History of Two Rivers


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The First Automatic Clothes Dryer  
Necessity has been the driving force behind many inventions. The quest for an easier way has to be at least a close second. Ross Moore was just a young man growing up on a North Dakota farm back around 1905. Unhappy with his chore of hanging clothes out to dry, he sought a better way - and that led to Two Rivers, and Hamilton Industries, being the home of the first automatic clothes dryer.

According to Hamilton's employee publication, the Hamiltonian, of 1980, Moore had the job of hanging the wet wash in the backyard - an unpleasant task on the best of days. In winter, of course, the task was perfectly miserable. Hanging the laundry in the house didn't help much - and living in rooms with soggy clothes hanging all over had to be an unpleasant experience.

Young Moore's first idea was to attach a shed to the back of the house in which he installed a pot bellied stove. The stove heated the room enough to the keep the clothes from freezing, and clothes hanging close to the stove actually dried faster. But it wasn't the solution the young man was seeking.

In the 1920s, Moore fiddled with the idea of a centrifugal force device - but that proved impractical. The next idea was a drum type drier. Over the next decade, he perfected his designs and made of few hand-made dryers (left). His idea worked, he had the inventive genius, and there would certainly be a demand. Now Moore needed a manufacturer who would believe in his idea and could produce and market his product.

After many companies turned him away, thinking his contraption would never sell, Moore found himself at the doors of Hamilton Manufacturing Company in Two Rivers. There, he found a company who would embrace his idea and bring his dream to reality. After several years of overhauling the designs, the first production model was ready to hit the lines at Hamilton's. The June Day clothes dryer (right) rolled off the production line in 1938.

As Hamilton's history book says, "An unsuspecting world was about to see its first automatic clothes dryer, and for the first time modern washing machines in conjunction with this fabulous new appliance would free American housewives from the last vestiges of the washday blues."

Maybe they used the little extra time in their day to enjoy an ice cream sundae, also born in Two Rivers! According to Marge Miley's Milestone's column in the Herald Times Reporter newspaper, Helen Norris Tangen of Manitowoc was instrumental in the designs of various models over the years. As Home Service Director at Hamilton's, it was her job to find out what women wanted, and help the designers and engineers build that into their product.

While World War II ended production of the machines, Hamilton's continued research and development and, in 1953, introduced the "twins," a line of automatic washers and dryers.

The rugged old Hamilton dryers are still around! The Two Rivers Historical Society received a letter from a woman in Maryland in 2005, just after she had replaced her Hamilton dryer - 47 years after she bought it - and a short time after her husband replaced the v-belt - the only maintenance the machine ever needed! Her model had a pilot light that had to be lit - and turned off - every time the machine was used. Hamilton's also made an electric model.

The Hamilton home appliance line was sold to another company in 1968 as Hamilton's continued to build its line of medical and laboratory furniture that it still makes today. All that from a company that started with J.E. Hamilton producing wood type for a local printer!