New acquisition - c1919 washing machine

Have you have ever complained about doing yet another load of washing?  Next time spare a thought for the pioneer women of the Otways who had to contend with a hand plunger style washing machine.

Our latest acquisition, a washing machine circa 1919, is mounted on a 3 leg frame, with a central cone adjustable plunger and attached to a fulcrum point (adjustable in height) on the side with a long arm; a certain level of strength was necessary to operate it.   The container is slightly coned shaped at the bottom and has a drain tap for emptying water. Although this washer doesn't have a wringer attachment, most of this style would have a provision for one and would attach to the piece of timber that can be seen on the side.  The plunger is approx 37cm in diameter and has holes for water to be forced through. The container is made of galvanised steel and painted green.

Eduard Lehman, Zurich Switzerland patented a metal barrel shaped hand washing machine with a hand crank to operate a metal plunger in the early 1900s and although there are no markings on our machine, this is a very similar model if not the same. 

This washing machine was a vast improvement from earlier methods of washing.  Bessie Trevaskis, who lived in the Otways between 1897 - 1912  recalls "Every Monday without fail Mrs. Jarge did her washing, rain or sunshine.  She washed the clothes in the  wooden tubs on a form in her big kitchen, and boiled them in a huge cast iron boiler on her open fire.  When she had finished washing the clothes she scrubbed the table and forms and then emptied the suds from the tubs and boiler onto the floor."  (Trevaskis, 2001, p. 4)

Monday was typically wash day and dresses were worn below the knee to mid calf, with drop-waists with a loose, straight fit.  For the men when not working on the farm, suits were worn.  But for the farm, heavy plaid shirts and canvas overalls.  Tough, wet and muddy work & living conditions would mean Monday was likely a long day!

Kindly donated to the Otway Districts Historical Society by the Towers family, Beech Forest. 


Trevaskis, E B I (2001) A Bush Girl, Apollo Bay & District Historical Society, Apollo Bay, Victoria

Victorian Collections, accessed 8 August 2021,