Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Martha Washington's Laundry Wash House at Mount Vernon in 18C Virginia

Compiled by Sydney Marenburg 

In the Mount Vernon home of Martha & George Washington. the Laundry or Wash House, enslaved laundresses performed weekly washings for the Washington family, long-term guests, hired white servants, & overseers.

Laundry in the 18C was usually a 3-day, labor-intensive process reserved for household linens, like sheets & tablecloths, & clothing worn closest to the skin: shirts, shifts, & stockings. Many people contributed garments to each laundry load, so clothes & linens often were marked with the owner’s initials or name in ink or cross-stitch. 

At Mount Vernon, as at many other elite 18C houses, the employment contracts of unmarried, white male servants often included the provision of laundry services. (See: Agreement with Burgis Mitchell, 1 May 1762,” 

A married man’s laundry fell to his wife. (See: "George Washington to James Anderson (of Scotland), 7 April 1797,”

George & Martha Washington’s famous hospitality included providing laundry services for Mount Vernon guests staying longer than 1 week (the typical turn-around time of the Wash House.) A constant stream of guests surely created a heavy workload for the enslaved laundresses.

Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, a visiting Polish Nobleman who stayed at the plantation for 2 weeks, noted that the enslaved workers “took care of me, of my linen, of my clothes,” treating him “not as a stranger but as a member of the family.” (See: Ursyn Niemcewicz, Julian, Early Description by Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz. June 5, 1978.)

The 1799 probate inventory taken after George Washington’s death recorded the contents of the Wash House. The building contained 9  tubs, 4 pails, 2  small buckets with handles (called piggins), 4 tables, & 2 copper tubs (called boilers) valued at $34.75. (See: P.C Nash, Fairfax County Will Book J, 1801-1806, Fairfax, Virginia: Fairfax County Court Archives, 1810, George Washington.) 

In addition, 8 jars of soap, valued at $25, were stored in the Mansion cellar. When Washington inherited the property in 1761, the Wash House inventory records 9 hand irons.

Although there were no automated laundry appliances, Mount Vernon’s Wash House was equipped with a built-in brick stove that held a copper kettle over a fire. This was a feature of many elite homes in the 18C & was a relative luxury, as laundresses did not have to move the heavy pots of hot water.

Generally, laundry in the 18C was conducted exclusively by women. (See: Mohun, Arwen Palmer. “Laundrymen Construct Their World: Gender and the Transformation of a Domestic Task to an Industrial Process”The Johns Hopkins University Press and the Society for the History of Technology, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Jan., 1997): 97-120

Woman with Bag of Laundry The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University 

Records from 1759 to 1799 indicate the names of 9 enslaved women & when they were assigned to the Wash House.

Jemima, 1759

Jenny, 1759

Mima, 1787 –1788

Sall, 1786 –1791

Sinah, 1794

Lucy, 1794

Caroline, 1793 –1798

Dolshy, 1786 –1799

Vina, 1798 –1799

Home-care manuals of the 19C instructed that laundry should begin Monday & conclude on Wednesday, leaving Thursday to Saturday free for other work. (See: Leslie, Eliza. Miss Leslie's Lady's House-book: A Manual of Domestic Economy, Containing Approved Directions for Washing, Dress-making, Millinery, Dyeing, Cleaning, etc 1850.  Note: although this source is from a much later period, it is conjectured that the laundry process remained very similar between eras until the widespread use of laundry machines.)

Many of the enslaved women assigned to Mount Vernon’s Wash House were not only doing laundry, but also acted as seamstresses, spinners, & knitters.

Laundresses also needed a wide knowledge of treatments for all sorts of stains on many different fine fabrics. Finer garments made out of wool, silk, & cotton were rarely, if ever, fully washed, but instead spot-treated for stains. 

Laundry was an intense job requiring an incredible amount of physical strength. During the hot Virginia summers, the washhouse would be an almost unbearable temperature due to the constant fires & clouds of billowing steam. Laundresses had to move pounds of clothing, made even heavier with water, from pot to pot & agitate the laundry—all by hand.

