For the uninitiated, washboards are used to clean laundry and typically have a wooden frame surrounding a rippled metal surface. You soak clothes in soapy water, then rub them against the metal surface to scrub the fabric. Washboards are antiquated, but one last remaining factory produces them in the United States. In Logan, Ohio, the Columbus Washboard Company still sells about 80,000 washboards per year.
The Columbus Washboard Company opened in Columbus, Ohio, in 1895, when Frederic Martin Sr. began building and selling washboards in his backyard. Building washboards was a hobby for Martin, who sold them in his spare time. The current owners estimate he produced and sold less than 1,000 washboards for the first 30 years of the company’s existence.
In 1925, though, Martin’s son—Frederic Martin Jr.—purchased everything the company owned. From humble beginnings Frederic Jr. and his wife, Margaret, built a thriving empire, selling more than 23,000,000 washboards in their lifetimes. At the time of their deaths, in 1987 and 1988, respectively, the Columbus Washboard Company had been the only functioning washboard factory in the United States
In 1999, when the Martin family decided to close up shop, Barnett and her husband (at the time a seamstress and a construction company owner), along with a group of six others, refused to let the history die. They banded together and bought the factory and all its equipment, moved everything to Logan, about 50 miles southeast of Columbus, and continued operation.
The Columbus Washboard Company offers washboards with a variety of rubbing surfaces including spiral metal, galvanized, stainless steel, brass, and glass. All of these boards are hand-assembled one at a time with equipment dating back to the 1900’s.
Co-owner and factory manager James Martin estimates that 40 percent of the company’s sales are to people using them to wash clothes or keeping them for a prepper stash, 20 percent are sold for decoration and 40 percent are sold for use as musical instruments.
According to smithsonianmag.com; columbuswashboard.com. Source of photos: internet