Saturday, January 29, 2011
Another fun primitive collectible is washboards. Although they are not used for their intended purpose any longer, these primitive antiques are popular as wall decor and are used to decorate walls in laundry rooms, kitchens, family rooms, and any other place where a retro look is desired.
In 1868 the New York Times called washboards "a great American invention" and ran a story about a man taking "a wooden grooved washboard" home to his sister in Germany as a novelty. Yet "it is believed that ribbed wooden scrubbing boards originated in Scandinavia and the manufacture spread to other countries during the 19th century," said Edward Pinto, an expert on domestic objects crafted from wood. Metal washboards were surely a "great American invention". 1833 offers a good clear-cut date in their story. On February 9, 1833, Stephen Rust of Manlius, NY patented a new idea: a "Wash Board" with a piece of "fluted tin, sheet iron, copper or zink". This appears to be the first patent for a metal washboard.
The third picture down is from my collection. It belonged to my late mother-in-law. The bottom picture is an example of a glass washboard, also from my collection. It was manufactured by the National Washboard Company and numbered #512. The wood appears to be either pine or poplar. The fluted or ridged glass side is where the clothes were rubbed after a bar of laundry soap was applied to the wet clothes. The soap bar rested on the shelf above the glass. This is why the company's advertising logo on the "business side" of all washboards is always faded or has vanished altogether. This one is in pretty good condition. This National washboard dates from the early part of the US participation in World War II. Shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed, the US began metal drives throughout the country to collect scrap metal for use in the war effort. Immediately, companies like National Washboard were unable to obtain galvanized steel, zinc, tin, or brass to make their products. The wood and glass washboard was introduced and become an instant hit with home front homemakers.
One clever way to display the glass washboards is to stand the washboard up on the top of a cupboard and place miniature lights behind it. The soft glow shining through the glass washboard creates a wonderful ambiance in your primitive home. This collection creates a chance to put a piece of history in your home. We will have several primitive washboards and small reproduction washboards for sale in our shop.