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August 5, 2015

14 Amazing Vintage Photos That Capture Laundry Scenes of New York City in the 1930s

Line drying has largely disappeared from New York as so many traditions of the lower classes in the name of social progress. Industrialized laundries with delivery and drop off were introduced as a convenience service to the middle class at the turn-of-the-century.

Electric dryers were developed in the 1930s, but did not become marketable until the late 1940s and early ’50s. Soon, New Yorkers began to haul their laundry (as most do now) in swollen bags down the narrow passages and steep stairwells of their buildings through the street to laundromats lined with self-service machines and coin dispensers.

A view down an alley, as rows and rows of laundry hang from tenements, New York City, ca. 1930s. Seen looking west from 70 Columbus Avenue or Amsterdam Avenue at 63nd Street. (NYC Municipal Archives)

Tudor City from 39th Street. c. 1930-1933. (Museum of the City of New York)

Court of the First Model Tenements in New York City. March 16, 1936. (Museum of the City of New York)

View of clothesline strung between windows in brick courtyard, 1392 Madison Ave. ca. 1933. (Museum of the City of New York)

Greenwich Street. 1932.(Museum of the City of New York)

Vacant Lot between Buildings at 148th St., 1939. (Museum of the City of New York)

Hanging laundry, 1940. (Museum of the City of New York)

Wooden Rear Tenements–Children Playing in Dirt. 1935. (Museum of the City of New York)

Rows of laundry outside a New York City apartment house, 1935. (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Tenements, New York, ca. 1937. (The Jewish Museum)

Laundry, New York City, ca. 1930s.

Laundry, New York City, ca. 1934.

A woman hanging out the laundry on the roof of her building, New York City, 1939.


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