French laundries of California

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Typical French Hand finishing of garments and linens circa 1938

French hand laundries in California utilize the art of washing and ironing by hand, to launder fine linens and garments. As far back as 19th century, French women starched linen except vests and towels. The ironing was performed using irons that were heated directly over a charcoal fire. All work was done by hand.[1] In the beginning of the 20th century, mechanized washing systems had been added to most commercial laundries. However, in the tradition of art of hand laundries in France, the French immigrant held fast to hand finishing and ironing. It was the hand finishing method that differentiate them from other commercial laundries. In fact, in the 21st century, the French method of hand finishing of fine linens and wedding dresses continues in California.

History and the French Immigrant[edit]

In the mid-19th century, French people immigrated to California in larger numbers. By 1853, there were an estimated 28,000 French in California. In 1860, about 9% of the Los Angeles population was French.

Lace House French Laundry – Santa Ana, CA 1927

With them, came an entrepreneurial spirit to begin businesses in many fields. One avenue of endeavor was the French hand laundries. Many were established in places such as San Francisco, Turlock, Santa Ana and Los Angeles.

"The proprietor of the Turlock French Laundry and an enterprising and progressive man is Martin Etcheto, a native of Ustarits, Basses-Pyrenees, France, born in March, 1888, where he was reared on a farm.

Wedding of Pierre Regla & Jeanne Lagrave -May 15, 1909

His parents being in limited circumstances, he was early set to work and from a lad helped to support the family. When seventeen years of age, he entered the employ of a nobleman for three years, when he enlisted in the Fourteenth Regiment of Artillery in the French Army from Tarbes, serving for two years. Having served the required time, he was honorably discharged and free to leave his country for other shores.

In 1911, Mr. Etcheto migrated to California, choosing San Francisco as his location. He purchased an interest in the Pleasant French Laundry, which he ran for four and one-half years." [2]

Another such adventurous entrepreneur was Pierre Regla from Oleron-St. Marie, Basses Pyrenees, France. He arrived at Ellis Island, New York’s port of entry on March 25, 1906 on board the steam ship City of New York.[3] He was single, 25 years old, and his contact was his cousin, Pierre Barbe at 1231 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, California.

He arrived in San Francisco in time to be greeted by the San Francisco earthquake on April 18, 1906.

The following year, 1907, Pierre Regla appears in the San Francisco City Directory residing at 332, 3rd Avenue; his occupation is listed as “laundryman.”.[4] On May 15, 1909, he married Jeanne Lagrave of Eysus, Basses Pyrenees, France at Notre Dame des Victoires. She arrived at Ellis Island on October 7, 1907, and joined her sister Gracieuse in San Francisco.

By 1910, he owned a laundry, P. Regla and Company, and resided at 1528 Church. San Francisco City directories show him at 1528 Church in 1911 and 1913. By 1914, the Reglas had moved to south to Santa Ana, California and started the Ideal French Laundry. In 1926, the Laundry's name was changed to Lace House French Laundry to take advantage of the French Heritage of hand finishing of linens.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Washboards, boxes and wash-houses in France, Italy and Spain". Oldandinteresting.com. 2008-01-23. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  2. ^ "Etxeto Genealogy - Martin Etcheto Biography". Etxeto.com. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  3. ^ "Manifest Enlarger". Ellisisland.org. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  4. ^ "Crocker-Langley San Francisco directory for the year commencing". Archive.org. Retrieved 2011-08-07.