Who needs a diamond ring to seal the deal when it comes to an engagement? Well, evidently, back in the day, not Scandinavian girls! A mangle board suited a young woman just fine when it came to signs of love.
Beginning in the 1500s, young men would present a mangle board or smoothing board to mark their betrothal or engagement to their beloved. The potential groom would either hand carve the mangle board himself or enlist the aid of a master carver. A mangle board was the perfect mix of practicality and artistry. The woman of the house used the mangle board to smooth out linen. It was combined with a roller and then pressed with substantial force to help flatten the cloth.
The horse symbolized strength and virility in pre-Christian Scandinavia, and horses were a common motif for the handle. The suitor would often carve the date or his lover’s initials onto the piece as well. Thus the saying was, “Beware of the man with many mangle boards”, as each board could be used to court a young maid only once.
Cupboards & Roses deals primarily in mangle boards from Sweden and Norway, most dating from the 1700s and 1800s. However, people from other European countries such as Germany, England, Holland and Russia also made their own versions.
Legend has it that the young man would leave the mangle board outside the home of the girl of his dreams and, if she took it inside, wedding bells were not far off. If she left it outside, that signaled a resounding “no, thanks” and a blow to the male ego. Let’s hope that the beautiful carving and sweet sentiment saved the day in most instances and loved triumphed — thanks to the mangle board!