The enslaved laundresses began each load by hauling the necessary water & firewood: thirty to fifty gallons of water from the kitchen well to fill copper kettles, & roughly 180 pounds of firewood to feed the boiler that heated water for the first phase of washing. Depending on the volume of laundry, a total of over 100 gallons of water could be necessary. This could entail more than 2 dozen trips back & forth to the well for each day of washing.

Copper kettles, not iron, were used for washing. The water, soap, bleaching agents, & heat would cause iron to leach into the water, potentially ruining delicate linen fabric.

Soap was rubbed over stains & soil, but not added to the water. Items of the highest quality were washed 1st; when the water was cleanest.

Washerwomen agitated the clothes by hand, stirring them in the water or scrubbing them with laundry bats, flat wooden paddles with ridges.

Usually, once cleaned, the clothes would be rinsed in separate water. To keep the fine white fabrics of shirts, shifts, & tablecloths white, sometimes a bluing powder would be added to the water. A bluing powder, made of indigo, would counteract the yellowing of the fabric & make it look whiter. (See: Dunbar, James. Smegmatalogia, or the art of making potashes and soap, and bleaching of linen. By which the industrious farmer is taught to bleach and wash his cloath with the produce of our own country. United Kingdom: the author, 1736.)

To dry, items could be hung over drying racks indoors or spread out on the grass outdoors on warm, dry days.

Once dry, the process of ironing would begin. Ironing required experience & skill: the laundress managed the temperature of at least 3 irons. When one grew too cool, another would be ready for use, hot but not hot enough to burn the fabric.

Finally, the laundry would be folded with the assistance of the housemaids & distributed to the closets of the house & outbuildings.

Much of this research & more are available from George Washington's (1732-1799) home Mount Vernon's website, You can donate to their excellent efforts directly from their website. Please do. 

Women's Work - Doing Laundry in the 15-18C

A Laundress on the Beach, The Decameron, Manuscript 5070. 1432. Arsenal, Paris. 

Soap, mainly soft soap made from ash lye & animal fat, was used by washerwomen supplied by their masters or employers. Soap was rarely used by the poorest people in medieval times but by the 18C soap was fairly widespread: sometimes kept for finer clothing & for tackling stains, not used for the whole wash. 
1736 Giacomo Ceruti (Italian painter, 1698-1767) The Laundress
1736-75 Richard Houston, after Philippe Mercier Domestik Employment 

A variety of preparations might be used on stained clothing. Chalk, brick dust, & pipe clay were used on greasy stains. Alcohol treated grass stains & kerosene, bloodstains. Milk was thought to remove urine stains & fruit. Urine, due to the ammonia content, was often used for bleaching as were lemon & onion juice.
1740 Pietro Longhi (French-born Italian artist, 1701-1785) The Laundress
1730 Jean Siméon Chardin (French artist, 1699-1779) The Laundress

Shakespeare calls a laundry basket a “buck basket.” The phrase might be related to the back-&-forth action of washing laundry, agitating water, soap, & clothes in a tub, not unlike the motion of a bucking horse. A buck was a tub for soaking or washing. And a small buck was a bucket.
1750s Henry Robert Morland (British artist, 1716-1797) A Lady’s Maid soaping Linen

Silk was cleaned by scourers, who fully cleaned gowns, usually only once a year. Mainly they spot-cleaned them, using salt, chalk, or fuller’s earth & solvents like turpentine, lemon juice, warm milk, or urine. The whole gown was not immersed in water or scrubbed. As a result, silk garments tended to last. They were loosely stitched, because sooner or later they would be taken apart & remodeled. In 1763, one of Martha Washington’s old dresses was sent to London to be retailored in a more contemporary style.
1768 Hubert Robert (French painter, 1733-1808) La Bievre

Washing clothes in the river is still the normal way of doing laundry in many parts of the world. Even in prosperous parts of the world riverside washing went on well into the 19C, or longer in rural areas - even when the river was frozen. Stains might be treated at home before being taken to the river. Women might take tools to the river to help the work: like a washing bat or a board to scrub on. 
1782 Camp Laundry. Robert Sayer & J. Bennett. London
1761 Jean-Baptiste Greuze (French painter, 1725-1805) The Laundress

