Thread Number: 79498  /  Tag: Vintage Automatic Washers
"Laundromat" trademark?
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Post# 1033988   5/30/2019 at 18:34 (409 days old) by LowEfficiency (Iowa)        

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So today's Picture of the Day is of the Westinghouse 1000 Laundromat machines... and at the bottom of the advertisement is the small print:

"Laundromat is a Westinghouse registered trademark"

What's the history on this term? How did it come to be that Westinghouse had a trademark for a machine, with the same name as what we know of as a location having self-service laundry facilities? Being in the same category (Laundry-related), I would have thought that one or the other usage would not have been permitted. ie: Westinghouse would have either vigorously fought any other use of the word "Laundromat" to protect their trademark, or Westinghouse would have not been granted the trademark at all due to an existing common usage.

Anyone happen to know the story?

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Post# 1033991 , Reply# 1   5/30/2019 at 18:57 (409 days old) by CircleW (NE Cincinnati OH area)        

Laundromat was not only the trademark for the Westinghouse washers, but also for the Westinghouse equipped coin-op laundries. Evidently the trademark lapsed at some point in time.

My mom (from Hattiesburg, MS) always called such places "washaterias", and I also tend to do so, as that is what many people in the south call them.

Post# 1033995 , Reply# 2   5/30/2019 at 19:28 (409 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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Many older brand names became the generic term for a kind of appliance. "Frigidaire" for example, especially here in La Belle Province, became the catch-all term for a household refrigerator. It still sticks to this day...

Two others I can think of off the top of my head are "Disposall" and "Radarange". Only on Saturday Night Live do I recall "Norge" also being used a generic term for a 'fridge, though... LOL

Post# 1034003 , Reply# 3   5/30/2019 at 20:41 (409 days old) by jeb (Mansfield Ohiio)        

My grandmother always call her washing machine a laundromat. "They just delivered my new laundromat and dryer".

Post# 1034011 , Reply# 4   5/30/2019 at 23:41 (409 days old) by Washerlover (Lake County, California: Wines With Altitude)        

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Well all I can say to that is I hate it when people say “laundrymat..!”

Post# 1034014 , Reply# 5   5/31/2019 at 00:12 (409 days old) by askolover (South of Nash Vegas, TN)        

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In Tennessee I've heard laundromat, washateria, and coin laundry.  No rhyme or reason related to East, Middle, or West TN.  Tony refers to our fridge as the Frigidaire as did my grandmother (but hers actually was a Frigidaire...ours is a Maytag).

Post# 1034019 , Reply# 6   5/31/2019 at 01:59 (409 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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George Edward Pendray invented word "Laundromat" for his employer Westinghouse Electric Corp, which they promptly used for their new "automatic washing machines". Westinghouse also registered the name "Laundromat" as their trademark.

As the 1940's wore on into the 1950's and beyond washerterias or any place where there were self service washing machines came to be known as "laundromats". But places couldn't officially name themselves such because the word was a registered trademark of Westinghouse, and used on their washing machines.

Much like people refer to any box of tissues as Kleenex, but no one can use that brand name as it is a registered trademark. This also explains why spell checking software world over corrects "laundromat" if spelled with a lower case "l". It is a proper noun when referring to Westinghouse washers, but not so when used generically.

Westinghouse allowed the trademark rights to "Laundromat" to expire in 1993. So now yes, places can call themselves "Bob's Laundromat".

Post# 1034021 , Reply# 7   5/31/2019 at 05:05 (409 days old) by arbilab (Ft Worth TX (Ridglea))        

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IINM, Westinghouse 'expired' in 1993.

Post# 1034023 , Reply# 8   5/31/2019 at 06:06 (408 days old) by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

I grew up hearing coin laundries called Launderettes, a service mark for self service laundries that was established in 1946, according to the dictionary. I am still not certain about derivation of the name of the business I saw in DC called Beautyrette.

Post# 1034033 , Reply# 9   5/31/2019 at 07:43 (408 days old) by Unimatic1140 (Minneapolis)        

The timeline of the word is interesting. Every since the mid 60's I remember my mother and grandmother using the word laundromat to describe coin-laundries. Makes me wonder if the majority of very early coin laundries in certain cities were equipped with Westinghouse Laundromats.

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Post# 1034049 , Reply# 10   5/31/2019 at 11:31 (408 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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Was the name used by Telecoin Corporation (now defunct) for their franchise laundromats.

Telecoin was in the business of supplying coin meters used to operate everything from juke boxes to arcade machines (including pinball). They go the idea of slapping such a device onto these new automatic washing machines, and voilà, you had a coin operated machine.

IIRC Bendix washers were used and Telcoin had a worldwide reach.

Self serve laundries were a boon in not only post war USA, but elsewhere as well. Prior to this there were "wash houses" or public laundries however machines were operated either by staff, and or one paid a fee to an attendant which entitled one to access machines.


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This post was last edited 05/31/2019 at 12:03
Post# 1034050 , Reply# 11   5/31/2019 at 11:31 (408 days old) by Sudsomatic (Indiana)        
The explanations make a lot of sense

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It kind of reminds me of how (most) people refer to any type of facial tissue as a Kleenex when in reality that's not what they are officially called it was just the most recognized brand name and eventually came to be the items definition.


