Washers and Dryers

oldwasherformainpic




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  • Baseline CPI 1962 – 15.9
  • Today’s CPI (April 2016) – 128.3 (May CPI not yet available)
  • 1962 prices in today’s dollar – 1962 price X 8.07

Today large appliances are often sold through specialty stores that sell nothing but appliances. But you can still get most appliances at your local department store as well as at some big box stores.

Back in 1962, Eaton’s was known as Canada’s Department Store. It had a presence coast to coast, not just with its stores in large cities, but also through its catalogues. Eaton’s was a pioneer in mail order to rural communities. And it sold just about everything – yes – even the kitchen sink!

I remember in 1962 we had a fairly modern washer and dryer, possibly purchased at Eaton’s. We lived in a suburb of Montreal at the time.  Our machines looked something like the ones below.

modernwasherdryerpage416

The deluxe washer and dryer on the left, at $289.95 and $184.95 respectively, would cost $2339.90 and $1492.55 in today’s dollar. Cheaper models were also listed at $219.95 for the washer and $164.95 for the dryer. That’s $1774.99 and $1331.15 respectively. All were Viking Brand – Eaton’s in-house brand.

Today washers at the Bay go for $849.99 for a Maytag model (currently on sale for $699.99) to $2049.99 for a high end Bosch. Sears has them starting at $449.99 for a Kenmore (Sears’ House Brand) to $2319.99 for a large LG model. But that one is a combination washer/dryer so you don’t have to buy a separate dryer. The highest priced stand alone washer at Sears is $1697.91. That model is less than the cheapest one at Eaton’s in 1962. The low cost Kenmore is less than a third of the price of the budget model of 1962.

Dryers ranger from $749.99 (currently on sale for $599.99) and up at the Bay  and $349.99 and up at Sears. The budget dryer is almost a quarter of the price of the 1962 model.

But those are the modern style washers and dryers. The Eaton’s 1962 Spring and Summer Catalogue featured just those four items – a half page in the catalogue. The styles shown below took up a full page!

oldstylewasherpage417

Yes! There were more of the old barrel washers with wringers in the catalogue than the modern style. What’s a wringer you ask, you young whippersnapper! Well back in the day, and I remember my mom used one before we moved to Quebec, washers had two rollers on top. You would pass the washed clothes through these rollers to squish out as much water as possible before hanging them on a clothesline. This model sold for $124.88 or $1007.78 in today’s dollar. The model below, with a square basin, sold for $142.95 or $1153.61 today.

olderstylewasherpage417

And…remember this was the prairie edition of the catalogue and it was likely that some rural homes did not, in fact, have electricity, so they also had a gas powered model running on a 1¼ h.p. Briggs & Stratton gasoline engine. It came with a long hose to carry exhaust fumes outside.

oldstylegaswasherpage417

At $174.95, this baby would set you back $1411.85 in today’s dollar!

Now the washing machine may seem like a mundane device to most of us leading comfortable lives in modern western societies. But this simple look back at the day when wringer washers were common and much of the work of washday, wringing clothes and hanging them on a clothesline, were unexceptional, should give us pause. I urge you to watch the video below for a fascinating TED talk on just how revolutionary an invention the washing machine really is and what it means to women around the world. And especially what it could mean for the millions of women who are still without this labor-saving device.

I welcome feedback and if there is anything specific you want to see, I’ll try and accommodate requests. I am selecting pages I find interesting right now rather than going sequentially. This catalogue starts with 135 pages of women’s fashions, which is a bit daunting to say the least and will need to be broken into smaller categories for sure. If you go to the catalogue pages, you can browse the individual catalogue pages I have scanned already. The items in today’s post come from pages 416 and 417 of the catalogue.




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