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World Class Antique Machine Collection
Lee Maxwell's collection of 1,071 antique washing machines in Eaton, Colo., took him 21 years to assemble. It recently landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records.
  The 77-year-old's collection started with a 1920 model his wife's aunt used as a young bride, and which had been kept in the family.
  Maxwell and his wife traveled the country in their motorhome, purchasing new additions for the collection as they went, and hauling them home in a trailer.
  "I've restored most of them to working order, which required plenty of elbow grease," Maxwell explains. "When you first find them, they aren't very attractive and look sort of like junky old engines because they're covered in grease and dirt. Once they're cleaned up, though, they are works of art."
  A variety of motors, oversized gears, twisting pipes, and wood, copper or porcelain tubs make the various models an interesting sight, according to Maxwell.
  To share the knowledge he gathered over his years of collecting, Maxwell wrote a book, calling it "Save Women's Lives - The First Ever History of Washing Machines." It contains 200 color pictures and sells for $33 plus $3 S&H in the U.S. ($7 S&H to Canada).
  The "save women's lives" part of this title originates from the actual label on a 1907 model in Maxwell's collection. He found the exaggeration humorous, as most machines were so difficult to use, they didn't save much time or effort.
  "Some of them were monstrous and I almost envision the women wearing an engineer's cap, with an oil can in one hand and a wrench in the other," he says. "I've had many senior citizens who've toured my collection show off a scar, a bald spot, or a missing finger - all reminders of those challenging machines."
  Maxwell's research has traced washing machines back to 1750, but he's heard of drawings going as far back as 1460. At the peak of the washing machine's popularity, he says there were more than 1,000 companies producing them with names like Wonder Washer, Speed Queen and Happy Home Steam Washer.
  The majority of Maxwell's machines are electric, but some run on gas. At least 10 of them were made in Canada, he says.
  There are still many more makes and models that Maxwell would like to add to his collection, and he sometimes buys them through eBay.
  "Washing machines tend to be pretty cheap to buy because there aren't that many collectors, but shipping is usually quite expensive," he points out.
  Maxwell welcomes trading inquiries and says he has photos of 1,000 machines posted on his website, as well as video clips of some of them in operation.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Lee Maxwell, 35901 WCR 31, Eaton, Colo. 80615 (ph 970 454-1856; lee@oldewash.com; www.oldewash.com).

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2007 - Volume #31, Issue #6