The Hammond Laundry Cleaning Machinery and Supply Company of Waco, Texas, began in East Waco on Elm Street in 1911 when Texas native William Hammond decided to try his hand at the laundry business. By midcentury, the Waco company boasted operations and sales throughout the world.
Born in Hearne, Texas, on December 5, 1881, William Hammond moved to Waco in 1911. Almost immediately, he joined with Albert Vawter to form the Hammond-Vawter Tailoring company, with stores in Waco, Taylor, Bryan, and Hillsboro. Hammond’s work in the men’s clothing business sparked his interest in dry-cleaning equipment, which he soon began selling as well. Hammond was not content to simply sell cleaning equipment, however. Thanks to self-educated engineer Fred Winslow, who came on board at Hammond’s company in 1923, the company eventually produced a machine of its own, dubbed “the Hammond.” Throughout the 1920s, Hammond utilized his charisma and skill to singlehandedly establish and maintain markets in Central Texas and neighboring states.
While the local business grew in scale and profits during its first two decades, World War II would signal a time of rapid financial growth and geographic expansion for Hammond Laundry. This growth was, in large part, due to the work of employees who showed remarkable acumen in business, engineering, and sales. In 1942, Roger N. Conger (husband of Hammond’s daughter, Lucy Rose) joined the company at a time when its factory produced $100,000 of equipment annually and had recently relocated from Elm Avenue to 413 Webster Avenue. Conger assisted with business aspects such as marketing, contracts, purchasing, sales, and management. During World War II, when the US relied solely on domestic manufacturers for production of defense goods, the company helped in the war effort by making equipment for the US Navy, such as clothes dryers suitable for use in US Naval vessels. Roger Conger later recalled, “We [Hammond] supplied every drying tumbler that the US Navy purchased during World War II.” This would total nearly three thousand machines. The Hammond facility also manufactured small aircraft components during wartime. Through the 1950s, the Waco firm was still under contract with the US Navy to supply shipboard clothes dryers and also expanded to a new location at Second Street and Mary Avenue.
In the postwar years, non-defense production resumed on a large scale, too. Through the combined efforts of the staff at Hammond, the company expanded to fill demand for their machines from around the world. In 1958, Hammond’s California distributor, Romaine Fielding, established the “first quick-service laundry in the Soviet Union,” when it supplied units to “housing projects in Moscow.” This international success prompted Business Week Magazine to feature a story titled “Chasing Soviet Washday Blues.” Indeed, Waco-made products being sold in Russia in the 1950s was extraordinary for the time. In addition to Russia, other markets included Indonesia, Turkey, and Western Europe. In 1964, Danish representatives even came to the Waco facility to study manufacturing processes at the Hammond plant, then located at 220 South 2nd Street.
In 1961, Hammond sold ownership of the company for approximately one million dollars. The company merged with a Philadelphia firm headed by H. J. Mitchell. It still bore the well-established Hammond name and operated in Waco under the name Hammond Industries, Inc. The company’s president, Roger N. Conger, still headed the firm and became its chairman. The laundry units continued to be fully constructed in Waco, the company providing jobs for sheet-metal workers, welders, electricians, assemblymen, and skilled machinists. In August of 1973, the Waco company was sold to Economics Laboratories of Texas, Inc. (now Ecolab), although Hammond equipment manufacturing operations continued. The company’s founder, William S. Hammond, passed away in Waco on November 5, 1977, at the age of ninety-five. At the time of his passing, Hammond had seen his company grow from five workers to over two hundred and also evolve to play a rare role in local, national, and global history.