On a chilly night in Paris in 1855 Jean Baptiste Jolly accidentally upset an unlit oil lamp.
He wanted to continue working, so he quickly removed the soiled tablecloth and didn't get back to it for several hours. When he did, he was surprised to see the spill gone. In fact, the oiled part of the cloth was actually cleaner than the rest.
Thus, the first commercial dry cleaner was in business.
But it was a laborious method. Each garment had to be dipped in a pan of turpentine and brushed clean, then the smell of the spirit had to be dried off.
French Bronze Oil Lamp, 19th Century
-- Courtesy of Let There Be Clothes by Lynn Schnurnberger --