It started out as just another washboard company in Columbus, Ohio way back in 1895. The company has survived two world wars, the Great Depression and even the invention of electricity to be today the last maker of washboards in America.
What’s a washboard? Just ask your grandparents, or great-grandparents. It was the next step up from washing clothes on a flat stone on the bank of a river. The wooden-framed piece of corrugated steel allowed our ancestors the luxury of doing the laundry at home, or anyplace they had a supply of water and a bucket. It was the perfect tool to help rub out stubborn stains and dirt. Just about every home had one.
So in our modern world of I-Pods, digitally-controlled washing machines, flat screen TVs who would still be buying an old-fashioned washboard?
It turns out quite a few people. They are still much in demand in third world countries where electricity is not all that common. Campers and people who live in remote areas still use them, as do the Amish who shun many modern conveniences. Then there are the decorators and musicians. Musicians? Yep. Someone long ago realized that the small washboard made a satisfying sound when you scratched it and it wasn’t long before folk musicians had incorporated the washboard into their jug bands.
That brings us back to the Columbus Washboard Company which is no longer in Columbus but south of there in Logan, Ohio. It moved in 1999 when the original family that owned the company sold it to a group of friends who decided for economical reasons to move it to Logan County. Today it is managed by two women, Jacqui Barnett and Laura Lyon. At the time I visited the factory it was a woman-only operation. The workers in the factory were all women, as were the shipping department and the front office. As Jacqui told me at the time, “We tried some men, but they didn’t work out.”
The Columbus Washboard Factory is also host to an annual washboard festival that is held on Father’s Day each year.
You can have a free tour of the factory, but call first for reservations. They are open Monday through Friday.
The Columbus Washboard Factory is located at 14 Gallagher Avenue in Logan, Ohio.740-380-3828 or visit their web site at www.columbuswashboard.com