American Laundry Company

Turn back time with this early 1900s photograph of a laundry service that once operated in downtown Mobile.

historic 1900s photograph of the American Laundry Company in downtown mobile al with horse and carriages in the front of the building.
Photo courtesy Historic Mobile Preservation Society

In 1905, the American Laundry Company opened under the management of John W. Phillips, A.L. Willoughby and Josiah H. Bancroft at 111-113 North Royal Street in downtown Mobile, pictured below. At that time, the early versions of today’s modern washing machines had just started to be advertised in newspapers. The American Laundry Company offered the delivery of freshly washed garments to customers in company-branded horse-drawn carriages in addition to other services. According to Mobile city directories, the business moved location several times, finally settling at 359-361 St. Louis St. in 1937. It was listed at this address through 1945, eventually disappearing from the directory altogether the next year. 

Did you know?

During the 1900s, both horse-drawn carriages, such as the delivery carriages for the American Laundry Company, and horse-drawn streetcars operated in Mobile. The streetcars ran along a line, such as the one at the bottom of the photograph, much like trains and trolleys.

Mobile had horse-drawn streetcar lines running through the city, including one built in 1839 that connected Spring Hill to downtown Mobile. 

Another line, built in 1877, remained in use for carriages until 1893, when it was converted to a line for electric streetcars. It operated in that format until 1941, giving way to the popularity of automobiles.

- Sponsors -

By the numbers

1902: The year that Gulf City Cleaners opened in Mobile. The company is Mobile’s oldest dry cleaner.

MONDAY: The most popular day of the week to wash clothes in the 1900s when the concept of a single washday per week was in fashion.

1858: The year Hamilton Smith patented the rotary washing machine. The first electric washing machine wasn’t invented until 1908.

$1: The amount it would cost to buy 30 pounds of laundry soap in the 1900s. That’s about $35 today.

Do you know any further details about this photo? Let us know! Email [email protected].

Get the best of Mobile delivered to your inbox

Be the first to know about local events, home tours, restaurant reviews and more!