Washboards featured at next Pasto Ag Museum open house Oct. 9

October 06, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The next open house held at Penn State's Pasto Agricultural Museum, scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 9, will feature washboards and their historical significance in America's past.

Before mechanized cleaning of clothing became common by the end of the 20th century, washboards were a common and vital tool in America and Europe, according to Rita Graef, curator. The traditional washboard usually was constructed with a rectangular wooden frame in which were mounted a series of ridges or corrugations for the clothing to be rubbed upon.

For 19th century washboards, the ridges often were made of wood; by the 20th century, ridges of metal were more common.

A "fluted" metal washboard was patented in the United States in 1833. Zinc washboards were manufactured in the United States from the middle of the 19th century. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, ridges of galvanized steel are most common, but some modern boards are made of glass.

Washboards with brass ridges still are made, and some who use washboards as musical instruments prefer the sound of the somewhat more expensive brass boards, Graef noted.

"On Oct. 9, come and do the laundry with us," she said. "Learn about soap making and washboards and even early washing machines. And we'll be making button yoyos in our hands-on workshop for the kids to take home.

"We will have washboard, soap and tub for doing the wash and clothes pins for airing our laundry. Next year it might be fun to have a washboard musical performance when we feature 'Doing the Laundry,' so interested washboard musicians should contact the museum for more information."

Previously open only by appointment and during the three days of Ag Progress Days in August, the museum is welcoming visitors from 1 to 4 p.m. every Sunday during Penn State home football weekends as part of a new initiative to increase public awareness of the museum's collection. Other open houses are set for Oct. 16 and 30, and Nov. 13.

Graef said the open houses will help the public appreciate the time when energy for work was supplied by the power of humans and animals.

"By seeing and touching tools and equipment used in early agriculture and rural life, people will better understand how early technological developments led to modern-day technologies," she said.

More information on the museum, which is operated by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, and its open houses is available at http://agsci.psu.edu/pasto online. To receive information and event reminders via email, send a message to PastoAgMuseum@psu.edu or contact curator Rita Graef at 814-863-1383 or by email at rsg7@psu.edu.

Located on the Ag Progress Days site at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs -- 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45 -- the museum features hundreds of rare farm and home implements from the "muscle-power era," before the advent of electricity and gasoline-powered engines.

  • Washboards like this played an important role in America's past. Visitors can learn more about them Oct. 9 at the Pasto Museum's open house.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 06, 2011