Washboard, painting inspire a look back at the history of washing clothes

courtesy photo
This painting shows a laundry day in France.

What are these objects listed here and what were they used for? , plunger, punch, puncher?”

They were all used to wash clothes with or without a washing tub, and were sometimes used at the edges of streams and rivers, inside public washrooms, outside boats, or at public fountains.

JE has an early 20th-century washboard, the American cousin of the above object, which was in use throughout the country in the 1860s, but was invented in 1833 by Stephen Last of New York. of tin, iron or zinc.

These ridges removed dirt from clothing. These advertisements can be seen in the mid-19th century, but by the late 1800s the board had been “improved” by Herman Liebmann of Chicago. He replaced the board’s metal plates his inserts with raised glass or porcelain. This is the JE version.

Laundry day is an ordeal, and for years was done by a professional washerwoman – if families could afford such help.

Currently valued at $50, this early 20th century washboard reflects the history of laundry in America.

In many parts of the world, cleaning clothes and linens was done once a week, once a month, or once a year, depending on the item. It was usually a Monday because washing, drying and folding linen often took quite a few days and the family didn’t want peace and work on Sunday. This was especially true in traditionally Catholic countries.

Today, it’s easy to think of drying clothes in a dryer, but in some parts of the world even a warm room was difficult to find. bottom. Sometimes it is done only on the sunlit moon.

In front of the washboard was a wash vat, a flat wooden raised board with a long handle that could be beaten, stirred, and used to pry clothes out of the tub or river. From the 18th century to his 19th century, decorative laundry bats were found in Finland, Norway and Italy. A sloping board with a slope for draining water attached to the legs was found in England and used art on the side of a river or the side of a bathtub.

JE also sent me a painting of Laundry Day in France in Impressionist style with an illegible signature. This illustrates the early tradition of river washing in France, a subject beloved by French artists. One in the tub or her three-sided box, the other one on the shelf She has two washerwomen with piles of laundry linen in the foreground.

A French tradition was a three-sided box lined with straw in which washerwomen would kneel by the river. The box kept the skirt dry. At an angle across the front the women held a washboard or bat. One of the women appears to be on the water, but this was done as well in a small wooden tub on the banks of the river. Washerwomen in some parts of continental Europe did their laundry on washbasins that could be placed in shallow water. The purpose was to grind the dough. Different bats and boards and plungers (like toilet plungers) were used, depending on the strength of the dough. The object was water. The fabric got heavy when wet, and the woman doing the laundry was very tough.

One travel writer, John Price Durbin, wrote in Observations of Europe in 1844, that “a stout washerwoman (whose work was physically demanding) was on the bank of a river in France, and the washerwoman’s It had an ark (a small wooden raft) or a bench on the side.” of water; benches were used to soak clothes that would be beaten with a washing vat after soaking in the river…”I love the old word ‘sous’ which means to drown or drenched am. Today this word is associated with “drunk!”

Across Europe, communal washing days were common among washerwomen, whether on the banks of rivers, in village washrooms, or in public fountains on main squares. In France, bateau-lavoirs were communal washboats moored near riverbanks.

JE washboards are as common a curio as they were in most American homes long after the invention of mechanical washing machines with drums in the 1860s. Of course, not all American households can afford such things, so washboards and tubs were tough. Today’s value is $50.

Dr. Elizabeth Stewart’s “Ask a Gold Digger” column appeared in News Press on Saturday.

Dr. Stewart’s book, My Darlin’ Quarantine: Intimate Connections Created in Chaos, written after his father was diagnosed with COVID-19, features five “what-if” short stories that end in personal triumphs over modern constraints. A humorous collection of . Available at Chaucers in Santa Barbara.

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