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87/664 Toy Hills Hoist 'Mini-Hoist' rotary clothes line, made by Hills Hoists Ltd, [Adelaide, South Australia], Australia, 1956-1959. Click to enlarge.

Toy Hills hoist “Mini-Hoist”

In 1946 Lance Hill wanted to save his wife from the daily battle with the old wire clothes line and heavy wooden clothes props. In his Adelaide backyard he made a rotary hoist. By simply turning a handle a full line of washing could be raised.

This is a toy version of the Hills Hoist rotary clothes line and marketed as the "Mini-Hoist" between 1956 and 1959. The full-size Hills Hoist was launched in 1946 in Adelaide, South Australia, and designed by Lance Hill. The toy was made so that little girls could hang out their dolls' clothes on a washing line just like their mothers. It stands only 2 feet (61 cm) high and was made by the manufacturer of the full-size clothes lines, Hills Hoist Ltd. The Hills Hoist became Australia's most successful wind-powered rotary clothes drier.

The significant design element of the Hills Hoist were that four arms which rotated to give easy access to all areas of the line instead of walking up the down to peg out washing. The arms could be raised after the washing had been hung out keeping it clear of children and pets. The length of the wires outer was long enough for a double bed sheet. A full load of washing could catch the breeze and rotate, which increased its dying speed. It took up much less room than lines strung across the back yard from two posts and the lawn was no longer full of holes from the clothes props.

With the Victa lawnmower, the Hill's clothes hoist is considered an Australian icon as almost every household would have owned both at one time. The development of the clothes line coincided with the Australian post-War housing boom as demand for homes on quarter-acre blocks in the suburbs escalated. The Hill's Hoist also provided a generation of children born post-War with a rotary "monkey bar" or backyard merry-go-round.

By 1990 five million Hill's Hoists had been made which by then were being marketed as the "world leader in environmentally friendly outdoor drying". Clothes dried on a clothes line look and smell better, keep their shape, do not suffer from static cling, last longer than tumble drying, do not shrink and save money and electricity. By line drying washing an average family will save 300 kg of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere each year.

Margaret Simpson
Curator, Science Technology & Industry
March 2012

Advertisement in "The Australian Women's Weekly" 5 December 1956, p.25.

Advertisement in "The Australian Women's Weekly 2 December 1959, p.78.

Hills Hoist, Australia Innovates, Powerhouse Museum,

Green Garden Solutions

Harris, David, "Fifty Years of Hills", Hills Printing Services, Edwardstown, S.A., 1996.

“The 5 millionth backyard merry-go-round” in “The Sydney Morning Herald” 27 October ,1990.

McPhee, Margaret, “The Dictionary of Australian Inventions & Discoveries”, Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd, St Leonards, NSW, p.115.


Object No.


Object Statement

Toy Hills Hoist 'Mini-Hoist' rotary clothes line, made by Hills Hoists Ltd, [Adelaide, South Australia], Australia, 1956-1959

Physical Description

Toy Hills Hoist "Mini-Hoist" rotary clothes line, made by Hills Hoists Ltd, [Adelaide, South Australia], Australia, 1956-1959

A model of a galvanised-iron rotary clothes hoist comprising a wire clothes line strung on arms of metal tubing forming a rotatable square which could be raised or lowered. The rotary clothes line sits on a three-pronged flat pedestal base from which rises a central support column. This features an operating rotary handle and four metal tubes which form the top section. The tubes are strung with five rows of wire on which to hang the clothes.

The three branches of the base, the two rings above and below the rotating arms, the housing for the winding mechanism, the winding handle and the cap are made of cast zinc. The other components are made of an iron-based alloy and are zinc coated


Stamped twice on the central rotary section "Hill's Hoists" and "oil". Stamped on the handle is a plate with the wording "Hill's Hoists".



This small rotary clothes line is a toy version of the full-size Hills Hoist first made by Lance Hill (d.1986) and his brother-in-law, Harold Ling in 1946. Hill did not invent the rotary clothes line. Gilbert Toyne (1888-1983) patented ones in Australia between 1911 and 1946 which were sold in small numbers until the early 1960s by Toyne's Rotary Clothes Hoist Pty Ltd.

After Lancelot Leonard (Lance) Hill returned from the Second World War in 1945 to his home at 7 Bevington Road, Glenunga, an Adelaide suburb, his wife, Sherry, complained that washing on her traditional clothes line, strung between two posts and held up in the centre by a clothes prop, kept snagging on two orange trees. Hill's answer was a rotary line made out of old water pipes and wire. The problem of raising the line into the wind was solved with a modified car differential familiar to Hill as he had a been keen motorcycle speedway racer before the War. Once his wife's clothes line had been completed there were others requested from neighbours, family and friends and these were made in the Hill's backyard. Lance, and his brother-in-law, Harold, pooled their demobilisation money and with some money contributed by family members set up the firm in 1946, Hills Hoists Ltd, which went on to become a multi-national company.

The post-War lack of resources, especially metal tubing, had to be overcome and old aircraft, which were full of wire and tubing, were purchased from Air Force disposals. Their supply difficulties decreased when the firm acquired a tube mill which manufactured water pipes. Manufacturing moved out of the Lance's backyard to 262a Glen Osmond Road, Fullarton, in 1948 and to the former Pengelley coach-making factory at South Road, Edwardstown, 6 km SW of Adelaide, in 1954.

Lance Hill retired from the company in the mid-1950s. By 1956 the Adelaide firm had the head office and factory at Edwardstown and Australian branches in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart and Perth. There was also a New Zealand office in Auckland. Clothes lines were fitted in capital city areas by Hills Hoist experts and instruction booklets issued for those purchased in country areas. To go with your clothes line the firm also made a number of other products focused on the backyard including the folding laundry pram, the "comfort" folding chair, this toy mini version of the clothes line called the "Mini-Hoist" as well as paddle pools, and outdoor swing and gym sets for children.

"The Australian Women's Weekly" of 5 December 1956 advertised the "Mini-Hoist" saying it was "The practical gift for little girls. They will play for hours hanging out their "washing" just the same as Mother. Strongly constructed, it is an exact working miniature of the famous Hills Hoist and even includes the winding gear." A full size Hills Hoist was also advertised in 1956 as the ideal Christmas present for a mother. Few women today would think this. A canvas canopy could also be purchased to fit over the top of the clothes line providing "the perfect sunshade on summer days" for outside entertaining.

In 1958 the firm formed a new holding company, Hills Industries Ltd. They expanded and diversified into ironing boards, television antennas, CCTV equipment and building and roofing materials. Manufacturing plants were established in the UK and New Zealand and their products were sold in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and other parts of SE Asia.



This toy version of a Hills Hoist rotary clothes line was purchased from an antique shop in Roseville, NSW, in 1987 for one of the exhibitions developed for the opening of the Powerhouse Museum entitled "A Material World".

A very similar toy clothes dryer is featured in 'The Great American Antique Toy Bazaar 1874-1945' featuring a Butler Brothers 1925 catalogue.


Credit Line

Purchased 1987

Acquisition Date

3 June 1987

Cite this Object


Toy Hills hoist "Mini-Hoist" 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 30 October 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Toy Hills hoist "Mini-Hoist" |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=30 October 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Collection Gallery 2 at the Museums Discovery Centre.


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.