|Blogger: Amber Lemus
|Photo by CottonBro Studio
|The ancient Asian method
Ironing has been a chore usually done by ladies for centuries. Ancient Asian cultures would sometimes iron with the fabric held taught by two people. During the Viking era, archeologists have discovered what appear to be smoothing boards made from whale bone buried with Viking ladies. Later on, boards small enough to be held on the lap were most common. “Press boards” as they were known, were used not only for pressing laundry, but also for pressing seams during the sewing process.
|Whalebone smoothing board from the Vikings.
As I’m sure many of you have witnessed, a table or board supported by two chairs can be used to accomplish the task, and was a popular method before the invention of the folding ironing board we know today. Eventually, folks figured it would be faster and better quality work if there was a device designed with a suitable shape for pressing things such as trousers and shirts. The first ironing table was patented in 1858 by W. Vandenburg and J. Harvey, and was designed mainly for men’s clothing.
A Canadian by the name of John B. Porter invented the first truly portable ironing table. It was a fold-able model with detachable press boards specifically for sleeves.
One notable improvement to the ironing board was invented by Sarah Boone in 1892. Sarah had been born to enslaved parents in North Carolina. At some point, she gained her freedom, perhaps through her marriage to a free African American man. They later migrated North, where Sarah began working in a dressmaker shop, and her husband worked as a bricklayer. Sarah’s work in the fiercely competitive dress market is what spurred her adjustments to the ironing board. Her design catered to women’s garments, rather than just men’s, with a narrower, curved board that could handle the type of skirts and dresses that were in style at the time. It was reversible, so that both sides of the sleeve could be ironed without wrinkling the first side. Her model was also padded to prevent the lines and creases that inevitably came when using just a wooden board. She even made it collapsible for easy storage. Sarah is credited as the second African American woman to receive a patent from the U.S. Patent office.
|Drawing from Sarah Boone's Patent
The next notable improvement was the material. Many manufacturers tried wood and metal, but the metal tended to rust or even buckle under the intense heat of a hot iron press. The wooden boards would warp. It was the J.R. Clark company who began manufacturing ironing boards out of a mesh metal top, which allowed the steam to escape, preventing warps, rust and buckling. By 1940, pretty much all of the manufacturers were using all metal to make the collapsible ironing boards. The designs changed very little after that.
Now if they would only invent a way to keep it from screaming like a mountain lion every time it opens...
She lives near the Ozarks in her "casita" with her prince charming. Between enjoying life as a boy mom, and spinning stories out of soap bubbles, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples.
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