Mangle boards! What are they?
We must hear that question here in the store at least once a week. Have you wondered the same thing when you’ve seen them here on our web site or perhaps in a folk museum?
The answer begins with laundry. Those of you as old as me may remember our mothers’ washing machines with that dangerous apparatus on the top, the one we were warned to keep our fingers out of. Well, that torture device with the two rollers was called a mangle, and it could easily mangle a little hand along with the linens. At the time, an electric-powered wringer which could be positioned over a sink was the height of labor-saving devices.
Before that, women slaved over the washtub and wringer, aka, the mangle, both of them powered by hand. The mangle not only squeezed water from the laundry, it left it flat and smooth. And there was a time even further back, before the hot metal iron, when the housewife smoothed her damp laundry by wrapping it around a roller and running a flat board – the mangle board – back and forth over the top. “Two utensils [were] necessary – the first a kind of rolling-pin, round which the sprinkled linen is tightly swathed. The other, a mangling-board, a narrow flat piece of wood … is then pressed tightly on the linen and rolled with as much force as possible.”1 A mangle board was an essential tool for every young wife.
Fine, you say, but what’s that got to do with love?
Well, in Scandinavia and around the North Sea, it was the custom for a young man in love to demonstrate his skill and his devotion by carving a mangle board for his intended, two or three feet long with a decorative handle, and carving or painting her initials and the date onto the top. Her reaction to this gift was an indication of her feelings about her suitor. Many of these courting gifts were well used, but some were kept for display and as a token of young love. In either case, these mangle boards are beautiful examples of
folk art and make wonderful gifts for lovers of today.
One final thought.
Not all mangle boards had horse-shaped handles, but many of them did, especially in the areas with a Viking past. Here at Cupboards & Roses, we love Swedish horses, and many of our mangle boards feature charming horses as handles. We list our collection on our Swedish Folk Art page, sometimes on the Horses & Other Creatures page, and even on Decorative Items & Paintings, so look around and see them all.
1Nico and Beatrix Jungman, Norway, 1905, from http://www.oldandinteresting.com/mangle-boards.aspx.