This painting shows a rather well-dressed washerwoman with her utensils. She sits on two boards laid across the top of a buck. The buck’s unplugged hole drains away lye or dirty water. Behind her is a buck basket. Atop the cabinet are a large boiling copper and two earthenware pots. Two sheets dry on the line. And in the lower-left corner is her battledore, or bat, for hammering wet linen until it released its dirt.
1765 Henry Robert Morland (British artist, 1716-1797) A Lady's Maid Soaping Linen

As a rule, wool was dry-cleaned by people called fullers, who tackled stains on woolens using fuller’s earth, a clay that absorbs grease. They also used fuller’s teasel, a thistle, to rough up the fibers & mechanically shake away the offending dirt.
1770 Illustration from Basedow's Elementary Work

A 1770 inventory of the laundry at Williamsburg’s Governor’s Palace in colonial Virginia on the death of Governor Botetourt includes “2 Linnen Baskets, 3 Washing Tubs, 3 Rensing Tubs, 2 pails, 1 Large Iron pot, 1 Large Boyling Copper. ”
1750-80 Mrs Grosvenor Laundry Woman to the Queen  Unknown British Artist

Soaking laundry in lye, cold or hot, was an important way of tackling white & off-white cloth. It was called bucking, & aimed to whiten as well as cleanse. Colored fabrics were seldom used for basic items like sheets & shirts. Ashes & urine were the most important substances for mixing a good "lye" to remove stains & encourage a white color, these acted as de-greasing agents.
1760-70 Nicolo Cavalli (Italian artist, 1730-1832) La Lavandaja

Bucking involved lengthy soaking & was not a weekly wash. Until the idea of a once-a-week wash developed, people tended to have a big laundry session at intervals of several weeks or even months. Many women had agricultural & food preparation duties that would make it impossible for them to "waste" time on hours of laundry work every week. 
1750-80 Miss White Clear Starcher to the Queen Unknown British artist

Starch & bluing were available for better quality linen & clothing. A visitor to England just before 1700 sounded a little surprised at how much soap was used in London: "At London, & in all other Great Britain where they do not burn Wood, they do not make Lye. All their Linnen, coarse & fine, is wash'd with Soap. When you are in a Place where the Linnen can be rinc'd in any large Water, the Stink of the black Soap is almost all clear'd away." M. Misson's Memoirs & Observations in his Travels over England (published in French, 1698)
1774 Henry Robert (British artist c 1716-1797) Laundry Maid (after Moreland)

In most cases, that source was a brigade of servants or slaves who trudged to a nearby well or stream. But in the basement laundry in the colonial Virginia Wren Building at Williamsburg’s College of William & Mary, water was drawn from a well in the center of the room.
1750s Henry Robert Morland (British painter, 1716-1797)  Woman Ironing

Blacksmiths started forging simple flat irons in the late Middle Ages. Plain metal irons were heated by a fire or on a stove. Some were made of stone, like soapstone irons from Italy. Earthenware & terracotta iroms were also used, from the Middle East to France & the Netherlands.

Flat irons were also called sad irons or smoothing irons. Metal handles had to be gripped in a pad or thick rag. Some irons had cool wooden handles. This stayed cool while the metal bases were heated & the idea was widely imitated.  Cool handles stayed even cooler in "asbestos sad irons." The sad in sad iron (or sadiron) is an old word for solid. Goose or tailor's goose was another iron name, & this came from the goose-neck curve in some handles. In Scotland, people spoke of gusing (goosing) irons.

Many 2 irons for an effective system: one in use, & one re-heating. Large households with servants or slaves might have used a special ironing-stove for this purpose. Some were fitted with slots for several irons, & others might have water-jug on top.
1800 Louis Leopold Boily (French painter, 1761-1845) Young Woman Ironing

Box irons, charcoal irons used the base of the iron as a container for putting glowing coals inside it & keep it hot a bit longer.  Notice the hinged lid & the air holes to allow the charcoal to keep smouldering. These are sometimes called ironing boxes, or charcoal box irons, & may come with their own stand.

