open iron box on basement floor... what is it?

rodcoOctober 12, 2011

I have found a strange iron thing on the floor of the basement. It is solid steel or iron and is somehow attached to the floor. It is about 16 inches square and has a drain in the bottom that I assume goes into the sewer. Does anyone have a clue what this coule be?

It is at an angle to the wall and is solidly in place.

Hopefully some plumber may have knowledge about this thing. I am located in Pittsburgh, PA

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That is a floor sink and they were quite common in houses built between 1900 and about 1950. Usually they had a flat iron cover plate that had a lift handle on the top, and most of them had a cylander of stiff wire mesh (hardware cloth) that stood up in the drain opening, although my now no doubt the wire mesh has rusted away and been tossed out years ago.

Back in the days before automatic washing machines they used wringer washers and laundry tubs. Both the washing machine and laundry tub was mounted on small caster wheels so they could be pushed up close to the wall for storage, but pulled out and set up where the operator could work from all sides of the washing machine and laundry tubs.

You began by setting both the washer and tubs where you wanted them, then you filled the washer and the tubs with hot water. You then started the washer agitator, put your laundry detergent in the washer and tossed in your first load of clothes. After it agitated for about 5 or 10 minutes you would start the wringers and feed the clothes into the wringer from the washing machine, and they would go through and into the first rinse tub. You used a stick to lightly agitate the clothes in the tub, the you rotate the wringers around so they are over the tub and run the clothes through the wringer. If you desired a second rinse you let the clothes go into the second tub, otherwise you caught the clothes as they came out of the wringer and put them in your laundry basket and carried them outside to hang on the laundry line. (In winter they often strung the drying lines in the basement too).

When washing white clothes it was a common practice to put a product called "bluing" in the final rinse water.

Generally they would run two or three loads through the washer and laundry tubs before changing the water.

Some of the washing machines had a pump to pump the water out of the tub, but early vintage machines and the laundry tubs just had a drain hose that let the water drain by gravity.

If you were lucky the floor sink was located where you could just let the drain hoses drain into the sink, but more often than not they had to drain the water into a bucket, which was then poured into the floor sink.

By placing the floor sink at an angle such as yours it made it more convenient to pour from a bucket into the floor sink because you were pouring into the diagonal measuement of the sink rather than a side. The vertical tube of screen was used as a lint trap to keep lint out of the drain.

In some rural areas such as where I grew up they did not yet have electric in the house so Maytag made wringer washers that had a small gasoline engine and the engine had a kick starter something like the old kick starters on motor cycles.

When I was a kid on the farm Grandmother had one of the old gasoline powered washers and in summer she would have us boys set it out in the yard where it was cooler to work and she didn't have to worry about the exhaust, not to mention that it was also easier to hang the clothes to dry right from the machine rather than tote a heavy laundry basket outside.

Although I doubt that many ppl in this country have ever seen a gasoline powered washing machine, Maytag did continue to build them up into the early 80's and they sold them overseas to third world countries that did not have electric. (They are still popular in many Amish Communities)

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 7:45PM
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I remember using the electric model as a kid.
You could mangle your hand in the wringer really easily.
And BTW: This is where the saying "got your ti*s in a wringer" came from...

We also took baths in them (turned off, of course). Lots of kids and only one bathroom.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 9:05AM
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Enjoyed the heck out of text and pix. Condenses and helps to flesh out stories my Kansas-farmer uncle told me about laundry day in the thirties. His family had the gasoline motor powered version. The air in the basement was blue with exhaust smoke on Mondays. Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 9:26AM
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When I was a kid on the farm every monday morning while everyone else was milking the cows and doing the morning chores in the barn one of us boys had to hitch a team of draft horse to a home made sled called a "Stone boat", then put 10 ten gallon milk cans on the stone boat and go up to the spring where we would dip water out of the spring and fill the cans. We then pulled the stone boat around behind the house and carried 3 or 4 of the milk cans of water into the kitchen.

Grandmother would then put the water in a couple huge 15 gallon oval shaped copper boiler kettles on top of her old coal stove and heat the water, which was then carried one bucket at a time to fill the washer & laundry tubs.

The process of carrying water into the kitchen to heat it had to be repeated three or four times throughout the day. We also had to take the coal bucket out to the coal pile behind a small shed in the yard and fetch coal for the stove as well carry out the ashes from the stove and help grandmother carry laundry baskets and string out her clothes lines.

JAKE- I am 65 yrs old and to this day I only have one distinguishing scar on my body. Between the ring finger and little finger on my right hand I have scars from 5 surgical stitches where they had to sew my hand back together because when I was 4 yrs old I was watching Grandmother feed clothes into the wringers and when she went to the kitchen for something I decided I could help. I stood on a chair beside the washer and proceeded to feed something into the wringer, but in the process I got caught up in it and my hand went into the wringer. It literally pulled me in until it lifted me off the chair and by the time grandmother heard the hollering and came to check things out my entire arm was through the wringer with my shoulder against the front of the wringers. The more modern machines had a quick release panic bar that you could hit to release the tension, but such was not the case on our old maytag. To get me out grandmother swithed the wringers in reverse and wound me out the same way I went in....LOL

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 10:04AM
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