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laundromat

Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 7:54 pm
by Archived Topic
What is the origin of the word laundromat?
Submitted by kris campbell (cherry valley - U.S.A.)

laundromat

Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 8:07 pm
by Archived Reply
Random Hse Dict says it was a trademark, like victrola
Reply from dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)

laundromat

Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 8:21 pm
by Archived Reply
Kris, It’s funny you should ask because the person who coined the word was my father, Harry Greenwald. When I was a wee lad living in an apartment house in Brooklyn, New York, in the early 1940s, my father, who was a prolific inventor, got an idea. The majority of the people in our building used the old washboard method of doing their laundry, but a few owned washing machines and were the envy of everyone. My father got the idea to put a coin meter (25 cent) on a washing machine and got permission from the building owner to set up one machine in the basement. In very short order people were standing in line to use the machine. He then got permission to set up several machines and they were almost in constant use. He realized he had hit on something that had real possibilities and the concept of setting up coin-operated washing machines in stores was born.

He got the idea for the name LAUNDROMAT from the Horn & Hardart Automat in Times Square in Manhattan where he used to eat lunch. Horn & Hardart was a restaurant in which the walls were covered with glass-doored boxes which would unlock when a coin was dropped in a slot. He had thought of several possibilities for store names but settled on Laundromat which combined ‘laundry’ with ‘automat.’ My father had little interest in actually opening stores, but decided what he wanted to do was manufacture the meters. He went to Westinghouse Electric, a manufacturer of washing machines, with his concept and set up a relationship in which he would manufacture the meters and they would use his meters exclusively and hook them up to their machines in their factory.

It should be noted that originally there were washing machine stores without meters in which you paid an attendant and the early Laundromats sometimes just had a few metered machines with the rest being handled by an attendant. The washing machine stores eventually became the LAUNDROMAT franchise, but Westinghouse didn’t actually trademark the word until 1947, and the first full-fledged 24-hour, self-service store, as we know them today, didn’t appear until 1949 in Austin Texas – and the rest, as they say, is history. My father went on to form Greenwald Company, which became Greenwald Industries in 1954, the largest manufacturer of coin meters for washers, dryers, and vending machines in the world, and the business is still running strong today. I have the millionth meter, which was manufactured back in the 1960s, sitting on my shelf.

The first public appearance in print of the word Laundromat that the OED cites is 1943, although, I have some examples of it in documents dating from a bit earlier.
<1943 “LAUNDROMAT. Domestic electric washing (laundering) machines. Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company..Pennsylvania.”—‘Trade Marks Journal’>

<1951 “The Westinghouse Company has a ‘Laundramat’, and there are also ‘Laundromats’—often called ‘Laundermats’ and ‘Laundrymats’—open for public patronage.”—‘American Speech,’ XXVI. page 166>

<1955 “The village mind was still churning up the past, tossing the old dirty linen back and forth impersonally, like one of the washing machines in the new LAUNDROMAT [[l.c.]]”—‘Charmed Life’ (1956) by M. McCarthy, i. page 20>

<1956 “Junior colleges, jet-plane factories, LAUNDROMATS, six-lane highways.”—‘Adonis and the Alphabet,’ by Aldous Huxley, page 148>

<1957 “I . . . found nothing but LAUNDROMATS [[l.c.]], cleaners, soda fountains.”—‘On the Road’ (1958) by Jack Kerouac, III. ii. page 187>
(Oxford English Dictionary)
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Ken G – December 7, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)

laundromat

Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 8:34 pm
by Archived Reply
Thanks for that entertaining and enlightning response. Under the present fog of forum bushfires, this is meant (again) sincerely and without any toadying. Appreciated.
Robert
Reply from Robert Masters (Asia - Thailand)

laundromat

Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 8:47 pm
by Archived Reply
Great story Ken.
And it just goes to show that coincidences can and do, very often, happen.
The chances of that question coming to a site on which the son of the originator of the word (and invention) was the senior contributor is astronomic.
I, for one, very much believe in synchronicity and this seems to be a prime example. (Similar, I suppose, to me having read Robert's book, but let's leave that one well alone!!!)
Reply from Leighton Harris (Cambridge - England)

