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Diving back into history may be delightful or dismaying. KNKX's Nick Morrison delivers a daily dose of it with his signature humor and skepticism. Here's what happened on this day.

March 28: The first U.S. washing machine is patented in 1797

A top loading washing machine sits open surrounded by appliances in a store.
Steven Senne
Washing machines are displayed with other appliances at Sam's Appliances TV & Furniture, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Norwood, Mass.


Nathaniel Briggs patents first U.S. washing machine — 1797

A lot of history stuff happened on this day. We could take a look at the Vikings sacking of Paris in 845 or the 3-Mile Island disaster in 1979. But I’m looking for something to celebrate. So let’s do this: Let’s all thank a fellow named Nathaniel Briggs who, in 1797, filed the first U.S. patent for a washing machine. Hallelujah. And I think speak for everyone.

This is not to say that washing machines didn’t exist before young Nate came along; they certainly did. Machines to help with the drudgery of washing one’s unmentionables were around in Britain long before. The first washing machine patent in that country was in 1691.

But back to Briggs’ enterprise: it never got off the ground. And thanks to a fire at the Patent Office in 1863, we don’t even know what his washing machine even looked like. So Nathaniel goes on the ‘Good Try’ list and is hereby recognized for his effort. Because that’s how we do it today—“Good try, bud.”

So who came up with the goods? Let’s give that award to Alva J. Fisher who gave America its first electric clothes washer sometime in the first decade of the 20th Century. His brand name for the gizmo was "Thor’" and was made available for sale in 1907.

I’m pleased to say that the home washing machine has made great strides since then. But after well over a century of innovation, is it asking too much of them to come up with a way to get clothes from the bathroom floor to the machine without including me? Come on, gang — progress never sleeps.

Nick began working at KNKX as a program host in the late 1980’s and, with the exception of a relatively brief hiatus, has been with the station ever since. Along with his work as a Midday Jazz host, Nick worked for several years as KNKX’s Music Director. He is now the station’s Production Manager and also serves as a fill-in host on KNKX’s jazz and blues programs.