23 December 1948

‘Truman pegs’ bring relief – and anxiety…

Christmas came early on this day in 1948, with the arrival in austerity Britain of a consignment of ‘Truman pegs’ from the United States. Clothes pins (as the Americans called them) had been in short supply because of wood shortages, and most British housewives had made do with the traditional Shaker and gypsy variety, which were often old and broken after ten years or more of constant use. The new American pegs had steel springs and gripped the washing more securely, but they also prompted an element of uncertainty concerning their use.

When tea bags were first imported, many housewives cut them open and poured the tea into the pot. The new pegs caused similar confusion, with numerous hand injuries resulting from attempts to unwrap the sharp spring mechanism. Things got so bad that women were advised not to touch them until their husband or father had shown them how to handle them safely.

Yet as Margaret Robinson of Woman's Wisdom magazine recalled, the greatest anxiety was reserved for the correct social use of pegs. Too few, and one might be thought disadvantaged; too many, and there was the risk of appearing ostentatious. Writing as ‘Agnes’ the agony aunt, her advice was typically measured and assured…

Washday could be a social minefield for housewives


December 1948

Line of Enquiry

Dear Agnes,

My neighbour uses six pegs to hang a cardigan on her line. This seems excessive to me. What do you consider to be an acceptable number?

‘Curious’, Cobham

My dear ‘Curious’,

Between two and five.

Your friend,


Picture: Flickr

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