The Maytag Company was founded in 1893, originally manufacturing farm equipment. They moved on to other equipment and between 1907 and 1911 they even produced Maytag-Mason automobiles. As late as 1916 they still produced farm tractors. Their first clothes washer, with a wooden tub and a hand crank, was built in 1907.
Maytag introduced their first electric washing machines in 1911, however they could only be used in homes with access to electricity so those in rural areas still had to turn the cranks by hand. By 1915 farm engines were popular and one engine could be used to perform various tasks from pumping water to running grain mills. Maytag jumped in by creating their Multi-Motor, a miniature version to power their washing machines. They were quickly adapted to do many other chores around the house. They were attached to garden tractors, generators, water pumps before plumbing was readily available, lawn mowers, go carts (some actually made by Maytag), generators worn as backpacks by soldiers, ice cream makers, and a number of other devices.
By the 1950's most of the demand for the Multi-Motor had tapered off. Those who were buying washing machines rarely lived without electricity, and Maytag had stiff competition from other manufacturers such as Briggs and Stratton. Americans were much more in need of refrigerators and dish washers, and had less use for small, heavy, smelly little gas engines.
Their usefulness came to an end and production of the Multi-Motor, ended in the 50's, but their impact was indelible. These motors brought modern convenience to many American households before they had access to the resources and power we take for granted now. It can be viewed as a piece of transitional technology, groundbreaking for its time. For many people, buying a Maytag Multi-Motor was a first step towards a modern way of living.
It is easy to overlook the importance of small engines now that we have plentiful electricity, but the Multi-Motor played an important role in the modernization of American households which were in transition from the early 1900s to the late 1950s. In some parts of the country electricity and plumbing were slow in coming so the little Multi-Motors eased some of the inconveniences of rural life.