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The Rotary Umbrella Clothesline: History of its Invention.

Posted by Amelia Owens on

In consequence to our search for anything vintage and old either for the sake of nostalgia or for economic benefits, clotheslines have started to make an appearance yet again. As history repeats itself, we are more than aware of the utilitarian value of clotheslines and their ease of maintenance. The Apron Revolution focuses more on the habits of the old which stand as a better economic solution today. And one of its primary intention has been to bring clothesline back into fashion, as a 'green' alternative to the washing machine and clothes dryers which guzzle down huge supple of energy that adds up to a huge electricity bill.

More interesting is this movement's efforts to chart the history of the clotheslines. Nowadays, the rotary umbrella clotheslines is a big hit in many countries, and very few people know that its origin has been embedded in the American soil. Authors of "Hung Out to Dry: Gilbert Toyne's classic Australian Clothes Hoist" challenges the usual notions of Australians who believe that the rotary umbrella clotheslines is their invention, since it has been a part of their daily life as long as they could remember. This tool has been so commonly used, that it has been merged as an icon into the media and given a unique history of its own in the form of comic illustrations, paintings and sculptures, and even poems! But Cas Middlemas and Peter Cuffley set out to get history right this time, and in their research they make an amazing discovery. The umbrella rotary clothesline technology certain has been patented multiple times in the American soil before heading to Australia.

As early as 1956, the basic form of clotheslines became an integral part of both the urban and country life in America. Over the decades, there were multiple inventions and improvements made on the original model to create a tool that would be optimal for drying clothes. Not only was the focus laid on effectiveness but also on comfort and time. The models that were developed eventually gave way to one of the best inventions for the middle class household life- the umbrella rotary clothesline.

The Rotary Umbrella Clothesline of the 21st Century:

Today the umbrella rotary clothesline also spins at the top to ensure that the clothes get drier quickly in a jiffy. Most of these are preferably assimilated by hand without being mass produced, and are created from extremely durable materials. The metal used should be non ferrous so that it would not be threatened by rust, and few companies use bright anodised aluminium which is very easy to clean. The brackets and slides are also made with aluminium and are extremely strong and stable. People can lay heavy items on top of the frame and brackets without causing any sagging. The arms can be folded easily. The whole structure is laid on the basic central mast that is meant for providing support. On top of it lies the top frame that rotates in light breeze.

Early Models of the Clotheslines:

The earliest American model that has been found in records is the "Dickey's patent clothes drying machine". It was mentioned in the August 1851 issue of the "Scientific American". This was an old model that wouldn't hoist up its arms once the clothes were laid on them. But Mr. Dickey did not make the invention, rather he made a slight improvement to the original idea that came from an unnamed mechanic in Worcester, Massachusetts.

In 1854, a patent for rotary clothes hoist was filed by a carpenter named Stephen Woodward. He worked with his other two associates, John Welson and A.C.Caroll so as to improve on the existing design of this tool. This particular design was quite different from the original because it could raise the washed clothes far above the ground so that they would not hinder movement for passers by. This was a rack and pinions system that only elevated the clothesline. A major breakthrough came in 1855 when James Higgins from Indiana in the U.S used the crank and winding drum process to achieve the same result. This was very efficient and seemed like a better alternative.

The biggest leap came with John Mullowney from Pittsburgh in the State of Pennsylvania who in 1875 created a patent for his latest design. His idea focused on a method that would allow people to raise the clothesline frame above the central mast. The mast contained an inner post that was attached to the clothesline frame. When the washed clothes were pegged and laid out on the frame, the whole frame and the interior post it was attached to could be raised together as a unit without any hassle. The benefits of this model were numerous. People no longer had to walk along the clothesline in winters through the snow to peg their clothes. With this rotary umbrella design, they could just stand in one place and peg their clothes onto the frame without any issues. Plus, the big frame contained multiple lines which could accommodate multiple clothes at a time, thus making this process of drying clothes much quicker and time efficient.

It is this design model of Mullowney that became famous enough to inspire the rotary hoist clothesline. This rotary hoist found a permanent place in Australian households of the twentieth century. Both Higgins and Mullowney were the leading pioneers in the clothesline industry because of their contributions. Not only did their models focus on improving the existing tool to make them better, but also to make them more adaptive to the needs of the customers. Now after a century and more, these old drying methods are resurfacing yet again in America. People often choose the rotary umbrella clotheslines to dry their clothes as they are very effective, dependant on renewable sources of energy and do not add to monthly expenditures.

For the Apron Revolution, this act is a recall of the idyllic presence of an age gone by. Where a garden has been seen as a space for only flower beds and landscaping beauties, now a part of it is easily segregated and reserved for the rotary umbrella clothesline. It is efficient and extremely pleasing to the eye as well, for it enriches the value of the home-making activities which create the bedrock for any healthy family.

 


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