Q. I own a small wringer-style clothes washer that I bought at a yard sale. It is 7 inches wide, 8 inches tall and about 4 inches deep. It has a 10-inch-long metal handle with a wooden grip. The words “American Wringer Company, N.Y.” are stamped on the wood. It’s also marked with a horseshoe and the initials “AWC.” Can you tell me anything about it and what it might be worth?
A: The first mechanical clothes wringer was invented by Selden A. Bailey in 1859 in Connecticut. In 1863, Simeon Cook saw in a store window a contraption that he believed every home could not live without: a clothes wringer. Cook found the manufacturer, and persuaded Bailey to move to Woonsocket where Cook was able to help garner financing for building a factory. Cook envisioned manufacturing on the Blackstone River comparable to what Samuel Slater accomplished in Pawtucket. In 1860 the factory started producing wringers. The rubber ringers were being produced elsewhere and when they were found to be unsatisfactory, Cook helped launch another business called Woonsocket Rubber Company. Both companies prospered and in 1899, Bailey Wringer changed its name to American Wringer and later expanded manufacturing to a plant in New York. Woonsocket Rubber Company grew to be one of the largest rubber companies in the country. The American Wringer Company’s years of prosperity ended in the 1920’s when the electric washing machine was invented.
Your wringer was most likely made for lingerie and would sell for around $75.
Karen Waterman is a fine art, antique furniture and decorative arts appraiser in the East Bay area and will answer as many questions about your own “hidden treasures” as possible. By sending a letter of email with a question, you give full permission for use in the column. Names, addresses or e-mail will not be published and photos will be returned if requested. Send e-mails (digital photos are encouraged) to [email protected] Send snail mail to East Bay Newspapers, Attn. Karen Waterman, P.O.Box 90, Bristol, RI 02809.