Celebrating 116 Years in Business

Posted on: May 23rd, 2022 by Valerie Wetlaufer | No Comments

May 26th marks CITY Laundering Company’s 116th anniversary. While many things have changed throughout our history, our values of excellent customer service and responsiveness remain the same.


vintage photo of people in front of old City building


We opened for business on May 26th, 1906, founded by Herbert Wetlaufer, 19, and Edward Rinehimer, 21. They were employed by the Spensley’s Laundry before opening CITY. The two men borrowed $850 (about $25,000 in today’s dollar) and purchased equipment from a defunct laundry in Whitewater, Wis.

Rhinehimer went to Whitewater, removed the machines, and loaded them on a railroad freight car for shipment to Oelwein.

They set up their equipment in a building at 204 South Frederick, which they rented for $15 per month. Rhinehimer and Wetlaufer, aided by two employees, handled the pick-up, delivery, and processing of family laundry. The first week’s receipts were $52.

Two employees, along with Rinehimer and Wetlaufer, handled the pick-up, delivery, and processing of family laundry. Now we have over 100 employees and focus on industrial laundry.

Until 1915, all deliveries were made by horse and wagon. Now, most of our Route Service Reps drive 26-foot box trucks.

The first towns outside of Oelwein that CITY serviced were Independence, Strawberry Point, and Elkader. Now our service area includes four states: Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.

The equipment has changed a great deal as well. The first commercial washing machines were driven by steam and belts and used a large amount of water. We have prioritized sustainability and use efficient, state-of-the-art equipment, including our Norchem UltraPure water filtration system, solar panels, and our Miura boiler, each of which helps make our company more sustainable.

In 2010, we opened our first depot in the Des Moines area, and we now have five locations, with more to come! In 116 years, we’ve changed a lot. However, we still have the best employees and the vision to continually improve and offer our customers the best, most responsive service.

Here are just a few of the highlights of our history:

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