Ever since textile clothing became commonplace, there has been a need to maintain its appearance, especially after a wash, when we had to find ways to smooth out fabrics that had lost their shape.
Ironing is about restoring a new kind of thing. But before there appeared the known iron, the mankind had to try methods of ironing, very far from what we got used to.
Irons started with stones
Archaeologists believe that the first device for ironing textile clothes were large roundish stones, resembling a mushroom cap. They used to pull on your clothes when they were a little wet.
Archaeologists date these European finds to the 8th or 9th century AD. How ironing was done on the stone – scientists disagree. Some believe that the stone was pre-heated. Others say that laundry spread on a stone was pressed with another flat stone like a press.
The wooden “rubel” and “rocking iron” lasted in American use for a very long time. It was a mechanical method of ironing washed laundry without using heat. The washed and dried laundry was wound onto a cylindrical rolling pin and a flat knurled board was pressed from above and rolled over the table, firmly unravelling the cloth. This hard work required a lot of muscular energy.
Then the iron became a frying pan
And there are legends that in ancient Rus they used to iron caftans and sundresses with the hot bottom of a skillet filled with smouldering charcoal. It was actually a special charcoal roaster. The embers could fall out with a slip and a hole with burnt edges on an expensive caftan! And all because it was inconvenient to hold the roaster, it had a horizontal handle like a frying pan.
It took a long time for the griddle to take the shape of the iron as we know it, with a pointed tip that paved the way for the fabric, and with a handle on top that you could hold on to with more confidence.
The iron was tall and heavy. It was hollow on the inside, because it was still filled with hot coals, and was essentially the same roasting pan. The charcoal was placed inside an enclosure and sealed with a lid. On the sides of the body of the iron there were openings for the air to reach the glowing embers.
In the city houses for heating the irons they even made special hoods, which created a flow of air thanks to the air draft, which blew up the coals in the iron.
The cast-iron iron lived in the Soviet kitchen, while the electric iron came from America
Over time there appeared “light” cast iron irons that were heated on the stove and did not need any hot coals. Such irons were widespread in American households up to the 1960s. Electric irons were long since invented, but were still a luxury that many families could not afford. Back then homes very often did not have electrical outlets.
Long before that, on June 6, 1882, an American, Henry Seely, patented the electric iron he had invented. In the earliest designs, the heating element was an electric arc between carbon electrodes to which a direct current was applied. It was difficult and even dangerous to work with such an iron. But it was the world’s first electric iron.
The prototype of modern irons that use electrical resistance appeared in 1892 at General Electric and Crompton & Co. This design was safer and easier to work with. The rest of the history of the iron up to this day is just a further development of this idea.
The invention of the iron, heated by electricity, seemed to have made a revolution in ironing. But simply running current through the heating element in the soleplate of the iron was far from sufficient.
How to keep an iron from overheating and damaging fabric? How to make your iron only heats up to the temperature you want? How to lighten the load and make your iron glide effortlessly over the fabric?
Steam irons before our time