909
  • Dr. Roswitha Muttenthaler

"Triumph" tub washing machine, approx. 1900 - 1920

Hard work, hands strained by hot soapy water and cold washing water – the path leading to modern-day automatic washing machines was long and required numerous innovations.

This device from the collection of the Technisches Museum Wien (Vienna Technical Museum) exemplifies the first steps in the mechanisation process: a wooden tub is fitted with corrugated washer discs. The upper disc is turned manually using a crank. The lower one, on which the washing was placed, was kept afloat in the lye by means of a cork insert. The washing was scrubbed against the corrugated surface like against a washboard.

Laundering by hand was the most exhausting and time-consuming household chore and defined as a women's task. The hands were put under heavy strain through the scrubbing of the washing and the contact with the lye. Attempts to mechanise this work started in 1750. Some ideas led to the goal being achieved in the long term. The concept of a tub with an inserted stirrer was improved in the course of next 150 years, but failed to prevail. Only once drive motors had become available in around 1900 did this concept really significantly reduce the workload. It is sometimes referred to as a "stockpile invention" due to the fact that it only started working in combination with a subsequent innovation.

The first tub washing machines were produced in series towards the end of the 19th century. They did not contain a heating element, so the hot lye had to be filled in manually. Initially, they had to be operated manually using a hand crank. Although this spared the ordeal of scrubbing the washing manually in the lye, the cranking required time and effort.

In around 1900, the first "power-operated" washing machines were introduced to the market. Here, a motor with a driving belt moved the washing about. They were suitable for use in agricultural operations and workshops which used processing machines powered in the same way. Only in the 1960s did washing machines find their way into the common household, as it was only then that the high voltage electricity grid was expanded to all households; electricity and electrical devices were still expensive. By this stage, fully automatic washing machines had also been developed.

Inv.Nr. 35304
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