Some people do it with soft drinks too, where any dark colored pop is referred to as Coke even if it's actually Pepsi, RC Cola, or similar.


I don't hear it a lot now but Linoleum was kind of like that too.. any smooth  patterned kitchen floor was called linoleum even if it was actually vinyl or some other material.

Post# 1034052 , Reply# 12   5/31/2019 at 11:40 (408 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
There is a whole long list of brand names

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That are now used generically...

Frigidaire is used by some to refer to refrigerators. Ditto with "Coolerator"


Jet Ski

Bubble Wrap




Dry Ice

Post# 1034054 , Reply# 13   5/31/2019 at 11:47 (408 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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From the archives:

Both Westinghouse and Bendix washers are represented.

Post# 1034055 , Reply# 14   5/31/2019 at 11:51 (408 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Happy Anniversary Britain

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First laundryette opened in May, 1949!

Located in Bayswater and still is in existence.

Arrival of self-service laundries caused the British market for wringers and washboards to virtually collapse. The things spread to every corner of GB where laundryettes could be found on high streets and elsewhere. Cue Dot Cotton and her service washes. Hahaha

Post# 1034076 , Reply# 15   5/31/2019 at 16:44 (408 days old) by Sudsomatic (Indiana)        

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Neat!  And I learned a new word "Eponym" haha

Post# 1034080 , Reply# 16   5/31/2019 at 18:23 (408 days old) by appnut (TX)        
can call themselves "Bob's Laundromat".

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Featuring ……. BobLoads.  

Post# 1034098 , Reply# 17   6/1/2019 at 00:08 (408 days old) by tolivac (greenville nc)        

Brands used generically-----"bush hog" for any tractor drawn rough cut mower,"skilsaw" for any hand held circular saw-and of course "Kleenex" for any face tissues.Oh yes-"dremel tool" for any hand held small rotary tool.

Post# 1034099 , Reply# 18   6/1/2019 at 00:15 (408 days old) by askolover (South of Nash Vegas, TN)        

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Weed-eater for any string trimmer.

Post# 1034106 , Reply# 19   6/1/2019 at 04:45 (408 days old) by goatfarmer (South Bend, home of Champions)        

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Post# 1034115 , Reply# 20   6/1/2019 at 07:23 (407 days old) by Kate1 (PNW)        

I had always wondered where the term laundromat came from. It makes a lot more sense as the name of an automatic washer rather than a coin op laundry. It’s funny how things like that happen. Speaking of the original picture though, I loved how the washer’s control panel looked straight out of Star Trek. If the Enterprise had laundry and not just zapping the soil out of clothes in the 23rd century, it would have been a fleet of these washers.

Post# 1034157 , Reply# 21   6/1/2019 at 17:25 (407 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Word "Mat" shortened from Automatically

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Was becoming big by the 1930's and 1940's.

Between the whole Streamline Moderne movement coupled with advances in electric appliances there were changes afoot. Many of them were geared towards making life easier and or better for those involved in housekeeping.

As founder of this wonderful website, and our dear Webmaster made clear doing laundry "automatically" was a dream come true for many.

While various conventional/wringer washers had been around since early part of 1900's, most still required some sort of user interaction. This meant while wash day was shortened from two or three days down to several hours, one still was tied down for that period. This was of course even if one could afford or had access to such devices. Well though the 1940's/1950's plenty were still doing washing with tubs, washboards and maybe hand cranked mangle.

Westinghouse had the "Laundromat", Bendix the "Economat", and on a side note you could get food at an "Automat", but the marketing was clear. One was freed from the often no small amount of time spent doing things like cooking, baking, the wash, etc...

Westinghouse, Bendix and other makers of automatic washing machines were quick to lay things on thick. Housewives and others could simply load dirty wash into machine, add soap/detergent, close things up, turn a dial/start machine and come back later to clean wash, all *Automatically*.

As the advert above for Laundryette made clear even if one had to go out to a "laundromat" the appeal was clear. Instead of the wash houses of old which still had one tied to tubs, washboards, etc... these "automatic" laundry places were a godsend. Washing could be done in thirty minutes instead of several hours with little human intervention involved aside from loading and unloading.

Post# 1034202 , Reply# 22   6/2/2019 at 12:18 (406 days old) by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        
Launderette not Laundryette

Laun-dry-ette was the name of a very advanced non-automatic washer that preceded automatics. Please see the link for a description. It was invented and marketed in 1920. It had an inner tub in which the washing was done. After that, the inner tub spun to extract water, but every step was controlled by the user. Note the spin speed!

CLICK HERE TO GO TO Tomturbomatic's LINK

Post# 1034422 , Reply# 23   6/5/2019 at 01:07 (404 days old) by gizmo (Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Au)        

A couple of hours drive from here is the town of Lorne on the South West coast of Victoria.
Lorne has a "Lorne-dromat."


Post# 1034525 , Reply# 24   6/5/2019 at 08:19 (403 days old) by runematic (southcentral pa)        

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I have one of those I'd really like to move.

Post# 1035282 , Reply# 25   6/13/2019 at 22:25 (395 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
I've got another one!

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Yes, there actually was an actual sofa made by the A.H Davenport and Company.

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