News-Antique.com - Sep 29,2008 - Before anyone had ever heard of a dirty linen hamper, there was dirty linen. In long ago years, dirty linen was tossed into the family wash basket. It was a sturdy oval woven willow container fitted with sturdy handles for carrying heavy loads of wet linen to the backyard to hang up and dry. These simple baskets were imported at the turn of the century from Poland, Austria, and Germany by the boatload. Immigrants snatched them up because they were a comfortable reminder of home. What they lacked in glamor, they more than made up in utility. They were used for laundry, marketing, baby beds, and little boys could always sail away to far away lands of their imaginations in perfect safety.
As these baskets immigrated here from across the seas, imagination was also stirring in the minds of creative American merchants and manufacturers. There are few records to tell us of the early development and introduction of a covered basket or hamper for storing soiled linen. Like similar developments, it probably came about by accident. One of the stories is that a weary homemaker happened to be observed frantically grabbing
clothes off a line as a large rain cloud opened up. Not wanting to waste her entire day’s work , she quickly upturned a second basket on top of the first and dashed for the inside of her dry home. The observer, who is unnamed, mulled this idea over and eventually came up with the wooden lid to be attached to a basket or hamper with rawhide strips so clothes could be protected. True or not, it was certainly spawned by the outgrowth of the
basket business and the emergence of the bathroom as an essential part of the average American home.
In the 1880s, due to the primarily agricultural American economy, the need for containers to pack and crate fruit and vegetables was so large that many companies grew their own timber. One of these companies was the Burlington Basket Company in Burlington, Iowa.
It was established in 1888 by Emil A. Florang as the Burlington Woodenware Company. It was burned down and rebuilt three times, the last being in 1929. This company subsequently adopted the brand name of “Hawkeye” for it’s products and made a wide variety of baskets for commercial, consumer, and farm use.
The first hampers made by this company were made of woven reed, willow and splint. From these the veneer-cut splint hamper was introduced. As labor costs increased and
timber supplies diminished, it was necessary to develop greater production efficiencies. This resulted in the use of loom woven materials which were wrapped around a wooden or metal frame and then painted. Later these were made with some form of plastic top. As indoor plumbing became more popular and color started creeping into every room in the home, the hamper took on an artistic flair. In the post war years as housewares were
beginning to be viewed as artistic design objects, manufacturers rediscovered the