laundromat

Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 9:01 pm
by Archived Reply
And, just for the record, the source of the word is from the French 'lavanderie', and from the Latin lavendaria, plural of lavandarium "things to be washed," from lavare "to wash" .The verb launder "to wash linen" is from 1664; criminal banking sense first recorded 1961, from notion of making dirty money seem clean; brought to widespread use during Watergate scandal in 1973. Laundry list in figurative sense is from 1958. Laundromat is from 1943 {as Ken says} originally a proprietary name by Westinghouse, which belonged to Ken's father.
Reply from Leighton Harris (Cambridge - England)

laundromat

Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 9:14 pm
by Archived Reply
There is an interesting connection between the word LAUNDRY (wash) and the word LAVENDER (plant, color). The verb ‘launder’ (1664) derives from the noun ‘launder’ (1350), one who washes, especially linen, and was a contraction of the earlier and now obsolete ‘lavender.’ A ‘lavender’ (circa 1300) was originally a washerwoman, laundress and earlier also (‘rarely’), a man who washes clothes, a washerman. This usage ultimately derived (through similar Old French variations) from Medieval ‘lavandaria,’ a washer, from Latin ‘lavanda,’ things to be washed, from ‘lavare,’ to wash, bathe. The now obsolete noun ‘lavendry’ (1377) came to mean ‘the action or process of washing,’ which first appeared (in this same obsolete sense) as ‘laundry’ (1530). In 1577 ‘laundry’ took on the additional meaning of an apartment or establishment, where linen, etc. is washed and ‘got up’ (hung up).

But very surprisingly ‘laundry’ did not take on the modern sense of ‘articles that need to be, or that have been, laundered’ until the early 20th century (see 1916 quote below). The verb ‘laundry’ appeared in 1880, but in the 20th century largely gave way to the earlier ‘launder.’

<1916 “The proletariat hung LAUNDRY to dry over royal salamanders and proud escutcheons.”—‘Wonderful Year’ by W. J. Locke, ii. page 50; “Women below at the water's edge beat their LAUNDRY with lusty arms.”— ‘Ibid.’ v. page 67>
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LAVENDER (~1265) the pale bluish purple color and the plant and fragrance that we know and love was borrowed from Anglo-French ‘lavendre,’ our lavender, from Medieval Latin ‘lavandula,’ ‘lavendula,’ ‘livendula,’ nasalized variation of ‘lividula,’ a plant livid in color, or ‘lavender’ as we know it. And this is thought to come from Latin ‘lividus,’bluish, ‘livid.’ It was probably later associated with French ‘lavande’ and Italian ‘lavanda,’ our ‘lavender,’ from ‘lavanda,’ a washing (so called because of its use in washing and to perfume distilled water), and also from the Latin ‘lavare,’ to wash, bathe, from the plant’s ancient use as a bath perfume.
<circa 1265 “Lavendula, LAVENDRE”—Vocabulary of Plants’ in Wr. Wülcker, page 557/9>

<1440 “LAVENDERE, herbe, Lavendula.”—‘Promp. Parv.,[page 290/1>
(Oxford English Dictionary, Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, Random House and Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary)
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Ken G – December 8, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)

laundromat

Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 9:27 pm
by Archived Reply
Ken
I got 68,900 hits on Google for Greenwald Industries! WOW
Reply from Gary Wallington (Akolele - Australia)

laundromat

Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 9:41 pm
by Archived Reply
Gary, when you google for Greenwald Industries without using quotation marks, you also get hits like, "'Ultimately, I envision Davis as a small, self-contained city with strong high-tech, arts and entertainment industries,' Greenwald said."
To limit your search to Greenwald Industries, you must put the term between quotation marks. Nothing against Ken's dad, but that gives a more objective picture.
Reply from Hans Joerg Rothenberger (Walenstadt - Switzerland)

laundromat

Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 9:54 pm
by Archived Reply
I know Hans Joerg, but I was jjust having fun (:>)
Reply from Gary Wallington (Akolele - Australia)

Re: laundromat

Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2019 8:00 am
by RabbiR.Karpov,Ph.D.
If I can get access to the earlier usages of "laundromat" than the OED cites, I'd like to help get the OED updated.

I happened on this while researching course materials for Humanities II (which includes the Industrial Revolution). I knew about this because my late father had told me -- Harry Greenwald was his uncle, brother of his mother, Bess (Pessl) Karp (nee Greenwald). I have been grateful that this device's invention freed-up a woman's time so she could go do something else with it, making more feasible women's doing other things such as acquire more education.

Getting the OED updated, if it hasn't been already, would be the least that I could do to give back.

Re: laundromat

Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2019 4:12 pm
by Rufus Miles
fascinating stuff,