Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Even back in the days before washing machines, some were fortunate enough to have commercial laundries do their washing and drying. The picture above was taken in the early 1900's, and shows a laundry service that used dog teams to pick up and deliver laundry. The picture was taken in Alaska.
I suggested yesterday that the three biggest quality of life improvements of the last 150 years were indoor plumbing, refrigeration, and automated washer/dryers. Merideth suggested that electricity should be in the top three. I did not include electricity in the top three because the top three can actually all be done without electricity. First, indoor plumbing will work with a windmill. In the old days lots of people had indoor plumbing, and no electricity. The windmill would pump water into a tank that was elevated. Gravity would feed the water into the house. While the pressure was not as much as we enjoy today, toilets would flush, baths and showers worked, and the sink had water. While most of our refrigerators work today on electricity, there are wonderful refrigerators that work on natural gas or propane. There are no moving parts, and the cooling cycle is driven by a flame, which creates the pressures necessary to drive the cooling cycle. In electric refrigerators, the cycle is driven by pressures created by a compressor. Similarly, in the early days there were washers which were driven by small gas motors. Even if we go further down the list, you can have lighting from lanterns that is not that bad. So, even without electricity you can have indoor plumbing, refrigeration, and washer/dryer. While electricity was a big advance, if you want to include it as a "Top Three", which of the existing "Top Three" would you push off the list?