For much of human history (and currently in some poor communities today), doing laundry has been a laborious, time-consuming activity that requires the soaking of soiled clothes, dousing them in rivers, and beating them against rocks or other abrasives to dislodge dirt. While many patents were issued for washing machines, the first U.S. patent was given to Nathaniel Briggs of New Hampshire in 1797. The first patent issued for a hand-powered machine with a drum was to an American, James King, in 1851. A rotary washing machine was patented in 1858, and after industrialization of the 19th century, small motors were added. Maytag and Whirpool, companies still synonymous with appliances, began mass production of these by 1910. Today, 84 percent of all US households have a washing machine in their home.
Sources: Maytag, Syracuse University Libraries. Whirlpool, Housing and Urban Development