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April 19, 2024

April 18, 1934: World’s First Washateria Opened

On April 18, 1934, the first laundromat (called a “washateria”) was opened by John F. Cantrell in Fort Worth, Texas; four electric washing machines were rented to members of the public on an hourly basis.

The electric-powered washing machine, invented in 1908, was a great time- and sweat-saving device—but only for those who could afford it and had regular electricity. J.F. Cantrell noticed that many in his Fort Worth (Texas, USA) community didn’t fit that description. In 1934, Cantrell purchased four electric washing machines and installed them in the same building. He charged people by the hour to clean their clothes in his “washateria,” now better known as a “laundromat.” This marked the beginning of the laundromat industry, which was initially viewed as a luxury during the Great Depression.

The name “washateria” was inspired by the idea of washing clothes combined with cheap cafeterias where people got their meals. These early laundromats were not coin-operated and had attendants on duty at all times. By the late 1940s, the first unattended, 24-hour laundromats were opened, marking a shift towards fully automated, self-service facilities. Today, most laundromats in the U.S. are coin-operated, unstaffed, and open 24 hours a day.


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