Auto Wash Bowls of the Roaring 1920s

Auto Wash Bowls of the Roaring 1920s
Auto Wash Bowls of the Roaring 1920s

The Auto Wash Bowl concept originated in St. Paul, Minnisota. It was patented in 1921 by inventor C.P. Bohland, who opened two locations in St. Paul.

C.P. Bohland’s 1921 Patent

He devised the bowl as an easy way to clean mud off of the undercarriage of cars. Back in this early age of motoring, roads were often unpaved and muddy, and that mud would get caked on the underside of the car and the wheels — but a spin in the nifty Auto Wash Bowl took care of that.

This once innovative car wash stood at the northwest corner of Chicago’s 42nd Street and South Michigan Avenue. This is how the operation appeared in 1924.

The nearly 80-foot-wide, ridged concrete bowl was about 16 inches at its deepest point in the center. Customers paid 25¢ to an attendant who strapped a protective rubber cover over the radiator.

Patrons would then enter the bowl via a ramp and drive their cars around and around the bowl at a speed of about 10 miles per hour. The ridges in the concrete would vibrate the car and the water, creating a sloshing action that helped wash away all the mud from the chassis and wheels.

The process took about three or four minutes. The car would then exit the bowl where patrons who wanted a complete car wash could enter one of the bays where the rest of the car would be cleaned. On a busy Saturday, about 75 cars per hour would go for a spin in the Auto Wash Bowl.

Once the idea had proved successful in St. Paul, the patent holder began advertising in other cities to franchise the operation (see ad below).

The first Auto Wash Bowl in Chicago was built by a Chicagoan named C.G. Burkhartsmeier on the southeast corner of Diversey and Elston on the city’s North Side. Burkhartsmeier bought the rights in 1924 and built his bowl and service station at a cost of $20,000.

Sadly, the Auto Wash Bowl wound up being little more than a novelty as car-washing technology evolved. Just two years later, the North Side wash bowl was bought by a local realtor, the South Side wash bowl was gone by the ‘30s, and the Auto Wash Bowl went down the drain…

Come On In The Water’s Fine

A five-minute trip through the automobile wash bowl removes all dust dirt and mud from the wheels, spokes, fenders and running board. The turning action of the water in the bowl is a natural cleaning action. The whirling motion produces a gentle spray that loosens the grime and dirt without injury to the paint. Every car owner enjoys his drive through the Bowl.

The automobile washbowl at Saint Paul, Minnesota, built by the originators of this modern method for cleaning cars, has attracted the attention of business men and women throughout the United States. Business magazines have featured it the sensation of the year.

The motoring public has acknowledged its practical advantages — Its decided improvement over the old method. They demand more bowls because a car wash by this method is 50% to 75% more economical! In Saint

Paul, for instance, one bowl has proved inadequate. As high as 300 cars have been put through the Bowl in one day, and then we were forced to turn many away.

Effective immediately, we will establish these Bowls in every State and City in the union. The city of Chicago — a virgin field — offers unlimited possibilities to men and women who are in position to finance the building of these Bowls. The rights to build these bowls, covered by broad patents, are sold outright to the owner. Only a very nominal overhead is required to operate the bowl.

Further particulars will be gladly furnished to interested parties. Investigate NOW!

Note: Our representatives, Mr. C. S. Miles and Mr. V. G. Larson, will be at the LaSalle hotel, Saturday July 23rd, Monday July 24th, Tuesday July 25th. Phone them for appointment.

Salesman capable of closing contracts for the privilege to build these bowls are requested to write us promptly.

Address Correspondence to
Service Station Construction Company
645 Hamm Building, St. Paul, Minnesota