Texas Over Time: The Hammond Laundry Cleaning Machinery and Supply Company of Waco, Texas

August 20, 2019 geoff_hunt

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” blog series that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, street scenes, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

Hammond Facility-Waco, TX., William Hammond and Roger Conger with two employees in between, Fred Gildersleeve Photograph, 1948, Gildersleeve-Conger collection, 8×10 cellulose negative, The Texas Collection, Baylor University. Hammond and Conger were good friends of the photographer, Fred Gildersleeve. The building is now loft apartments and still bares the founder’s name: “Holiday-Hammond Lofts.” It also houses eating establishments.

The Hammond Laundry Cleaning Machinery and Supply Company of Waco, Texas, began in East Waco on Elm Street in 1911. It later incorporated in 1933, by Hammond and co-founder F.H. Winslow, helping launch its operations and sales throughout the world. In 1911, Hammond moved to Waco from Hearne, Texas, where he was born on December 5, 1881. Upon arriving in this city, he joined with Albert Vawter, forming the Hammond-Vawter Tailoring company, with stores in Waco,Taylor, Bryan, and Hillsboro. During Hammond’s time in the men’s clothing business, he became interested in dry-cleaning equipment and began selling them, eventually producing machines of his own — the Hammond, which proudly bore its place of manufacture: “Waco, Texas.”

 

The Hammond clothes dryer which proudly bore its place of manufacture: “Waco, Texas.” Dryer badge and label, crop/zoom from lower image: Fred Gildersleeve Photograph, 1940s, Gildersleeve-Conger collection, 8×10 cellulose negative, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

In 1942, Roger N. Conger, son-in-law of Hammond, joined the firm whose factory was selling about $100,000 of equipment annually. His wife was Hammond’s daughter, Lacy Rose. Conger assisted with business aspects such as marketing, contracts, purchasing, sales, and management. During World War II, when the U.S. stopped non-national defense production of goods, the company helped in the war effort by making equipment for the U.S. Navy. One example is their clothes dryers used in U.S. Naval vessels called “corvettes.” Hammond was subcontracted to make 600 of them by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Company. Production steadily increased and Roger Conger states in a Baylor University Department of Oral History interview that: “…we [Hammond] supplied every drying tumbler that the U.S. Navy purchased during World War II.” This would total nearly 3,000 machines. The Hammond facility also manufactured small aircraft components during wartime. Through the 1950s, the Waco firm was still being contacted by the U.S. Navy for clothes dryers to be used shipboard. Non-defense production resumed on a large scale, too, and through the combined efforts of the staff at Hammond, the machines were sent worldwide. In 1958, Hammond’s California distributor, Romaine Fielding, established the “first quick-service laundry in the Soviet Union,” when it supplied units to “housing projects in Moscow.” This international success prompted Business Week Magazine, of September 20 of that year to feature a story entitled: “Chasing Soviet Washday Blues.” Indeed, Waco made products being sold in Russia in the 1950s was extraordinary for the time. In addition to Russia, other markets included Indonesia, Turkey, France, and Belgium. Additionally, a Hammond distributor was located in Denmark, supplying markets in Western Europe. In 1964, Danish representatives even came to the Waco facility to study manufacturing processes at the Hammond plant on 220 South 2nd Street.

In 1961, after 50 years of ownership, Hammond sold ownership of the company and it merged with a Philadelphia firm headed by H.J. Mitchell. It sold for approximately one million dollars. It still bore the well-established Hammond name and operated in Waco now as Hammond Industries, Inc. The company’s president, Roger N. Conger, still headed the firm and became its chairman. At that time, it had 70 employees and operations continued at the Waco facility after the sale. The laundry units were fully constructed in Waco and the company employed sheet-metal workers, welders, electricians, and assemblymen. It also had a machine shop full of lathes and skilled machinists. In a Waco News-Tribune article from March 27, 1933, the new company located then at 201 South Elm Street, advertised they were: “…manufacturers of cleaners’ solvent, clarification systems, drying windwhips, drying cabinets, water softeners, boilers, drying tumblers and machine work. Goods produced evolved in the following decades and even included “large vacuum sweepers for malls and parking areas.” By 1971, the company had gone from employing 5 workers to approximately 200. In August of 1973, the Waco company was sold to Economics Laboratories of Texas, Inc. (now Ecolab). At that time, Hammond equipment manufacturing operations continued and the machines were sold through Fraser Laundry Systems, of Memphis, Tennessee. The company’s founder, William S. Hammond, passed away in Waco on November 5, 1977 at the age of 95. Indeed, the influence of Hammond and his Waco made laundry machines revolutionized this industry in both defense and civilian uses.

Fred Gildersleeve Photograph, 1940s, Gildersleeve-Conger collection, 8×10 cellulose negative, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.
L to R: William S. Hammond, F.H. Winslow, and Roger N. Conger, inspecting one of their famous, Waco-made, clothes dryers inside the Hammond Facility. Fred Marlar Photograph, 1952, 4×5 cellulose negative, Fred Marlar papers, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.
Panoramic of the 65th American Institute of Laundering Convention, Atlantic City Auditorium, Atlantic City, N.J., Oct. 2-5, 1952. Roger Conger and employees of the Hammond Company were there proudly showing their Waco made machines. The Hammond group and laundry units are located in the lower left, middle portion of the image. General Photo Files, Panoramics, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Works Cited: 

Waco News-Tribune, “Hammond Laundry-Cleaning Machinery Company.” Mar. 27, 1933.

Waco Tribune-Herald, “Waco Machines are Ordered Over World.” Sep. 17, 1950.

The Waco-Citizen, “Waco Showman’s Products in Russia.” Sep. 26, 1958.

Waco News-Tribune, “Hammond Company Sold to Philadelphia Group.” May 5, 1961.

Waco-News Citizen, “Hammond, Imperial Have Identical Board of Directors.” Nov. 21, 1964.

Never Say Impossible,” Shirley, Emma M., Texian Press, Waco, Texas, 1971.

Waco News-Tribune, “Waco Laundry Equipment Producer Sells Company,” Aug. 2, 1973.

Waco Tribune-Herald, “Billy Hammond Celebrates 95th Birthday at Party.” Dec. 6, 1976.

The Waco Citizen, “95th Birthday for Billy Hammond.” Dec. 7, 1976.

Baylor University Institute of Oral History, Oral Memoirs of Roger Norman Conger, Oct. 28, 1975-Apr. 21, 1977.

 

 

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