A Trip to the Cleaners


I found this photo of an unidentified cleaners in my Cleage photographs. There are no Cleages in the photo. It’s pasted on a piece of cardboard and a child, has scribbled in pencil all over the picture. I assume unidentified Cleaners is located in the neighborhood of the Old Westside of Detroit.

I have not been able to identify either the cleaners or the owners. There is a “Detmer Woolens” calendar on the wall but I can’t make out the year even when I scan it at 600 dpi.  The dress the woman behind the counter is wearing, the narrow pant legs of the menby the counter and in  poster on the wall and the short hair on the calendar girl make me think the photo was taken in the mid-1930s.  I found this history of Detmer Woolens interesting.

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and here is the link

35 thoughts on “A Trip to the Cleaners

  1. I love these old pictures…Look at that presser. it kind of reminds me of my Uncle Charlie’s cleaners but more age to it. Thanks for posting

  2. Nice post.

    I don’t suppose the larger scans reveal what month the calendar is turned to? From that you could look to see what day it began on, and look on perpetual calendars for years that matched.

  3. The press is interesting. But I wonder who these people were and why someone in your family thought enough of them to glue them into a scrapbook. I have such minor mysteries in some of the old albums from my family too. Sometimes they tease me into thinking I can actually figure it all out and as a result I get distracted for hours.

    1. Wendy, it wasn’t in a scrapbook, the photo is fixed to some cardboard. You can see it sort of crumpling around the edges. I do get off into investigations all too often. If there had been a name or the name of the Cleaners on here, I’d still be looking and finding.

  4. The “Detmer Woolens” graphics on your link are rather stylish! The top wallposter on your photo is driving me crazy ! Looks really familiar but I just cant place it……..

  5. I like how they put the awning over the cash register counter to jazz the place up a bit.

    It is a great picture, and it must have inspired you to write about it way back then. Just wish that we could read what you wrote!

    Kathy M.

  6. The first thing I thought of when I saw the awning was, was their and Italian influence?

    Is there anyway of identifying the neighbourhood the business was in – street directories as it might give an idea of anything other material in the archives?

    1. I’m just assuming it was in the neighborhood my grandparents lived in for about 40 years which was called “the old Westside”. To distinguish it from the new westside I guess. I wonder what I could find looking by streets in old city directories… that’s a good idea because there probably weren’t a whole lot of cleaners in the area. I’ll try that. Maybe one of them had visited Italy.

  7. Interesting photo – I too was drawn to the calendar but can’t make anything much out on it. Good luck with the city directories, and let us know what you find! Jo 🙂

    1. Maybe because they clean the dirt out of your clothes and so somebody will clean you of your money? Or was it very expensive to get your clothes cleaned.

  8. A city directory might be worth a look. Some also list by category…. Like the yellow pages. I get really distracted by this sort of thing. I always think it might be a clue to something. 🙂

  9. It is always inconsequential, half-lost, tattered and torn photographs like this one that turn out to be the most fascinating : especially in the hands of a fine image analyser such as yourself.

    1. Unfortunately Detmer went out of business long, long ago. I googled but could only find a couple of calendars, neither of which were this one. I like that lamp too.

  10. Even though you haven’t “yet” identified the subjects, it’s a wonderful, very “real” occupational photo to have in your family collection, and I hope the connections will eventually be made.

  11. All those vests hanging on the rack! You rarely see those anymore – I always liked the dressed up look of a three piece suit myself. I like others appreciate the jaunty look of the awning, sort of gentling the opening onto what is presumably the guts of the business behind. I hope you eventually find out your connection to these people.

  12. I doubt there many vintage photos like this of a dry cleaners. It’s not the typical occupation or shop for a commercial photo. It looks more like a photo sent to a family member.

    In one of the closets of my antique house, I found a few old clothes hangers that dated to the very early days, 1915-20. They have wooden bars with heavier wire hooks, and a union made label from the coat hanger makers union. Still practical and in use. I wonder if they might have come from a cleaner like this.

    1. I can’t imagine what relatives they were. I don’t know of any relatives in the cleaning business and they don’t look like any relatives I know of. But I do think it’s a shop of someone they knew very well, not just strangers with a shop.

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