Der Bauchzuwwer or bucking tub was a large wooden tub used by the Pennsylvania German housewife for bleaching linen cloth or for soaking white wash. It was larger than the usual tub, approximately four feet or more in diameter and about 2 1/2 to three feet deep. Generally it was set on low blocks or on a plank bench (Wesch-block or or bock).
When the housewife made her preparations for washing, she laid two boards across the Bauchzuwwer and then set the Schienekarreb (or garb) on two boards. Over the Schienekarreb she placed a cloth into which she put wood ashes, and then poured hot water over the wood ashes so that the ingredients would flow in solution into the tub. The housewife added some of her home-made soap to the lye solution resulting from the wood ash. It should be stated that the splint basket or bushel basket was woven from the splints of the willow. (Der Schienekarb odder Buschelkarb war g’flochte von Schiene aus Weide.) This basket was made of Karbwide, osier-willow which produced long flexible shoots used in wickerwork. Such a basket was easily filled with the necessary wood ash, for the Pennsylvania German burned great quantities of wood for heating purposes in long iron stoves which could burn logs a yard or more in length. Besides, he used wood to burn the large amounts of lime he needed.
When Grandmother washed with the aid of the Weschbord, she called the process Bortgewesche. Although grandmother used the washboard to clean and scrub the cloths, great-grandmother used ‘n Schtempel (Schtember) far Schtampe odder dricke in the shape of a Sauergraut stamper or pounder (En Schtock wie’n Saeurgrautschtempel). One may say with accuracy: “Wie die alde Leit wich becholte hen!” (How the old folks managed to get along with the little they had!). On the inside the Bauchzuwwer had a small narrow compartment, somewhat triangular in shape, running along the full depth of the tube, with a hole in the bottom into which a Schtempel or Schtock was inserted. The fact that the compartment prevented the wash from blocking the hole during draining made it possible to drain the cooled water and to add hot water without removing the heavy bulky wash.
The Pennsylvania German housewife needed the large tub for the sheets, pillow cases, and all the other white wash for her good sized family. All the white materials for the entire family especially the linens, were put together in the Bauchzuwwer. The white linen trousers, woven and made by the women of the household, were worn by the men for their farm work in summer; the halbeine Hosse, somewhat brown or tan in color, half wool and half linen (linsey-woolsey) were worn by the men in winter.
An explanation of the term Bauchzuwwer should be made here.
It is the high German Beuchzuber. German Beuchen means “to buck, to wash in lye.” The form “buck” means “to wash or bleach,” an is akin to German Bauchen from the noun Bauch (Belly or abdomen). Some people at first gave the writer the impression that it was called Bauchzuwwer because it had a hump against which the Hausfrau could rest her weight. This first impression however, turned out to be incorrect. Some of the other high German forms of the bucking or wash tub are Laugenfass, Waschkufe, Waschfass, Waschbuette, Waschwanne. Whether corresponding forms are used in Pennsylvania German today the writer does not know. The size of the tub would hardly cause one to feel that the following expression, applied to a woman could be complimentary in the slightest degree: “Die iss so dick wie en Bauchzuwwer.” (She is as fat as a bucking tub).
The term Bauchzuwwer, however was applied not only to a bucking or bleaching tub but also to one used for pickling meat. According to Lambert, “it had on the inside of its circumference a wooden pipe through which the pickling mixture was drawn off or replenished.” Many Pennsylvania German used Schtenner, rather narrow wooden vats, for pickling meat. In a recent study of the wills and testaments of Snyder and Union counties, the writer found occasional mention of the bucking tub and the tub for pickling meat, particularly in the wills of the first half of the nineteenth century.
La Lessiveuse by Jean-Francois Millet. (1861)