Cold Roller Mangle

large ironing mangle at Homestead Heritage Center
Mangle exhibit at Homestead Heritage Ceneter

NPS Photo

Box mangles press fabric items using weights and rollers. Used in northern and eastern Europe, mangles were among many traditional tools brought to the United States by immigrants. Tools like the mangle provided a sense of familiarity, while helping to preserve familiar customs as they began new lives.

The mangle's primary purpose was to press household linen and clothing smooth. Nowadays the word mangle is not commonly used, but usually suggests a wringing device for removing water from laundry. The box mangle was an alternative to hot ironing espeically for larger items like sheets and tablecloths.

A box mangle consists of a heavy frame containing a large box filled with rocks (often over 400 pounds) that resting on a series of long wooden rollers. Damp laundry would be laid flat under rollers or wound round the rollers. Sometimes they were enclosed in a sheet in order to keep the laundry clean. When the rollers were filled, one or two people pulled on levers or turned cranks to move the heavy box back and forth.

A contraption to iron cloths might not seem a top prioty, but homesteaders prized anything that eased daily burden. Jacob & Anna Wiebe, German Mennonite immigrants, lived near Homestead National Historical Park and used a mangle throughout their lives.

While it may seem like more complicated process than using an electric iron, a mangle could iron all of the family's items in less than 10 minutes!

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On display at Homestead National Historical Park is a cold press mangle. Visitors are often quite surprised when they learn that this large box of rocks and rollers saved mega man hours in the world of ironing.

Homestead National Historical Park

Last updated: April 5, 2021