We clean clothes cleaner than the cleaner that cleans clothes clean.

York Pressing Club, East Nash Street. Wilson Daily Times, [no date], 1914.

“At a time when grooming and fashion counted for a lot, when most domestic chores such as keeping one’s skirts and suits sharply creased were handled at home, those who could afford it chipped in to join ‘clubs’ that had no clubhouse, no sporting activities, no board games, no meetings. They offered simple ‘pressing’ services. As their membership swelled throughout the South, ‘club’ operations moved from homes into modest stores. … Over time as technology advanced, simple cleaning and pressing turned to dry cleaning.” “Pressing Business,” Dora Mekouar, Ted Landphair’s America.

For a small monthly or yearly fee, members of pressing clubs could have their good clothes cleaned, pressed and repaired regularly, insuring a well-groomed appearance. This was no small matter in a place and time in which most men owned only one suit. African-Americans did not dominate the pressing club business as overwhelmingly they did barbering, but they were well-represented in the number.

Wilson Times, 21 October 1921.

The list below comprises those businesses that advertised or were otherwise described as operating pressing clubs or other types of cleaning and pressing businesses.

  • Barefoot Pressing Works — Lenwood Barefoot, proprietor. Listed in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson city directory at 510 1/2 East Nash and in the 1922 city directory at 507 East Nash. Barefoot also worked as a tailor.
  • Brewington Pressing Works — Edward C. Brewington, proprietor. Listed in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson city directory at 510 1/2 East Nash and in the 1922 directory at 561 East Nash.

1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory.

  • Carter & Walker — per the 1916 city directory, Clarence Carter and Charles Walker operated a cleaning and pressing business at 503 East Nash.
  • Citizens Pressing Club — in the 1912 city directory at 124 South Goldsboro.
  • Cox’s Pressing Club — Eddie H. Cox, proprietor. In the 1925 Wilson city directory, the pressing club is listed at 529 East Nash.
  • Down Town Pressing Club — Lenwood Barefoot, proprietor. Advertised in the same 1914 supplement as York Pressing, above. In the 1916 city directory, the address of Down Town Pressing Club is 532 East Nash.
  • Home Pressing Club — in the 1916 city directory, the address of Home Pressing Club is 217 South Goldsboro.
  • Moses Pressing Works — in the 1925 city directory at 514 East Nash.
  • No. 1 Pressing Club — Preston Smith, proprietor. This business is listed in the 1922 city directory at 515 East Nash.

An incident stemming from an altercation at Preston Smith’s pressing club. Wilson Daily Times, 27 November 1923.

  • Quick Service Pressing Club — John B. Barnes, proprietor. 1941.
  • Service Cleaning Works — Lenwood Barefoot, proprietor. Listed in the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory.
  • Wardrobe Pressing Club — James Barbour, Nannie Barbour and Willie R. Barnes, proprietors. Listed in the 1920 city directory at 600 East Nash Street and in 1922, at 601 East Nash. Per the 1930 Hill’s Wilson city directory, the business was at 548 East Nash.
  • York Pressing Shop — Reed and Whitty, proprietors. I have not been able to identify Whitty, but Reed seems to have been Lonnie Reid (a cousin of Elijah Reid, J.D. Reid and Willie G. Reid), who is listed in the 1912 Hill’s city directory of Wilson operating a clothes cleaning shop at 603 East Nash Street. York was short-lived, as in the 1916 directory Reid was in business with Dunn, North Carolina, resident William Bates. Their tailor shop, Bates & Reid, also operated at 603 East Nash.
  • Whitted & Moser — listed in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson city directory at 516 East Nash, which was also William C. Whitted‘s home address. Oliver L. Moser lived on East Nash Extended. [Was Whitted the “Whitty” above?]

This list includes other African-Americans known to have operated such businesses or worked in the trade.

  • Lemon Barnes — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Saratoga Road, farmer Jesse Barnes, 46; wife Sarah, 47; and children Ned, 23, farm laborer; Nancy, 22, college student; Lemon, 20, pressing club laborer; Jessie Belle, 18, high school student; Maggie, 15; Ardenia, 13; Frank, 11; James, 6; and Mildred, 3.
  • William Ichabod Barnes — in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, William I. Barnes was listed as proprietor of a cleaning and pressing business at 508 East Nash.
  • John Best — in the 1930 Wilson city directory, Best John (c) (Sylvia) clothes presser h 106 Ashe. Herbert H. and Alf J. Ford are listed as the proprietors of Ford cleaners.
  • James Hardy — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 311 Pender, Lawrence Hardy, 39, pantry(?) servant at college; brother James Hardy, 39, presser at cleaning works; and George Brodie, 33, barber.
  • Grover Jackson — in business listings in the 1925 city directory at 407 Stantonsburg Road.
  • Hosea McMillan — listed in the 1922 city director as a presser.
  • Mack McMillan — listed in the 1922 city directory as a presser.
  • Leonard Moore — in business listings in the 1925 city directory at South Goldsboro, corner of Hines.
  • Charles Nelson — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 113 Pender Street, (1) paying $12/month, Ethel Cain, 32, elementary school teacher, and mother Delia Jones, 66, cook; (2) paying $4, Charles Nelson, 36, pressing club presser, and wife Mamie, 34; and (3) paying $4, Hubert McFail, 35, tobacco factory truck driver, and wife Viola, 20, school teacher.
  • James Powell — in business listings in the 1922 city directory as the operator of a business in Five Points Settlement.
  • Oscar Reid — in the 1922 Wilson city directory: Reid, Oscar, cleaner — Powell Cleaning Works, 207 North Vick; in the 1928 city directory: Reid Oscar (c; Nora) clnr and presser 567 E Nash h 207 N Vick
  • Warren Rountree — listed in the 1922 Wilson city directory as a presser.
  • William R. Rountree — in business listings in the 1922 city directory at South Tarboro near Norfolk Southern Railroad.
  • William Solomon — in business listings in the 1922 Hill’s Wilson city directory at 111 North Pettigrew.
  • Alonzo Taylor — in business listings in the 1916 city directory of Wilson, Taylor is listed as a 213 South Goldsboro.
  • Noble Wade — business listings in the the 1922 Hill’s Wilson city directory at 510 East Nash.

 A fire broke out in William I. Barnes’ pressing club. Wilson Daily Times, 3 November 1911.

 

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