My name is Rachel Scott, and I am currently curating the artifact collections of the John Kenneth Gott Library, along with their accompanying historical documents.
In the archives today, I came across two receipts… comparable in color, size, and date (both from the 1920s, presumably the late 1920s).
While normally not terribly fascinated by household appliance receipts, the monetary totals stopped me in my tracks. In June of 1929, the Sinclairs (Elijah and Ruby) purchased what may have been their first washing machine for $175.00, to be paid in monthly installments of $11.00 until paid in full (according to the hand written note at the top, if paid early, would be discounted $15.00!) What is today considered a necessity in many American homes today, was likely a high luxury in 1929, serving to usher Mrs. Sinclair into the modern era.
To emphasize the luxury in this purchase, I have placed beside the Maytag receipt another financial document… a receipt of payment from the South Baltimore General Hospital dated April 29th, 192X (the last number missing as the document came to us with edge wear). The breakdown is as follows:
7 days and four hours (expressed 7 4/24 days) Board and Room no. 25 at $4.00 per day =$28.00
Service of a “Special Nurse” for Lab work coming to $4.00
X Ray fee of $10.00
and use of the Operating Room for $12.00
Bringing the total of what was most likely a hospital stay (that logically went something like this: Xray, Surgery, and 7 days total stay in the Hospital) came to a whopping $54.00.
Now, I ask you to put yourself in Mrs. Sinclair’s rounded toe strappy heels of the 1920s and imagine buying a Washing machine, promised to alleviate your laundering woes, for $175.00 in a world where surgery and a week in a major hospital cost a little over one quarter of that amount.
A modern purchase making for a happy Domestic Manager of her day, I have no doubt.