Wednesday, December 5, 2012

History of ironing boards

From the Archives of All things Ironing - History of the Ironing board.

The earliest known ironing boards were used by the Vikings in the 9th century.
Glass Smoother and Whalebone Ironing Board
Whale meat, blubber, and bones were rare and valuable North Atlantic resources. The refined lady of the house who owned this item would have used it, along with the weight made of imported glass, to smooth her linen.

Far from being the unkempt barbarians of popular imagination, Vikings were extremely fastidious for their time.
Later, in Europe, it became common for people to iron their clothes on the kitchen table, or on a flat piece of board resting between two chairs.  This practice spread to North America and by the early 19th century there was plenty of advice in housekeeping books about what size an ironing table should be, what it should be made of, and what sort of blanket or cloth it should be covered with.

About the same time, several ironing boards started appearing on the market but there is some controversy over who actually invented the ironing board.
Vandenburg & Harvey Patent
Vandenburg & Harvey Patent
On the 16th of February 1858, W.Vandenburg and J.Harvey patented an ironing table that facilitated pressing sleeves and pant legs.

About three years later Isaac Ronnie Bord of Georgetown, Delaware, took out a patent for an adjustable flat horizontal surface for the pressing of undergarments, garments and bed linen.
S A Mort Patent
Miss S A Mort obtained a patent for the first truly folding ironing board in 1866.The invention also included a removable press board used for sleeves.
Sarah Boone Ironing board
In 1892 Sarah Boone obtained a patent in the United States for improvements to the ironing board, the forerunner of the modern folding ironing board with a narrow, curved shape, designed to make it easy to iron shirts.

Manufacturers quickly caught on to the notion of offering ironing boards ready-made by the late nineteenth century. By about 1898, the ironing board came equipped with legs that could be taken down and enabled the board to be set up anywhere. These early manufactured ironing boards were of wood that was supposed to resist warping although they still warped.
Wooden Ironing board
This wooden ironing board was made by S. J. Bailey, Inc. in Peru, Indiana, for Sears Roebuck & Co. 
New improvements arrived with the use of iron and soon ironing boards had metal-top boards. However, despite painting, the tables still buckled under the heat of the iron. The J. R. Clark Company of Minneapolis began using mesh which permitted steam to escape and prevent buckling and rusting.
Ironing board diagram.
By 1940, all-metal collapsible ironing boards with tubular legs became common. The basic design of the home ironing board has changed little since then.
While researching this article, I learned that there is a new ironing board that has won the 2012 Australian International Design Awards. The Hills Orbit ironing board. According to the Hills website,  the new ironing board is full of world first innovations, the Orbit takes the hassle out of housework. 
Hills Orbit
Remarkably similar in construction to the 1940 (72 year old) model wouldn't you say? Although to be fair, there are some nifty ideas and obviously the designers have gone to great length to incorporate many innovative features not found on the average domestic ironing table.

Hills Orbit
As hand ironing moves from the domestic to the commercial environment, the evolution continues.

Magpie ironing table
This ironing table has a temperature regulated heating element incorporated into the table top and a foot operated fan assisted vacuum to draw the steam away from an ironed garment.

Veit Varioline
Weighing in at over 130 kg, the Veit Varioline boasts a suction and blowing table, an iron rest, swivelarm with a sleever and even its own lighting system.