SF gold rush laundry

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I have seen casual references (often in fiction)to the fact that during the early gold rush years, it was cheaper to send laundry from SF to Hawaii or China, than to have it done locally. Anybody have any specific information about this practice? How wide-spread a practice was it, and when did it stop? By at least 1852, I've seen lots of references to Chinese laundries in SF where laundry was clearly done on site. Can anybody shed any light on this please?

-- dorothy (leland@dcn.davis.ca.us), October 15, 1998


Why do you say "clearly done on site"? It is my understanding that until the flume was completed in 1858 to bring water from Lobos Creek and Mountain Lake to the Black Point water works there was not enough fresh water available "downtown" to allow large-scale laundering. Almost everything printed about Washerwoman's Lagoon, for example see George Harding's piece in From Land's End to the Ferry by Charles L. Camp et al, SF, Black Vine Press, 1942, mentions the Chinese method of laundering at the lagoon--how the launderers slapped garments on the water's surface, creating a cannon volley-like din that could be heard at a distance. According to John Levinsohn, in his Cow Hollow book, the original claimant of land including the lagoon developed his claim as a washing establishment. Several large launderies were established around the lagoon, one of which, Occidental, lasted into the 1880s after the lagoon itself was filled.

bob bardell

-- Robert Bardell (BBARDELL@PACBELL.NET), December 04, 1998.

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