On My Bookshelf: The Era of Disposable Shirts

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"In 1872 America produced 150 million disposable shirt collars and cuffs. Men found paper clothing parts convenient because laundry services in those days were unreliable and expensive, and available mainly in large urban centers. America was still predominantly a rural culture, and before the advent of modern washing machines in the twentieth century, laundry was an onerous, labor-intensive task undertaken by women once weekly on Blue Tuesday. Single men simply lacked access to professional or spousal laundry services. They bought replacement shirt parts in bulk and changed into them whenever the most visible parts of their attire became stained or discolored. Disposing of a soiled cuff, collar, or bosom was as easy as dropping it into the nearest fireplace or pot-bellied stove." ~ from Made To Break by Giles Slade

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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