Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Inside the Vancouver Archives: When you could use a 'give-and-take' laundry service

It looks a little like Santa's workshop - if the North Pole specialized in cleaning clothes!
CVA310-21
Workers at Nelsons Laundries Ltd.

It may look like Santa’s workshop with a scene of wrapping parcels and checking off of lists, but this photograph from around 1945 shows the packaging of freshly laundered clothing at Nelsons Laundries Ltd. These packages were likely destined for the company’s “give-and-take” service where a driver would exchange parcels of freshly laundered items for a bundle of dirty laundry from subscribing households.

Nelsons Laundries Ltd. was established in 1931 by Nels Nelson, a man who was involved with a variety of enterprises including brewing and farming. Around 1931 the company took over the Mission-style building located on the corner of 7th Avenue and Cambie Street where the Metropolitan Laundry and Dry Cleaners Ltd. had been operating for the previous three years.

In 1939, Nelson sold the business to A.B. Christopher and his associates. During the 1950s and into the 1960s, Nelson Laundries Ltd. purchased other laundry businesses, including Pioneer Laundry, becoming the largest cleaning company in the Lower Mainland. In 1964, it moved from Cambie Street to Pioneer Laundry’s old location at 5 West 4th Avenue.

Four years later, Nelsons was bought by Steiner Canada Ltd., and became a part of Steiner American Corporation (Alsco), which still operates out of the same West 4th Avenue site.

Interested in finding more archival photographs of Vancouver? Search the City of Vancouver Archives’ online database. For more information about the Archives, its holdings, and how to research, visit the Archives’ website.