For centuries charcoal irons have been used in many different countries. When they had a funnel to keep smokey smells away from the cloth, they were sometimes called chimney irons.  Today charcoal irons are manufactured in Asia & also used in much of Africa. 
1750s Henry Robert Morland (British artist, 1716-1797) A Girl Ironing Shirt Sleeves

Some irons were shallower boxes & had fitted "slugs" or "heaters" - slabs of metal - which were heated in the fire & inserted into the base instead of charcoal. It was easier to keep the ironing surface spotlessly clean, away from the fuel, than with flatirons or charcoal irons. 

Brick inserts could be used for a longer-lasting, less intense heat. These are box or slug irons, were also called ironing boxes. In some countries they are called ox-tongue irons after a particular shape of insert. 
 1785 Henry Robert Morland (British artist, 1716-1797) Laundry Maid Ironing

At home, ironing traditional fabrics was a hot, arduous job. Irons had to be kept immaculately clean, sand-papered, & polished. They must be kept away from burning fuel, & be regularly but lightly greased to avoid rusting. Beeswax prevented irons sticking to starched cloth. Constant care was needed over temperature. Experience would help decide when the iron was hot enough, but not so hot that it would scorch the cloth. A well-known test was spitting on the hot metal, but Charles Dickens described someone with a more genteel technique in The Old Curiosity Shop. The ironer held "the iron at an alarmingly short distance from her cheek, to test its temperature..."

The 1770 inventory of the laundry at Williamsburg’s Governor’s Palace in colonial Virginia on the death of Governor Botetourt includes owned “5 Flat Irons, 2 Box Irons, with one Heater to each, 2 Iron Stands, 1 pr of Tongs” The ironing would have been done on Botetourt’s “2 pine Tables,” which were probably padded with his “2 Ironing Cloaths,” wool blankets perhaps pinned to tabletops. 

The inventory of the Palace laundry says that Botetourt had “4 Mangle Cloaths, 1 Mangle.” This was a sort of ironing machine that was coming into use in the late 18C. Also called a box mangle, it was a box of stones resting on 2 large cylinders. When it was rolled across carefully folded items of washing that had been tucked inside the clean mangle cloths, many items could be smoothed and ironed at once.
Women washing clothes in a river, spreading them to dry in the fields alongside and hanging them from a rack, Splendor Solis, Harley 3469, fol. 32v. 1582. British Library, London.  

Wash or the Great Wash were names for the irregular "spring cleaning" of laundry. Soaking in lye & bucking in large wooden bucking tubs were similar to processes used in textile manufacturing. So was the next stage - drying & bleaching clothes & fabrics out of doors. Sunshine helped bleach off-white cloth while drying it. Sometimes cloth was sprinkled at intervals with water &/or a dash of lye to lengthen the process & enhance bleaching.

Towns, larger estate houses, & weavers often had an area of mown grass set aside as a bleaching ground, or drying green, where household linens & clothing could be spread on grass in the daylight. Early settlers in North America established communal bleaching areas like those in European towns & villages. Both washing & drying were often public or local group activities.
Pieter de Hooch  (1629–after 1684 ) A Woman & Child in a Bleaching Ground 1657-1659 Betail Private collection

People also dried clothes by spreading them on bushes in Europe & the North American colonies. Outdoor wooden drying frames & clotheslines are seen in a few paintings from the 16C, but most people would have spread laundry out to dry on grass, hedgerows etc. Clothes pins appear to have been rare before the 18C. 

Drying the laundry in sunshine was, among other things, an effective way of bleaching linen & keeping it white. Spreading laundry on grass, bushes or washing lines out of doors meant there was a risk of having it stolen. In Britain. thieves of white clothes & household linen were sometimes called "snow gatherers."

