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Library Laundry: 1920

Library Laundry: 1920

Washington circa 1920. "Laundry at Library of Congress." Equipped with mangle and steam cabinet. 8x6 inch glass negative, National Photo Co. View full size.


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Wall Drying Cabinets

The woman on the other side of the doorway may be hanging clothing to dry in a gas-powered drying cabinet.. These are sometimes found in old apartment buildings.

Hand Towels

Before the advent of paper towels and/or air dryers, there were actually cloth towels in lavatories - so nice, on so many levels - and my guess would be that's just what the laundresses at the LoC were responsible for, lots and lots of hand towels.


The grommets suggest to me, lavatory towels.

Makes you long for the pre-paper towel, hot air dryer - the days of common towels or better still - Roller Towels!

Okay, I'll bite

What kind of laundry needs to be done at the Library of Congress?
It appears to be of similar sizes, shapes and fabrics, so I'm thinking maybe the restaurant's table linens, perhaps dinner napkins, kitchen towels, table covers and such. The ladies working do not look too thrilled as one is just watching stuff dry on the clothes line in the back room and the other seems to be staring at the picture on the wall. I can smell the scents of bleach and soap and feel the heat from the steam. I wonder if this is what they expected when they applied for a "library job".

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