Universal York

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York Countians could have their feather beds steam cleaned

Old newspaper ads are such a wonderful resource to give us an idea how our ancestors lived. Did you ever think about feathers and how important they were for filling mattresses and pillows? Where did they get them? Your own fowl might not provide enough, so you needed to turn to a feather merchant. A previous post quoted an 1843 ad in a York newspaper, the Pennsylvania Republican, advertising 25,000 pounds of feathers for sale for 10 to 25 cents a pound.

So you bought feathers and stuffed your feather beds; how, then, did you keep them fluffy and reasonably clean? One way, according to the 1841 York Democratic Press advertisement below, was to bring them to town for steam cleaning. I bet that neighborhood had a distinctive odor.

The ad reads:

In operation at the corner of Main [Market] and Penn Streets, York, Pa.

The above Machine for purifying and dressing new and old feather beds, has been thoroughly tested, and proved to be the most useful invention of the age. So much has it been approved, that no person, after having been acquainted with the simple, yet effectual process, will ever sleep on a bed that has not been through this process. Feather-dealers in New York are having all their new feathers purified by the Steam Renovater. It has the following effects:

NEW FEATHERS. It cleanses from all impurities and offensive odors–it dries the feathers–it kills moths and other insects–it does not injure them as baking or kiln-drying–it takes out the disagreeable smell usually in new feathers–it renders them more light, elastic, and buoyant–it takes less feathers to fill a bed–it makes them sweet and clean–it destroys the unhealthy matter, and saves many from disease. Physicians and scientific men sanction this process, as it regards the chemical compound–admitting it as all important for the health of the community.

OLD FEATHERS. It has the same effect as above; besides it makes them nearly as good as new. Old beds that have become matted and almost useless are rendered light, elastic and much increased in size–(often four beds making five.)

The expense is very little compared with the advantage derived. The trouble is little or none to the Housekeeper, as beds can be taken to the shop in the morning, and returned the same day, perfectly dry; and persons from the country will labor under no disadvantage, as beds brought by them can be finished in season to return the same day. Any person having tried the above Machine and are not satisfied that they have been improved, nothing will be required by the subscribers for their trouble.

We have had feathers dressed by the Steam Dressing Machine now in operation at the above mentioned place, and are well pleased with the improvement. We find our feathers thoroughly cleansed, purified and much increased in elasticity. We cordially recommend it to the public as worthy of notice.
A.J. Glossbrenner, Daniel May, Henry Spangler, Henry Heartzog, George P. Koch, Samuel Herman, Jacob Barnitz, Henry Upp.
Ladies and gentlemen are invited to call and witness the operation where every information will be given with pleasure.
York, March 8, 1841.