Supply Laundry

1265 Republican Street

Supply Laundry building, Seattle, August 13, 2019, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Supply Laundry building entrance, Seattle, August 13, 2019, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Women pressing clothes, Supply Laundry Company, Seattle, 1917, Courtesy MOHAI (2010.52.12)
Man working at table, Supply Laundry Company, Seattle, 1917, Courtesy MOHAI (2010.52.22)
The Supply Laundry Company building, Seattle, 1917

In 1905, the Polk Directory to the City of Seattle included 37 laundries and 35 “Chinese and Japanese” laundries. One of those was the Supply Laundry, which a year later built a one-story, 106-foot-long brick building. Over the next few decades, the company added a second story, expanded the original building, and erected a 125-foot brick exhaust chimney. Towering over the modest homes of the neighborhood, the chimney would have filled the air with clouds of steam and the smell of starch.

Used as a working commercial laundry from the time of its construction until at least the 1980s, the building remained relatively intact the entire period. By 1947 it had become the second plant for the nearby New Richmond Laundry. Like many of the local laundries, the Supply Laundry was not known for its fair treatment of its workers, especially its female staff. The company was one of several anti-union laundries that comprised the Seattle Laundry Owner’s Club. In 1917, 700 “laundry girls” struck, seeking better wages and work conditions. Three weeks later, the companies agreed to better enforcement of existing minimum-wage and eight-hour-day regulations, as well as a wage increase, full union recognition, and closed shop.

One of the female laundry workers at the time was Mary Beck, mother of Dave Beck, who drove trucks for another local laundry. In 1917, Beck began his long affiliation with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, eventually becoming its president from 1952-1957. Beck grew up in the neighborhood and attended Cascade School.

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