Mennonite Heritage and
Let's take a Look into the Past
The Community Mangle House
Taken from the Mennonite cookbook OFF THE MOUNTAIN LAKE RANGE published in 1958. (These Low-German Mennonite immigrants came from the same Colony (area) of Russia as the Goessel Mennonites, but settled in Mountain Lake, Minnesota).
Wash day in the average large family of yester-year without hot running water and power washing machines, not to mention the present day completely automatic washer-dryer combinations, was an all day chore. Close up on the heels of wash day came mother's ammouncement that the laundry was to be mangled. This meant placing a large basket heaped high with the freshly-laundered, folded clothes into the coaster-wagon with several of us youngsters pulling it to the community mangle house.
The mangling process consisted of alternately pushing and then pulling a large box, laden with stones, over rollers around which the laundered items were wrapped in layers thick enough to form a good pad. Such a box of stones possesses inertia and the arduousness of the task lay in alternately bringing it to rest, then starting it into motion again. Of course, the rollers rested on a straight, smooth-surface bed so the oscillating motion of the box caused the rollers to roll back and forth, smoothing fabrics on the roller under pressure of weight.
Since it was not possible to lift the box of stones directly, changing the rollers was accomplished by moving the box to either end of the bed so one end roller was well at the center of gravity of the box. It was then easily tilted to change the rollers. This process was alternated, mother rolling the laundry onto the rollers and exchanging the rollers on the bed. To facilitate holding the box in a tilted position, a wedge block was provided for insertion between bed and box in the tilted position.
Besides the bed-type mangle there was also the cradle-type. More often this type was privately owned although there were not many. Owners all shared their use not only with neighbors but with many others in the community. The box for stones on this type was rounded at the bottom as was also the bed into which it fitted. The rolling action was imparted to the roller by swinging the box back and forth. This could be done more easily by one person but only one roller of clothes could by mangled at one time. Lifting the box to exchange the rollers was accomplished by means of a lever at the top of the stone box suspenation, giving the necessary mechanical advantage to facilitate this operation.
It is doubtful that anyone can say who was responsible for providing this utilitarian piece of equipment and its housing as well as who was responsible for its removal sometime shortly prior to World War I. The mangle and the community mangle house has now gone the way of all appliances requiring such manual exertion.
2014-2019 Mennonite Heritage
and Agricultural Museum
Created by Fern Bartel nee Schmidt