Antique Washing Machine Collection Cleans Up

Collector puts a shine on 700 antique washing machines


| May 1999



The washers shown here represent roughly half of Lee Maxwell’s collection of restored machines.

The washers shown here represent roughly half of Lee Maxwell’s collection of restored machines. Those housed in this room are either hand- or foot-operated, using everything from water power to stationary engines, belt-power to treadmill. This room also houses Lee’s collection of Maytags spanning the years 1909 to 1983. Washers in an adjoining room are primarily electric, though some are run by gas engines.

Lee Maxwell doesn't own every antique washing machine ever made. It just seems that way. 

Lee has herded an orderly procession of more than 500 “revived” antique washers into two large buildings at his rural Colorado home. Another 225 – not yet restored – fill every corner of a nearby barn. The collection, which focuses on the first 35 years of this century, also includes everything from washboards to advertising materials, salesman's samples to signage, all housed in 12,000 square feet of buildings. Does Lee ever have the sense that things have gotten out of hand?

“Oh, yes,” he says with mock gravity. “But it’s too late now.” There are no annual shows or swap meets for collectors of antique washing machines. If there were, the gathering could be held at a kitchen table. Lee says he knows of just three “serious” collectors (those who have more than 50 pieces in their collections).

“There’s virtually no collectors of washing machines,” he says. “People have just passed these by.”

The utilitarian washing machine, he speculates, simply can’t compete with the appeal of vintage automobiles, tractors, stationary engines and gas pumps. And he may be right: we’ve all seen collectors who get misty-eyed just talking about their first Model T or the first Deere Dad bought new. But when was the last time you saw anyone, of any age, wax nostalgic over Mom’s old washer?

Lee’s collection started, as do all such ventures, innocently enough. For years, he and his wife furnished their home with antique furniture and primitives. When her aunt gave the couple an old hand-operated washer that she had received years earlier as a bride, the couple regarded it as a novelty.

tucker
11/21/2017 8:21:43 AM

i have a haag brothers double tub washing machine complete in good shape came with a kick start gas engine can anyone tell me what it is worth?


tobias_boles
11/21/2017 8:21:42 AM

i have a haag brothers double tub washing maching that came with a gas kick start engine can any body tell me what it is worth?


nancy pendleton
7/26/2011 2:29:30 PM

Our family has a 1930 Dexter Gas Engine Washer. The gas engine has been replaced with a small electric engine. Could anyone tell me what would be a fair price if we were to sell it? Expect for the change in the Engine it has all of it's parts in tack. Thank you for any help you could give us.