“A Mondy washing.” Image from the Library of Congress, Detroit Photographic Co., by means of Wikimedia Commons

The photo of New York’s old tenements is hardly complete without lines of laundry hanging between each structure. Like this particular day, doing laundry was a public undertaking for the majority of New Yorkers. But unchoose today, they relied on their building’s laundry lines to dry everything out. Ephemeral New York notes that Monday was typically the preferred day to get it done. As the photo inscription claims above, full lines of laundry were noticeable of “A Monday’s Washing.” Monday was well-known as a “difficult wash-day” that forced remarkable effort from the women of the tenements.

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Here’s an excerpt from Tyler Anbinder’s book about the notorious 19th-century slum, Five Points:

first made countless trips up and also dvery own the stairs to haul water up from the yard. Then they heated the water on the range and also collection to job-related scrubbing.

Drying the wash was actually the most dreaded task. . . .The advantage of living on a low floor (with fewer flights of stairs to climb) came to be a disadvantage on wash day, because as soon as hanging your laundry out to dry, “someone else can put out a red wash or a blue wash over it, and it drips down and also makes you carry out your wash almost everywhere again.”

As the Museum of the City of New York notes, such laundry lines frequently offered as inspiration to photographers. Bernice Abbott, in her photography of the initially design tenements in NYC, “recorded this area as a communal laundry line: ropes via pulleys led from apartments to five-story poles imbedded in concrete. Abbott made two exposures, via the laundry and also poles developing various abstract configurations. She later recalled that winter day the laundry frozen stiff and also the kids huddled together, too cold to move.”

The laundry lines weren’t just offered for garments, either. You might run messperiods and cups of sugar from one apartment to an additional. Stretched diagonally dvery own to the ground, the lines were offered for sfinishing groceries to the elderly or growlers of beer up to the corner saloon. As the author Luc Sante put it, “They were characteristic of a life stretched by necessity, out of interiors of apartments as much as feasible into the public room beyond.”


Line drying began disshowing up as established laundries through distribution and drop off were introduced as a convenience service to the middle class at the turn of the 20th century. Electric dryers became common by the late 40s and also early 50s, starting a brand-new legacy that we proceed today. Now New Yorkers haul their laundry–not simply on Mondays, yet any kind of day they deserve to fit it in–in huge bags down their structure and also to the closest laundromat.

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You have the right to still spot clothesline poles around the city, looking like nopoint even more than rusty, lanky stems that today have no usage.