the smiling men of pasadena 5: a clean smile

The December 31, 1920 edition of the Pasadena Post spotlighted (mostly) grinning photos of the paper's staff and local businessmen. Given my penchant for going down research rabbit holes related to anything quirky I stumble upon (and desire to learn more about places I've travelled to), this series will look at some of the stories behind the smiling faces. 


Pasadena Post, December 31, 1920.

A clean, fresh start to a new year?

This installment's smile is courtesy of a business that would leave Pasadena with an art deco landmark. I discovered little about George F. Whitehouse, other than he remained an executive for Royal Laundry through the late 1920s, after which he was associated with another launderer. His 1946 obituary bluntly states that he "dropped dead at his home."


Los Angeles Times, August 7, 1923.

Royal Yosemite Laundry (the "Yosemite" part was dropped by the mid-1920s) grew out of a merger of three cleaners orchestrated by Arthur Clinton Tubbs in 1916. Tubbs, described in his 1923 Los Angeles Times obit as "a pioneer resident of Pasadena," was involved in civic affairs from the 1890s onward. 

In 1919, along with two competitors, the laundry took part in a project based on trials out east to shift the cleaning habits of their customers. The Pasadena Post explained the traditional way of doing things and its drawbacks.

Practically throughout the world Monday has been universally recognized as wash day. The result has been that approximately 60% of laundry patrons have requested that their work be called for on that day. The result has been that laundries were crowded to capacity with work during the first three days of the week, with customers expecting return delivery on Thursday or Friday of the same week. These requests have made it necessary for drivers to work long hours during the early and latter part of the week and gives them little to do during midweek. 

Likewise, under the old system, it requires that girl employees work under a strain the first part of the week and causes them to be almost idle during the latter days of the week, a condition which is not encouraging to employees and does not render the laundry patron an efficient and dependable service. 


Pasadena Post, June 13, 1921.

The solution? Spread orders out over the course of the week, forcing customers to consider days other than Monday for collection of their dirty laundry. "In view of the advantages to laundry employees," observed Mrs. Seward A. Simons, the secretary of the State Council of Social Agencies, "the plan is to be the improvement of conditions for laundry employees, the plan is to be commended and should receive hearty cooperation and support from the public." 


Pasadena Post, May 26, 1921.

The laundry's contribution to a special five-page advertising section dedicated to "Pasadena's Business Optimists," which would make a reader very drunk if they tried to play a drinking game where a sip is tossed back every time "optimists" pops up. I can see a section like this working today for businesspeople feeling bullish about the post-pandemic world. 

An Address to Men from Royal Laundry

Pasadena Post, July 5, 1926.

There were also a series of messages for women...

A Talk to Women from Royal Laundry (1) 

 Pasadena Post, August 23, 1926. 

  A Talk to Women from Royal Laundry (2) 

 Pasadena Post, August 30, 1926.

  A Talk to Women from Royal Laundry (3)

Pasadena Post, September 7, 1926.

Around the time these ads were published, the company announced it would build a new facility. The architect was Gordon Kaufmann, whose commissions during the 1920s and 1930s included the Athenaeum at Caltech, the LaQuinta resort complex in Palm Springs, the Los Angeles Times Building, Santa Anita racetrack, and adjustments to Hoover Dam. 

A New and Better Laundry to Serve Pasadena's Needs

pp 1927-09-27 royal laundry new home 1200

pp 1927-09-27 royal laundry new home text

Pasadena Post, September 27, 1927.


Royal Laundry building, sometime between 1980 and 2006. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith. Library of Congress, LC-HS503-5859.

The complex expanded over the years, including a drive-up addition in the 1930s. The laundry closed in the 1980s, but the building found new life in the 21st century as a corporate headquarters for Disney Stores, followed by current occupant Bluestream software. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, and shows up in a Backstreet Boys video.

Next: Educated Smiles

Sources: the August 7, 1923 and September 12, 2004 editions of the Los Angeles Times; the September 2, 1919, May 26, 1921, and September 27, 1927 editions of the Pasadena Post; and the July 21, 1946 edition of the Pasadena Star-News.


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