This post was written by Kelly Bennett, Business Reference and Research Specialist in the Science, Technology and Business Division.
This fall the Science, Technology & Business Division of the Library of Congress was happy to accept 108 bound yearly volumes of Linen Supply News, Textile Rental, and Industrial Launderer, trade journals of TRSA, or Textile Rental Services Association of America. Stretching from the 1920s to the 1980s, these publications covered a broad range of industry issues including pay and benefits, sales, legislation, and technology.
Having six decades of volumes now available at the Library of Congress will allow researchers to follow changes in the legal, economic, managerial, and engineering aspects of the linen supply industry. TRSA was pleased to preserve its publications archive at the Library of Congress so that “laundry operators and their families, as well as researchers and members of the public, may view them going forward.”
Linen Supply News began its run in the 1920s, which corresponds to the beginning of a larger, more commercialized laundry service industry. Interested in the history of this industry, I found two articles by Joan Wang: “Gender, Race and Civilization: The Competition between American Power Laundries and Chinese Steam Laundries, 1870s-1920s” in American Studies International (volume 40, issue 1) and “Race, Gender, and Laundry Work: The Roles of Chinese Laundrymen and American Women in the United States, 1850-1950” in Journal of American Ethnic History (volume 24, issue 1). Prior to WWI, laundry work was the domain of domestic workers, mostly immigrant women and women of color, and increasingly successful Chinese laundries. After WWI, cultural and technological changes led to the rise of industrialized “power laundries” and other types of commercialized linen supply services. The industry emerged on a large-scale and continues to this day.
Browsing through issues of the donated publications, it’s apparent how linen supply affects a number of industries, especially service industries that rely on uniforms. There are multiple articles in Linen Supply News on the importance of keeping nurses’ uniforms bright white. Another interesting article from the May 1961 Industrial Launderer discusses the uniform worn by funeral directors, which, consisting of “a dark suit, an immaculate white shirt, a conservative tie, and dark shoes and hose,” speaks to the importance of a “dignified and calm” appearance. In addition to valuable articles on business and industry topics, there are enlightening editorials, advertisements, and monthly “Max & Son” comic strips.
You can learn more about the linen supply and service industry at the Library of Congress by searching the catalog for the following subjects:
You can also get help from our Doing Industry Research guide.
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