Well-to-do 17C households were advised that box or privet (primp) hedges were good for drying. They could be clipped to have a "smooth & level" surface. "...a border of Primpe, Boxe, Lauandar, Rose-mary, or such like, but Primpe or Boxe is the best, & it was set thicke, at least eightéene inches broad at the bottome & being kept with cliping both smooth & leuell on the toppe & on each side, those borders as they were ornaments so were they also very profitable to the huswife for the drying of linnen cloaths, yarne, & such like: for the nature of Boxe & Primpe being to grow like a hedge, strong & thicke, together, the Gardiner, with his sheares, may kéepe it as broad & plaine as himselfe listeth." See: Gervase Markham, The English Husbandman, 1613
George Moreland 1792 Drying clothes on Branches of Trees 

In his 1745 Directions to Servants, Jonathan Swift suggests that “the place for hanging” laundry “is on young Fruit Trees, especially in Blossom; the Linnen cannot be torn, and the Trees give them a fine Smell.”  ... “When your Linnen is pinned on the Line, or on a Hedge, and it rains, whip it off, although you tear it, &c. ”

London lawyer  Roger North liked hedges better thja tree limbs. He set down his thoughts on buildings, gardens, & housekeeping in a long manuscript called “Cursory Notes of Building,” which he wrote after the completion of building his country house at Rougham, Norfolk, England in 1698.  For the best clothes drying, North wxplained, “Hedges of prim are best; thorn tears linen, and box is of slow growth, and not sweet.” By “prim” he meant privet. 

Janet Schaw, an Englishwoman, liked little or nothing about the washing methods in early America. She observed laundry being done in Wilmington, NC in 1776.  She wrote that “all the cloaths coarse and fine, bed and table linen, lawns, cambricks and muslins, chints, checks, all are promiscuously thrown into a copper with a quantity of water and a large piece of soap.  This is set a boiling, while a Negro wench turns them over with a stick.”..."This operation [boiling] over, they are taken out, squeezed, & thrown over the Pales to dry. They use no calendar; they are however much better smoothed when washed.  Mrs Miller showed them [how to wash linen] by bleaching those of Miss Rutherfurd, my brother & mine, how different a little labour made them appear, & indeed the power of the sun was extremely apparent in the immediate recovery of some bed & table-linen, that has been so ruined by sea-water that I thought them irrecoverably lost." 

Schaw also noted that North Carolinians were the “worst washers of linen I ever saw, and tho’ it be the country of indigo, they never use blue, nor allow the sun to look at them.”  See: Janet Schaw, Journal of a Lady of Quality; Being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal, in the Years 1774 to 1776, eds, Evangeline Walker Andrews and Charles McLean Andrews,  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921)

University of Maryland English Professor Michael Olmert, who integrates art, architecture, & archaeology into his literature & drama classes, says that in England & America, the large country & town houses often  had dedicated laundry outbuildings, or at least a separate room with a large hearth, dedicated to cleaning and repairing clothes and all sorts of fabrics. Its basic elements were a hearth, space to manipulate the vast copper tubs of hot water, dressers or tables for ironing, ropes or racks overhead for drying, & a source of water. 

Professor Olmert tells us that in Calvert County, Maryland, a 1711 house is listed as having an outside laundry, according to a probate inventory from 1715. 

As with the kitchen in America, the laundry moved out of the main house as the 18C wore on. Originally, most people had washed their clothes in the room where they cooked & lived. But in elite households, both operations moved outside to a separate one-room structure, in which laundering & cooking were once again done at the same hearth.

At the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia, although entirely demolished, the archaeology of the site discovered a laundry building was made of brick & had a basement with a paved floor. The site also had a catchment for wash water, & the floor had brick drains connected to a drainage system that ran from the Palace down to the garden canal.

In Williamsburg, all that remained of the original Tayloe House laundry was a decayed brick foundation that indicated a large chimney & a brick entrance platform where a door would have been. Although there was no record of what the 16-by-12 foot building looked like above ground, it is clear it was framed, to judge by the narrow 8-3/4 inch width of the old foundation; heavier, brick structures have more substantial roots. The reconstruction was given the simplest of roofs, a typical gable-end A-frame with forty-five-degree slope. Colonial precedent was used for the details of weatherboarding, cornice, windows, & shutters. Mainly, the design was meant to match other Tayloe buildings. The paneled door was copied from a number of existing Tayloe doors: six-paneled, but with the paneling on one side. It is a workaday structure.

