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Ironing is generally dispensed with, in the case of all but the garments which require to be starched, and its place will be supplied by a process of stamping, which is also accomplished by the native servants. The result is more satisfactory than might be expected; still an English housewife will be very glad to have her preferences for perfectly smooth linen indulged, as it can be, when she possesses a patent mangle.
Hints for Emigrants' Wives [in South Africa], 1859

Laundry Bygones by Pamela Sambrook, from Amazon.com or Amazon UK

Pamela Sambrook, The Country House Servant from Amazon.com
or from Amazon.UK

This book has about 100 pages on old laundry methods.

Patent box mangles

Box mangles, Baker's mangle, 19th century improvements in mangling

room-size wooden frame with rock-filled box over 2 rollers Simple box mangles were in use in the 18th century, but they needed two people to push and pull the heavy box back and forth with leather straps or wooden handles. The weight of a box filled with stones, or sand, was used to press household linens and clothes wound on rollers below, or sometimes the linen was spread flat under the rollers. A specially-woven mangle cloth matching the width of the box might be used to cover the freshly-laundered things and keep them clean.

The early 19th century saw a variety of "patent mangles", all invented to lighten the work to some extent. Systems of gears, wheels, and handles were intended to make it a less tedious and tiring job.

The box mangle was itself a development from the much older custom of pressing with hand-held mangle boards: boards with a variety of names in English: bittle, batler, beetle and battledore among them. (Some of these names were also used for the washing bats used to pound dirty laundry.)

In the following description from 1838, it was clearly for smoothing (or "ironing") cloth, even though in the UK mangle later came to mean a wringer for squeezing out water.

MANGLE. A domestic machine of great utility, employed in smoothening linen, as a substitute for the heated irons extensively used for the same purpose. In the common mangle, as most of our readers well know, the linen or other articles to be mangled, are wrapped round wooden rollers, which are upon a solid level bed or floor, and upon the rollers is placed a large oblong box which is filled with stones, or other heavy substances, in order that they may press with great force upon the rollers, while the box is moved backwards and forwards upon them, by means of a handle attached to an upper roller or windlass, to which straps from each end of the moving box are attached. By this machine, the operation of mangling is very well done, but the labour is excessive on account of the necessity of frequently arresting and changing the motion of the heavy box.
The Engineer's and Mechanic's Encyclopaedia, London 1838

Box mangle with wheel, gears and handle Baker's patent mangle (left) was one of the earliest and best-known machines invented to make mangling less laborious. The writer of the Encylopaedia quoted above said "An important improvement in the construction of the common mangle ... was effected about thirty years ago by Mr. Baker, of Fore Street, London, by which the otherwise unwieldy heavy box was moved with great facility backwards and forwards, by a continuous motion of the handle in one direction; and by the addition of a fly wheel to equalize the motion, a great amount muscular exertion is saved to the individual working the machine."

Upright mangle with rollers and mangle-cloth By 1823 someone in England had patented a design for a upright mangle to meet the obvious objection to the "common horizontal mangle": "namely, the great space they occupy". Soon the distinction between mangling as smoothing, and mangling as wringing, became blurred, since very similar machines were suitable for both purposes. Barnard and Joy's "patent self-rolling mangle" from the 1830s was still intended for "ironing"; the bottom roller has an attached mangle cloth which would help keep the newly-pressed fabric clean and smooth. The Mechanics' Magazine of 1838 explained that the "weighted rollers" replaced the "cumbrous travelling bed" of the familiar box mangles. Patent mangle became the British name for all sorts of Victorian mechanical mangles.

Mangle with large rollers, gears and gas tap US patents from the 1870s show some later innovations in mangles. On the right is Stephen Williams' "top view of my improved machine ... which shall be simple in construction and effective in operation, applying the same pressure steadily to clothes whatever may be their thickness".

Flat surface with roller at each end On the left is William and James Coutie's drawing of an "Improvement in ironing-machines" with a gas-heated central roller.

More on mangling history on the mangle boards page, and the history of ironing page.
Also see English box mangle photo

For more on laundry history and old washing methods go to
>>>> History of laundry and
>>>> Laundry from 1800

8 August 2007  

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