Tuesday, February 7, 2012

7 February 1933 “New Hats and Old Laundry Techniques”

aboutphoto I have new hats. The first, pictured here, I really adore. It was bought at the local goodwill but I know it is a modern hat from a chain store by the tag.

Obviously I tinted this photo and placed it in an old edging so as to look vintage. I liked the result so much it is now my bio shot on the main page of the blog.

I think it looks very vintage ,this hat. In fact I wore it the other day when a friend and I went to our local antique shop. There is a lady there who always comes up to me and says, “I know I tell you this every time, but I love your style”.  She wondered how I get all my vintage things, other than what I get there at her shop. (usually hats and bags from her shop) I told her the hat was actually not vintage at all.  But by keeping in mind the style you are looking for, there are always modern versions of old looks. After all, many styles simply keep repeating themselves and with the immense amount of things mass produced today, you are going to find something close to the period you are aiming for.

This hat, which is rather hard to see in this photo, I purchased that day from her shop. It is black lambs wool. I had to have it as I have a coat of the very same fabric with a fur collar, which I am sporting in this photo.

mehat1 I realize dark hair, hat and coat may make for a bad visual of the hat, but I thought the style of the snapshot rather vintage.

hatsbag Here it is with the other hat and the lovely bag I also purchased at our antique shop. The lovely handbag is real leather and has an adorable tassel motif in gold plated metal. This lamb shearling hat is, indeed, vintage and here is the old tag proudly stating it was Union Made in the USA.hattag Something that means quite a bit here in the 1930’s. Unions are and were once an important part of the fabric of our country. An attempt to counter the corporate with the corporation of the working man. Today USA made is very hard to come by and sadly.

Now you might very well say, 50’s gal what a naughty time traveler you are, buying yourself things in the height of the Depression. But, I can tell you, to counter such spendthrift ways (though it was but little out of my pin money) I attempted laundry the old fashioned way. Well, let me correct that Gussie and I attempted laundry the old-fashioned way. I called upon my old ‘maid’ to return from my 1950’s project to aid me here in 1933.

I haven’t  mentioned Gussie in sometime, as she was only a part of my 1955 experiment the first month. She happily stepped in as ‘maid’ for that first month of my 1955 year to see how it would be for a middle class homemaker to have such help. The other day she returned, for a few hours, in that position. We tackled the laundry together.

I do not as of yet have an old washing machine so we did a laundry day with my normal machine on cold. Then we hand rung the items. Now having a ringer, even a hand crank old wooden ringer, would have made more sense, but I had not. In 1933 I would most likely have a machine with a motorized ringer, but then again, I might not.

 vintage bicycle laundry ringerBut, I would have certainly at least had the hand crank model that most homes had even in 1900.  As I do not own such a device, hand ringing was what we did. Boy oh boy was it labor intensive!

We were laughing at one point so hard we nearly dropped our precious cargo on the cold damp grown. It was late when we finished and the last to be wrung out was a large feather duvet. We each grabbed one end and folded it in half. Then we both twisted it opposite directions. It was amazing the amount of water that came out! We did it several times (our hands freezing as it was below freezing outside at this point). Even after all that ringing it was so much more damp than had it been in the washer. That machine really spins out the water! What a magic moment it must have been when that homemaker of yore first got her electric ringer.  And then when she got the self contained machines of the 1940’s how magical it must have seemed!

We had to hang that heavy piece over our fence in the moonlight, and come morning hubby commented that our nightly chore was frozen solid outside. But, once the sun came up and it warmed up, it eventually dried, of course.

I know, really, this was not a very good experiment. As I said, having a wringer and washing it by hand in the sink would have been more accurate, and I shall attempt that as well. I think I can get an old wooden hand crank fairly inexpensive come summer at a yard sale. But, I have had no luck as of yet getting my hands affordably on an old electric or gas powered washer with automatic wringer.

What it did show me, though, as I often learn in my little attempts at old homemaking, was patience. Diligence, stick-to-itiveness, and patience were and certainly are the corner stones of any good homemaker. Then, however, we were seeing many new gadgets arriving, many could not afford them. Laundry in tubs scrubbed on metal washboards and hand wrung may well have been a norm for many a homemaker. Still, whenever I am forced to stop in the midst of such a trial and consider the past and my own abilities, I often feel empowered by it. Rather than just giving up and thinking ‘thank God for modern life’, I actually often think, “Hmm, if i wanted to do this all the time, I would simply have less things to wash, as it would make it easier.” And it was just such revelations that really began in 1955 that made me look forward to simplifying my life.

