Laundry On The Road

Tonight I return to a post from March 14 about clothing to discuss a necessary activity regarding clothing: laundry.  For a three-months-long trip, laundry was a regular task, and unlike today it wasn’t as simple as a fancy hotel’s ability to do it for you or to go to the nearest laundromat (granted I know many who have had to wash something in a hotel sink, including myself).  Electric washing machines did exist, but they were not common.

“A Woman’s Advice on Motor Camping” recommended that women wash their underwear and stockings as soon as they got dirty to ensure that one always had a clean pair of each.[1]  Although the girls may have done this, it wasn’t noteworthy.  Dotty only wrote home when they did a large volume of laundry, and in total the topic of laundry appeared four times in her writing.  During their stay in San Diego where the three girls, visiting relatives of Edie and Evelyn Stohl, found themselves able to use a washing machine.  Their “big pajamas” became “white as snow.”  In Three Forks, Montana, the three washed so much laundry in their hotel room (stringing clothing all around their room) that they used all of the available hot water.  After that they were “afraid to meet the landlady.”  They also mentioned washing their clothes in a cabin outside of Tacoma, Washington and at a “fine camp” in Cody, Wyoming.[2]

In addition to advice on when to wash one’s clothes after they were worn, some prescriptive articles of the time also provided ideas on how to keep clothes clean when they were not in use.  T. H. Peterson, for example, securely wrapped the suitcases containing her nice clothes with heavy paper to keep out the dust, and she did not remove them until she reached the hotel.[3]  Heavy paper and canvas tarps appear to be the standard method of in-car storage covering, perhaps because these were the most convenient options and required the least amount of space.

The largest threat against cleanliness, both in and out of the car, was dust—Dotty writes, “everything gets coated in it.”[4]  This “everything” included the three travelers.  It was a common problem of the time, and as such personal cleanliness and care was a common topic in prescriptive literature.  More on that in a future post.

[1] “A Woman’s Advice on Motor Camping,” Literary Digest, 86.
[2] Guyott, Dorothy, Letter from San Diego, October 28, 1929; Guyott, Letter from Missoula, Montana; Guyott, Letter from Tacoma, Washington, September 26, 1929; Guyott, Postcard from Cody, Wyoming, September 15, 1929.
[3] T. H. Peterson, “Just Girls: They Motor Across Half the Continent and Over the Rockies,” Ladies’ Home Journal, April 1925, 205.
[4] Guyott, Dorothy, Postcard from the Grand Canyon, November 15, 1929.

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8 Responses to Laundry On The Road

  1. Bud Gates says:


  2. Claire says:

    Were they ever charged to do their laundry, like in a laundromat?

  3. Jim says:

    Ah yes, dust, a common driving problem at a time before highways were always paved in a hard surface.

    • I’ve been trying to picture it, and the best image I can come up with today is how road salt completely discolors cars during the winter. Thankfully cars are enclosed now, definitely not something I’d want to be covered in. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

  4. Pingback: Dust Everywhere | Three Months By Car

  5. Pingback: A Quick Note on Camps and Cabins | Three Months By Car

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