How We Made the Gyrafoam (Maytag washer)

Jul 16, 2015

Consider the history of the washing machine, in which Iowa played an integral part.  You may think that the Maytag, developed in Newton, was a product of the work of company founder F.L. Maytag.  But retired educator and amateur historian Tom Hoover says Mr. Maytag was really more of a shrewd businessman who could spot genius engineers and innovators when he saw them.

Hoover, a resident of Newton, says Maytag managed to survive for decades (there was a lot of competition in the early washing machine industry) due to one man in the company's early history: Howard Snyder.   Maytag recruited Snyder by buying out many of his competitors.  But while Snyder came up with innovation after innovation, including the aluminum washtub (driven by electricity, of all things), the company continued to have problems with its "Multi-Motor." But Snyder was not to be defeated.  In 1920, he unveiled his miracle washer that saved the company: The Model 72, also known as the Gyrafoam Washer.  Maytag would now survive for decades in Newton.

This hour, we hear about the ingenious Snyder and the early history of Maytag with Tom Hoover, who has written about it in his new book, "How We Made the Gyrafoan: The Story of Two Midwestern Farm Boys Who Changed Washday Mondays Forever." (published by the Newton Daily News).