Today is ironing day. In 1933, from what I can find, there were no steam irons. In 1927 the Silex company introduced the first iron with temperature control. Prior to that it was simply determined by your touching the iron and deciding if it was hot enough or not. The steam iron would not be around for awhile and after WWII a pump model steam iron was developed but proved too costly.

33iron Here is an ad from one of my 1933 Better Homes magazines for this latest iron. It only weighs 3 lbs, he claims, comparative to a usual 6 lb iron. We certainly see why the homemaker in the Depression would not have needed the gym. But, as this is fairly new, I wonder if I would either still have a 6lb electric iron from the 1920’s or even, were you poor enough, the old type that simply was heated on the stove or was fueled by kerosene or charcoal placed in a brazier on the iron.

This 1920’a gas iron would simply be hooked up to your gas. Prior to electricity, many homes were plumbed for gas for lights. Appliances were then made to simply plug into this fuel supply much as you would later with electricity.

There were also coal irons were the hot coals were placed inside for the heat source. Oddly enough, in places like India even today such coal irons are still used, as shown in this modern day photo of an Indian man using just such an iron.4164645211_a8811857c6

That goes to show that though we may believe we have all advanced to a state that is only moving forward and that the past is, well, simply in the past, that is not always the case. If times become harder and choice begin to be made one might find themselves hoping to own the workable appliances of the past. Especially when they run mainly on our own sweat and not on things for which we must pay. Now, I certainly am not saying I shall go out and get a coal powered iron tomorrow. And certainly my 1933 counterpart simply had a heavy electric version with no steam, it is important to recall how we did things once. And to consider, for ourselves, when such antiquated things might not be reconsidered. This is an extreme, but hand washing dishes, using clothes lines or a push non electric vacuum are all simply ways to bring back the old and put more money in the bank (or our mattress as the current banking scams might lead us to consider).

So, today, I shall simply use my 1950’s antique iron with the steam off, no water in and a medium setting. We shall see how crease free hubby shirts come out.

Happy Homemaking.



  1. Love the new picture and the new hats! Looks fab!

  2. Ive always enjoyed washing my dishes by hand. While I'm washing, it's easy to reflect on the day, or plan it out; depending on when I'm doing the chore. Cute post!

  3. crazy how much we value clean and wrinkle free cloths and laundry in general.

    1. Actually, wrinkle free clothing wasn't the sole benefit of ironing. In the days before dryers, even line dried clothing came out very stiff. The iron softened them out so they could be wearable again.

  4. Love your hats! Why women stopped wearing them regularly is a complete mystery to me. They're adorable, and they protect your hair from the wind.

  5. Love the new picture and the post. I like your thoughts on the wearing less as to make less washing. A few years ago i read an interesting article on modern vs vintage in regards to housework and the labour saving devices, acording to the author and my grandmother we do more work in a lot of ways today. In the 30's and into the 40's and 50's especially in Britan with rationing still going well after the war most women only had one 'good ' outfit for church and other occassions, and her house clothes and unless you got incredibly dirty wore the same dress/outfit for several days, you rarely saw a woman in the 30's out of her ' pinny' while she was working around the home. Men had detactable collars and cuff which could be changes out but the shirt was washed less often. Most only washed once a week (usually monday). There was no wall to wall carpet so floors were swept and the rugs were brushed, only taken out a few times of year to be beaten. While things might have taken longer there were less things to clean I am sure that if we all had to go back to this way of working there would be many less loads of laundry, maybe I should threaten a teenager with this and see if lessens the pile of dirty clothes. Thanks again for sharing this experiment with us all.

  6. A few "tips" on the laundry:
    1. Wear undershirts and and you will really cut down on the amount of laundry that you do; just rinse your stocking & underthings in the sink and hang dry.

    2. When you do wash, leave in a damp ball in the fridge until ironing day, then iron. To get out any stubborn wrinkles, do not forget your sprinkle bottle.

    3. Things like feather bed covers and bead spreads were hardly ever washed unless something was spilled on them. Just beat them and hang outside to air.

    You need to let go of your modern notions and realize that people owned fewer clothes back then, and took care of them and aired them and washed them infrequently unless something was visibly staining them. Hang in there. If you study up on the time period I am sure that things will not seem to arduous.

  7. As a child in the 1930s, I remember washing our family clothes (12 children and Mother and Father and Grandmother) in a large galvanized basin with a scrub board. We hang-wrung the items then hung them on the line in the yard, no matter what the season. The only advice I can offer you is to wear gloves, and only do the laundry 1-2 times per month. Don't over think what you are doing and spend money on things you do not seed or waste time and energy on unnecessary routines just because you read about them in a magazine.


