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Antique Washing Machine Museum

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If you've ever seen what you thought to be a traveling junk yard it was probably just my wife, Barbara, and me on one of our semiannual "hunting" trips. Once each spring and fall we pack up the motorhome, hook on the trailer, and head out on the old US highways hunting for old and unusual washing machines. A hunting trip usually lasts about a month and we have been from coast to coast and border to border finding our collection.

Most of my time, other than that spent on the hunting excursions, is devoted to the restoration of the machines. Our "museum", west of Eaton, Colorado, contains some 400 different machines I have dismantled, cleaned, painted and reassembled. All aspects of this hobby; including the hunt, the fixing, and the showing, are fun as well as extremely interesting. It is perhaps the hunt that is the most fun, since we get to travel in all parts of this great land, see gorgeous scenery and meet some very grand people along the way.

Many times I have acquired machines from private individuals who have the knowledge of who originally bought the machine, and often they can relate interesting anecdotes pertaining to the use of the machine. Almost any "old timer" can remember getting a hand, a hunk of hair or some other part of the anatomy caught in the wringer. Many have scars to prove it. Not only were the wringers dangerous, most of the early machines had open or unshielded gearing. Early electric machines had no grounding, and many had open terminals permitting a shock even though the machine was not running.

One of our most memorable experiences was the day Tom Coffey of Vienna, Missouri sold me two machines he had stored in a shed. He also gave me one under the condition that I cut down the unwanted tree that had grown up through the framework of the machine. The machine, which by the way I was very charmed to get, had sat outside Tom's hardware store for some 50 years. I think to make up for having me remove his tree just to get that machine Tom (90 years young) brought out his one-man band instruments and serenaded Barbara and I with his special brand of good old Missouri "Crab Grass" music, while we uncovered the other two very heavy machines from his Fibber-McGee's shed. We had to cart the machines a fair distance to the trailer and even though the music was inspiring, Barbara again reminded me that I should collect something lighter. The story of Tom's machine and the restoration of it comprises an article which appeared in the Gas Engine Magazine, October, 1992.

As a result of a previous article in Reminisce Magazine, July/August 1991, David Dinsmore of rural Tipp City, Ohio contacted me regarding his collection of 90 antique washing machines. David had been collecting machines for some 20 years and had really amassed an outstanding group of machines and had restored many of them. David's wife, Patty, thinks he should have collected something smaller too, although he has also collected a 1923 fire engine, a 1921 school bus along with several old cars.

Because of his health as well as other interests David suggested that there may be a time when I may like to add his collection to mine. To say the least, I was very thrilled being able to find 90 machines of such good condition, 84 different from the 400 I already had. We agreed that the machines would be moved in the fall of 1993, but how do you get that many machines from Ohio to Colorado without breaking the bank? Some 10 miles from our town is Monfort meat packing company and I contracted with them for an 18- wheeler on a back-haul. Barbara and I went with our motorhome and trailer to Ohio and spent two full days wrapping the machines in old carpet. With the kind help of David's friends and relatives, along with a hydraulic pig loader we loaded the semi in about 4 hours and sent the machines to Colorado.

Should anyone else be able to use this data; 90 old washing machines will just barely fit into a 48 by 8 foot semi- trailer and it cost about 15 dollars a machine to go from Tipp City to Eaton. The fall "93" trip is classed as the "Mother of all hunting trips", since we returned home with an even 100 machines, counting the 10 in our trailer found along the way. David, Patty and some of the friends who helped with the semi loading have since visited and needless to say we have become very good friends.

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