‘The Breville’ manual washing machine was made in Australia by Breville Pty Ltd in the Sydney suburb of Camperdown between 1935 and 1940. Sold as the Breville ‘ 5-minute washer’, this machine is simply a tub with a posser attached to a handle. Its selling point was that, being hand-operated, it was free of mechanical problems!

Throughout the 1800s and into the first half of the 1900s washing clothes was a laborious and time-consuming weekly chore that took a full day to complete, usually on a Monday. This machine was certainly an improvement on the hard work of scrubbing clothes against a washboard in a tub but it still required a considerable amount of labour. This was to fill and empty the machine twice by hand, to wash, squeeze out and then rinse and remove the heavy wet washing, wring it out again and then hang it on the line.

In an effort to produce an effective washing machine that imitated hand washing, by the 1870s some 2,000 patents had been issued in the USA alone. As well as the machines themselves, there were also many wringers and mangles to squeeze out the washing water, not to mention boilers and coppers. However, the invention of the first electric washing machine, patented in 1910, was the true turning point in washing machine design, leading to washing machines eventually becoming real labour-saving devices. However, most women in Australia had to wait until the 1950s or 60s for their first electric washing machine, when there was greater prosperity and the ready availability of electricity, to release them from laundry drudgery.

Margaret Simpson, Curator. (This article was taken from the Powerhouse Museum website)


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