  8. 50sGal,
    Are you still married? You never mention your husband anymore and I do not see the link to his blog on your blog. Did he stay in 1950? He could really sport a pipe!

  9. Love the hat - it looks vintage 1980s!!!!

  10. First off, yes I am still married! Hubby is with me no matter the time period, as he has advantage of my cooking/cleaning/mending and sewing. I think he only writes his blog sometimes and it might be private.And he still can sport a pipe. On his days off he is often found with his pipe in his mouth at his vintage typewriter dressed vintage in that he wears cloth pants, not dungarees, button down shirts, even on his days off and is often sporting a sweater vest and no tennis shoes. We are, I suppose, hopelessly old fashioned.

    Second, I can see there are a few followers who much just now be following me and not having followed me through the 1950's. Because the laundry 'tips' are funny to me only because they are old 'hat'.
    Hubby always wears an undershirt and his dress shirts are not washed all the time but rather hung back up and the end of the day. I certainly do rinse stockings and delicates and they hang and dry in bathroom.
    I have done the damp clothes in the fridge before, but now I have downsized my fridge, so there is not room. Therefore I simply use less clothing for myself.
    I wear my skirts and tops many times before I wash them.
    I do my laundry once a week on Mondays and only ever wash outer bedding every few months. Though clean sheets every wash day.
    I definitely do beat my rugs and have mostly bare floors that are swept. Currently things do not seem arduous at all, but it was merely fun to see how much water the clothes held when we hand rung them out.
    As far as getting any new things, I will only get an antique washer if one is donated to me or lent to me for my project. Almost all my clothes are being recycled and simply styled 30's though my sewing skills learned in the 50's will allow me to use some of my fabrics to make 30's dresses.
    I often have my pinny or apron on through the day. And I wear the same skirt a few times each week changing out outfits with different tops.
    I was actually surprised when I heard that so many people do laundry every day. Or that there are piles of laundry, as we have been in the past so long now, that as my cleaning of it means I want less of it.
    Great comments though, but I will have to start including what I already do because of my 1950's life.
    And finally my black hat, though possibly sporting some 80's (though I was alive in the 80's and don't recall such a look) look, is actually late 20's.

  11. Love the hats - and the curls! Good on you with the laundry - I do at least 2 loads a day with a normal washer (5 children) - how I wish they could wear things more than once, but it way too hot and humid here! My grandmothers both used their hand mangle or ringers until in their 80s, (2001), and only got electric washers because their children bought them as gifts. It's funny how sometimes people stick with what they knew in the past, but at other times they grasp new technology (both grandmothers loved microwaves). xxx

  12. My great-grandmother was born in the 1880's, and I was lucky enough to have her in my life until I was almost 16. My grandparents and great-grandparents lived together, and she did laundry for all of them once a week, rain or shine, hot or cold (in Michigan). The wringer washer sat next to a large laundry tub that held white clothes soaking in bluing. She'd stir them w/a stick, then pick out each item, without gloves, and shove it through the wringer. They'd then go through a regular soap and water wash and rinse. In the summer, everything went on the clothes line, in the winter or in rainy weather the laundry was hung on lines in the basement. She worked hard and had the cleanest laundry in town!

  13. My mom did her laundry in a double stone tub. She wouldn't have a wringer - they broke buttons, she said and would rather wring by hand than sew buttons.

  14. I love how your hair is styled under the hats. The curls are beautiful!

    Oh laundry! It's the bane of my existence. I encourage my family to wear clothes more than once if they're not dirty but children tend to get dirty, and thus do their clothes. My hubby and I often wear clothes more than twice, which helps considerably. My son and hubby wear undershirts but for my little guy it's more for his comfort as he gets the undershirts stained too. I feel as if I'm always doing laundry yet it's never done. I'm thankful for my washer and dryer. The next technology in laundry machines needs to be an automatic folder/hanger who then puts the clothes away!

    Sarah H

  15. I LOVE my washing machine!!! I really do, I always think how easy it is to toss the laundry into it, press the button – and magic, it comes out clean. I have a drier, but hardly never use it. Only for towels once a week during winter. I love to line dry.

    I learned to iron with an old-fashioned iron with no temperature control. We started with the delicate fabrics like nylon and silk, then worked towards cotton and ended with linen as the iron got warmer. Then we switched it off and worked our way backwards. I also love my modern steam iron, and boy – I iron a LOT!

    I’m going to the US next Sunday on holiday, so no comments from me for the coming two weeks, but I’ve mailed you a letter today. :)

  16. Have a great trip, Sanne!

    Sarah H

  17. Hi Donna, I still have those patterns if you would like them :o)
    homesteadprimitives at juno dot com. Have a great day, Dee


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