Today, doing the laundry is usually accomplished in one of two ways: We own an automatic washer and dryer and do the laundry at home, or we pack up our clothes in baskets or bags and head to a laundromat. When I was a child living on a farm, we also packed our clothes in baskets and took them to a laundry in town. There we paid to use an electric Maytag wringer washer and three additional tubs of water for rinsing the washed clothes.
An early scene in my novel, Cordelia’s Journey, has my main character, Cordelia, doing laundry. Even though I had a general idea of what was involved in washing clothes in 1855, I needed details. An Internet search brought up many sites. One of the most useful was Old & Interesting, and not just for laundry. The site’s subtitle, “History of Domestic Paraphernalia,” accurately describes the range of articles on cooking, cleaning, and household furnishings through the ages. Not only was I able to set Cordelia up with wooden tubs and a plunger but found descriptions of irons, butter churns, log cabin beds, and more. Since this site covers domestic life from medieval times through the early 1900s, I spent a guilty afternoon dipping into the past instead of writing about it. If you have a favorite site involving nineteenth century household furnishings, please leave a comment with a link.