Inside the Collection

Hill’s Mini-Hoist rotary clothes line

Photograph of Toy Hills Hoist "Mini-Hoist" rotary clothes line
Toy Hill’s Hoist “Mini-Hoist” rotary clothes line, made by Hill’s Hoists Ltd, Adelaide, South Australia, 1956-1959. Powerhouse Museum collection 87/664.

I’ve seen this little 60-cm high Hill’s Hoist clothes line in our basement storage area for years and always assumed it was a model which reps might have taken around to secure sales. Clearly, lugging a full-size clothes line around with you was out of the question and this is a perfect model of the famous clothes line which sprouted up in backyards across the nation. However, research in The Australian Women’s Weekly between 1956 and 1959 revealed ads for a Mini-Hoist, a toy version of the Hills Hoist rotary clothes line.

The Australian Women’s Weekly told its readers that the “Mini-Hoist” was

 The practical gift for little girls. They will play for hours hanging out their “washing” just the same as Mother. Strongly constructed, it is an exact working miniature of the famous Hills Hoist and even includes the winding gear.

The ad went on to say that a full-size Hill’s Hoist was the ideal Christmas present for a mother. What’s more it advised that a canvas canopy could also be purchased to fit over the top of the clothes line providing “the perfect sunshade on summer days” for outside entertaining! Entertaining aside, the Hill’s Hoist was launched in 1946 in Adelaide, South Australia, and designed by Lance Hill. Hill didn’t invent the rotary clothes line. Gilbert Toyne patented ones in Australia between 1911 and 1946.

Either way, the rotary clothes line had four arms which rotated to give easy access to all areas of the line instead of having to walk up and down the long lines. The arms could be raised after the washing had been hung out keeping it clear of children and pets. The length of the wires’ outside perimeter was long enough for a double bed sheet. A full load of washing could catch the breeze and rotate, which increased its dying speed. It took up much less room than lines strung across the back yard from two posts and the lawn was no longer full of holes from the clothes props.

With the Victa lawnmower, the Hill’s clothes hoist is considered an Australian icon as almost every household would have owned both at one time. The development of the clothes line coincided with the Australian post-War housing boom as demand for homes on quarter-acre blocks in the suburbs escalated. The Hill’s Hoist also provided a generation of children born post-War with a rotary monkey bar or backyard merry-go-round.

By 1990 five million Hill’s Hoists had been made which by then were being marketed as the “world leader in environmentally friendly outdoor drying”. Clothes dried on a clothes line look and smell better, keep their shape, do not suffer from static cling, last longer than tumble drying, do not shrink and save money and electricity. By line drying washing an average family will save 300 kg of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere each year.

Written by Margaret Simpson, Curator, Science and Industry, January 2014

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