Sunday, June 28, 2009

Here we go 'round the mulberry bush...

These are the chores we'll do this week,
Do this week, Do this week.
These are the chores we'll do this week,
So early every morning.

This is the way we wash our clothes,
Wash our clothes, Wash our clothes.
This is the way we wash our clothes,
So early Monday morning.

I happened on an auction lot of washboards, and I thought I would give you a little insight into them, not to mention make you incredibly grateful for that machine sitting in your home even as we speak!

A number of myths surround the Monday wash day theme. You have the nursery rhyme which follows a week's worth of chores, and then there is story that the Mayflower landed on shore on a Monday, and you can imagine loads of laundry they were faced with after that voyage. Another thought is that, since Sunday was a day of rest, the women were ready for the task of laundry which was labor intensive. Imagine scrubbing the heavy clothes by hand and then wringing out...makes one tired just to think of it! But, the fires would have been going from Sunday, and the housewife could soak the clothes and have them ready for morning.

Before the mid 1800s, washboards were made by hand, carved from a single piece of wood.Washtubs or copper boilers were filled with hot water, and piece by piece clothing was scrubbed clean.
In the 1850s, pottery companies devised washboards from yellowware and Rockingham stoneware. I have never had one of these, but I know they can book over $200. From the late 1800s on, zinc, brass, glass and graniteware were manufactured. Graniteware is not easily found, and I have had cobalt blue and turquoise in past years but not recently. My stash today is more common, and these run in the $8-$20 range.
Smaller boards were used for lingerie or finer fabrics. Glass boards were also mass produced during WWII when metals were needed for the war effort. This board is odd because the 511 has a reversed 1 - unusual in the quality control department of earlier days.
The numbers supposedly indicate texture of ribbings, but I have also heard the lower the number the older the board.

Washboards are still in production...the Amish do not use washing machines, remember...and there are crafters who repurpose them into found objects of art.

But, as E.B. White wrote: "We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry."


gail said...

Hi Susan,, how are you? I am very thankful for the washing machine and dryer. What a job that must have been! I love coming here each week and learning something new.
I hope you have an awesome week and that your shop is doing great with summer visitors. Tell the squirrels "hey!" for me. lol said...

Hello Susan, I am so grateful for my beautiful front loading high washing and dryer. We've come along way baby.

SoCal Helene said...

I have to tell you something, I grew up on a farm in the 60s in Sweden and we did not have a washer, so I’m very familiar with the washboard……and I’m very, very happy for my washer that is running right now!!
;0) Helene

PunkRose {Sher} said...

I've used many a washboard in my day - it was fun for a while - then I decided washing machines were somewhat miraculous after having 3 kids! {3 loads every other day with a washboard and we'd probably have Arnold Schwarzenegger arms!!} I love the old and nostalgic, anything vintage, and I LOVE your informative posts - I cannot wait to see what tidbits of info you give us next. Your photos on your sidebar are amazing dear friend! Happy Holiday! xo Sherri

ann at greenoak said...

what a life those women had doing their laundry!!!
thanks for the e b white quote...made me think of an old a friend once who loved starching doilies and ironing...