A laundry near a kitchen appears in 1770s Williamsburg in colonial Virginia, The ledger of Williamsburg builder Humphrey Harwood shows that October 9, 1777, he was paid 19 shillings for whitewashing the kitchen & laundry of printer Alexander Purdie. On May 14, 1783, Harwood got 12 shillings for repairing the plaster in the kitchen & laundry of Susanna Riddell. Before she died in December 1785, Riddell lived on Francis Street. Her home is gone, but the archaeological report on her kitchen site indicates it had 2 rooms & was likely a kitchen-laundry. Riddell also rented the Everard House in Williamsburg & its brick laundry, a separate building with a massive chimney & attic. On July 13, 1784, Humphrey Harwood got another 7s 6p for whitewashing the Riddell laundry.

The Nicholas-Tyler Laundry & its matching office fronted Francis Street, according to the Frenchman’s Map, the 18C military map detailing Williamsburg’s structures. An 1820 insurance plat shows the building & lists it as “wood, one story, 16 x 36’, valued at $400.” The laundry was pulled down in the mid-19C century & was reconstructed on its original footprint in 1931 & 1940.

Professor Olmert notes that in Williamsburg, Virginia, Wetherburn’s Tavern (& laundry) was a combination kitchen-laundry, servicing an ordinary that catered to overnight guests as well as townies out for a meal, a drink, a chat, & a card game. Wetherburn’s estate inventory says he owned 20 pairs of sheets, 19 pillowcases, 18 tablecloths, 27 napkins, & 17 towels. He also had 12 very busy slaves.

In Annapolis, Maryland, the 1739 Ogle Hall had a “brick kitchen & laundry 16 by 32” feet, according to the United States Direct Tax of 1798. 

In Lunenberg County, Virginia, Cumberland Parish built a 28-by-16-foot kitchen-laundry that must have been a two-room structure, because the vestry book stipulates the kitchen floor is to be tiled, while the laundry floor is “to be layd with Plank." The entry requires the laundry walls to be “lath’d & plastered.” 

An elegant two-room laundry still exists at 1739’s Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County, Virginia, made of brick & plastered throughout.

Olmert's observations are verified beginning in the 1750s up to the Revolution, when colonial American houses with combination kitchens & laundries appeared for sale ads in regional newspapers.

The PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE. September 22, 1757
To be exceeding good large Brick Dwelling house, in the Town of Newcastle, almost opposite to the Court house, a fine Garden and Lot thereto adjoining, with an excellent Laundry , Kitchen, Stable, Chaise house, and other Houses thereto belonging, a large commodious Cellar under the whole House...John Land 

A BEAUTIFUL tract of LAND, situated on Rappahannock river, about half a mile below Port Royal , containing 700 acres, on which is a very good brick house one story high, 4 rooms and 3 closets on the lower floor, and 2 above, a good cellar under it, a portico 52 feet long and 8 wide facing the river, a 12 foot porch on the front side, a good kitchen and laundry with a brick chimney, a garden 200 feet square paled in with sewed pales, poplar rails, and cedar posts

I PURPOSE to reside in the county of Culpeper , as soon as I can sell my habitation and estate in and near Fredericksburg for near its value. I therefore now offer it for sale; and, although the great worth of it is well known, yet it may not be amiss to describe it, that it may be more generally known. The dwelling-house is very pleasantly situated on the main street, in a retired part of the town, and near the river, where a ship may lie close to the shore. There are three very good rooms, a large airy passage, and two large closets, below stairs, and three commodious dry cellars, with stone walls; and up stairs are four good chambers, with three fire-places, and a large closet. The out-houses are, a new built kitchen and laundry under one roof, with two good white limed rooms and fire-placed above stairs, two other common kitchens for servants to lodge in, two diaries, one of them built with freestone, with several steps under ground; there are many other conveniences, such as a smokehouse, hen houses, a well of water, and several yards wood, fowls, &c. a large coach house, with stables at each end, and two other stables and a large stable yard, and cooper's and shoemaker's shop. These improvements are fixed on three lots and a half of ground, consisting of half an acre each; the garden contains an acre of ground, is well paled in with locust posts, and the north west end has a high freestone wall, and is well stocked with fruits and every thing necessary for a family...Roger Dixon

