Monday, March 21, 2011


     While I was pressing a few things Tuesday, I thought about how the iron has evolved from the flat-iron to the steam iron.  I don’t remember the flat-iron, but I do remember sweating over an ironing board all day.  
     Do you remember when you had to start ironing your own clothes?
     When I was twelve I learned to iron my clothes and those of my brothers, with a regular old dry iron, long before the steam iron came along.
     Monday was always wash day and Tuesday we ironed, including the sheets, until everything was done.  After we took the wash off the clothesline, we sprinkled the clothes and rolled them up to be ironed the next day.  You couldn’t leave them damp too long or they became moldy and you had to bleach them to get out the mold spots.
     Remember those days?  If you do, you must be as old as I am. 
     I was sure glad when mother approved my ironing skills and taught me how to use the Mangle.  You are probably asking, “What in the world is a mangle?”  A mangle was a round, padded roller that went round and round with a padded cover that came down on the roller to press your clothes.  You brought the padded cover down with a lever you worked with your knee and the clothes rolled between them for beautifully ironed clothes.  We did all our sheets, pillow slips, table cloths, and handkerchiefs; in those days we ironed everything, not like today with all the permanent pressed and wrinkle-resistant clothing.  Most of the clothes in those days were 100% cotton and they wrinkled like crazy.
     I was so proud when I was good enough to iron my father’s white dress shirts on the mangle and boy that took a lot of practice, it was quite an accomplishment.  The clothes looked like they had been cleaned and pressed, they were so crisp and new looking.
     The mangle didn’t make it from Michigan to California, and I wonder just what happened to it.  Mom probably sold it along with many of our other things.  I wish we had brought it with us; it would have saved me many hours of tedious work.
     The iron has evolved through the years like everything else.  We started out with Charcoal Irons which were filled with embers of wood or coal to iron the clothes.  They had vent holes in the top of the iron and sometimes ash would escape from the holes and land on the garments.
     Then there was the Spirit Iron that was filled with liquid fuel, such as kerosene.  The kerosene iron was lit by preheating the fuel manifold with methyloted spirits, pumping up the kerosene fuel tank and slowly opening the regulator valve.  
     There was the Flat Sad Irons, meaning heavy irons not unhappy ones, such as:  heavy tailors seam irons, hat maker irons, and polishing irons.  
     The first electric iron was patented in American in 1882 by Henry W. Seeley of New York City, and it weighed 15 pounds.  The steam iron came along in 1950 and now we even have a cordless iron, all of which are light weight and easy to use.
     Now, that’s probably more information than you every wanted to hear about the iron, but I wanted to know, so I went to to look up its history.  All these irons may be way before our time, but interesting.  
     As for me, I wish I still had my great old Mangle to do my ironing. 

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