(Roughly) Daily

“No pressure, no diamonds”*…

And sometimes no pressure means no deep clean. David Buck, on the remarkable story of pressure washers…

Some say that necessity is the mother of invention. But more often, it seems that happy accidents play more of a role than they’re given credit for. Such is the case with the pressure washer. Born of an accident in one man’s garage, the pressure washer would go on to become a staple of industrial and household work.

Our story begins in the small town of Moon Township, PA. A small town situated along the Ohio River, Moon Township is actually part of the Pittsburgh Metro area. Settled in the 18th century, the area was named “one of the best, affordable places to live” in the northeast by BusinessWeek back in 2007. But that isn’t the town’s only claim to fame: one of their residents was responsible for creating the precursor to the pressure washer as we know it!

It all started when Frank W. Ofeldt II was working on his whiskey stills at home. In 1926—seven years before prohibition officially ended—Ofeldt noticed something unusual: the steam from his whiskey stills was removing grease stains from his garage floor. Ofeldt knew his way around steam engineering and immediately saw potential in using the steam-cleaning technique in an invention…

From Prohibition to art projects, how the pressure washer revolutionized the way we clean outdoor surfaces—and occasionally, lends itself to creative solutions: “Under Pressure,” from @saltyasparagus1 in the ever-illuminating @readtedium.

* Thomas Carlyle


As we spray it down, we might recall that it was on this date in 1925 that Secretary of Agriculture Howard Gore empaneled 21 state highway officials and three federal Bureau of Public Roads officials as the “Joint Board on Interstate Highways,” charging them to come up with a unified approach to marking and numbering “interstate routes” in the United States. They briskly came up with the numbering system (East/West highways are even numbered; North/South, odd-numbered) and the distinctive “shield” design for U.S. route markers. Their work in identifying the routes themselves– intensely political, as towns and cities fought to be on the main highways– took many years.

1926 version of the U.S. Route shield
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