"In '49 and the early 1850's ... San Francisco enjoyed a labor shortage of acute proportions. Every able-bodied man had headed for the Mother Lode diggings and the few women who had come out from the East were not the washwoman type. The heathen Chinee had not yet been imported from Canton to beoome the universal laundryman and getting a ruffled shirt washed and starched was next to impossible. In this pass, the pioneers hit upon an ingenious solution.... Since buying new shirts and sundries was cheaper than hiring a washwoman at $100 a day, the Argonauts let their personal laundry accumulate for twelve months and then sent it out in a clipper ship bound for China where it could be washed and ironed for next to nothing. It came back a year later, and for some time it was established California practice to send laundry across the Pacific and get it back next year."
-The Big Spenders by Lucius Beebe