I plantation, handsomely situated on Corotoman river, containing about 400 acres, on which is a large and very commodious dwelling-house, above 50 feet long and 30 wide, with six good rooms and a fireplace to each, five closets, two large passages, and cellars under the whole, in three rooms. There is another house divided into a kitchen and laundry, with lodging rooms above, also a neat dairy and meat house, all new, and handsomely finished, and several outhouses. There are two very good springs, and fish and oysters very convenient, besides good landings, and water for vessels of any burthen...James Waddel

I will dispose of the Tract of LAND whereon I live, containing about 820 Acres, six Miles from Petersburg , mostly very level, good Wheat and Corn Land, as may appear from the present crop of fifty Acres sown in Wheat; it is well timbered with Pine, White and Red Oak, has on it a new Dwelling-House 32 Feet by 18, neatly finished, good Cellars, a new Kitchen and Laundry 36 Feet by 18...Duncan Rose

Publication: THE VIRGINIA GAZETTE. December 8, 1774
THE purchase I lately made of Warner Washington , Esq; consisting of an exceeding good Brick House with five Windows in Front, a very good Kitchen and Laundry , Coach House and Stables (the Latter entirely new) Negro Quarters, &c. together with 2000 Acres of Land, more or less, whereof about 500 Acres adjoin to the House...Jonathn Watson

THE VIRGINIA GAZETTE 3.  January 17, 1777
I HAVE for sale a valuable plantation, on Nottoway river, adjacent to Freeman's bridge, about 500 acres, whereon is a dwelling-house, with two rooms below and two above, with a passage on each floor underpinned and brick chimnies, and a cellar under the whole, a kitchen and laundry , of the whole building underpinned, and a stack of chimnies in the middle...Augustine Claiborne

THE VIRGINIA GAZETTE 3. April 18, 1777
For SALE , EIGHT valuable lots in the town of Fredericksburg , on which are the following improvements, viz. A large and commodious brick dwelling-house, two stories high, with five rooms on a floor, and a good cellar, a kitchen, laundry , wash house, meat house, dairy, joiner's shop, stable, coach house, and granary; also a brick storehouse and warehouse convenient, well situated for trade, being on them in street. Four of those lots are well improved with a good falling garden, &c. , the others are under a good enclosure...Edward Carter

Port Royal. TO BE SOLD...a valuable House on the Market Square in this City, with 4 handsome Rooms below neatly papered, and a Fire Place in each, with 3 Closets, and 6 Rooms above, with dry Cellars under the Whole, a good Kitchen and Laundry , with Closets, a Brick Dairy, Corn House, Smokehouse, Stable, and Coach Houses, with a Flower and Kitchen Garden, well paled in; also a small House adjoining, with 2 Rooms and Fire Places, a good Cellar, and Yard...John Baker

Even the early decades of the 19C saw the kitchen & the laundry combined in an outbuilding in Washington, DC, where the Octagon House had a separate wood-frame laundry built in 1817. Writing in 1870, a family member said the structure was “a two story house for the laundry & servant rooms.”


“Fuller’s earth”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc.,

Leed, Drea. “Ye Shall Have It Clene” : Textile Cleaning Techniques in Renaissance Europe. In Robin Netherton and Gale R. Owen-Crocker (Eds), Medieval Clothing and Textiles 2. Woodbridge, UK Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2006.

Markham, Gervase. The English Houswife : Containing the Inward and Outward Vertues Which Ought to Be in a Compleat Woman: As Her Skill in Physick, Surgery, Cookery, Extraction of Oyls, Banquetting Stuff, Ordering of Great Feasts, Preserving of All Sorts of Wines, Conceited Secrets, Distillations, Perfumes, Ordering of Wool, Hemp, Flax: Making Cloth and Dying; the Knowldege of Dayries: Office of Malting; of Oats, Their Excellent Uses in a Family: Af Brewing, Baking and All Other Things Belonging to an Houshold. a Work Generally Approved, and Now the Eighth Time Much Augmented, Purged, and Made Most Profitable and Necessary for All Men, and the General Good of This Nation. London: Printed By I.B. for R. Jackson, 1615. 

Sim, Alison. The Tudor Housewife. The History Press: Stroud, 1996. 

Wheeler, Jo. Renaissance Secrets, Recipes & Formulas. London New York: Victoria and Albert Museum. Harry N. Abrams, 2009.