Why Chinese Laundries Use No Machinery (1892)

An 1892 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explained the reason why Chinese laundries, save one, did not use machinery. It rejected the view of many people that Chinese did not believe in machinery and preferred to do laundry by hand.

The real reason, according to the article, is that “Chinese laundrymen cannot get laundry machinery for either love or money. Each piece sold is with the solemn promise that it shall never fall into the hands of the Chinese competitor.” Thus, white laundry equipment makers and white laundry owners conspired to keep machinery out of the hands of Chinese laundrymen. The article did acknowledge that at least one Chinese somehow obtained laundry equipment for his Birmingham, Alabama laundry.

ImageThis revelation, even if perhaps exaggerated, is of personal interest and pride! The parents of Young Quan, a distant relative of mine, owned a laundry in the 1930s in Birmingham near the cited cross streets that very well could have been the one mentioned in the article!


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