Retractable Laundry Drying Racks Used by the Shakers

This unusual-looking piece of cabinetry…

Image: Dr. Galen R. Frysinger

…is a retractable drying rack, used by the Shakers in their laundry facilities. The one above is located at the Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire.

Here’s a shot of the drying racks at the Wash House of the North family, located at the Shaker Village in Mount Lebanon, New York:

Image: Shaker Museum

As the Shaker Museum explains:

“The North family’s drying room was probably purchased in 1879 from the Troy Washing Machine Company in Troy, New York.”

Troy Washing Machine Company catalog page, circa 1800s

The Shakers, who were not afraid to use technology and didn’t like waste, even jury-rigged their own system of channeling existing heat:

“Usually, heat to dry clothes in these drying rooms was provided by steam pipes connected to a boiler, but the Shakers used hot air channeled through a large pipe that collected heat radiating from the boiler used for heating wash water. When the drying room was not in use this heat could be channeled to the second floor of the Wash House where it was used to dry fruit.”

There’s more photos of Shaker laundry contraptions here.

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