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Sad Irons

When I was growing up, we ironed everything, from kitchen towels to the big duvet covers. Maybe it is because of that, that to me ironing is one of those chores, that is close to the bottom of my “things I don’t like to do” list. 
Once, my husband and I went on a weekend trip to Halifax with our youngest 2 children. We stayed in a hotel downtown. As we had a walk about in the room, all of a sudden  our youngest son – maybe age 6 at the time –  came running, very excited, shouting:
“There is a surfboard in the closet!” We were surprised,
we were not in a beach hotel, nor anywhere close to a beach. So we followed him, and there behind the sliding closet doors was an ironing board. He probably never saw me using an ironing board before – so he assumed it was a surfboard.
Though, when I think about it, he had never seen me on a surfboard either.
So it I might seem odd, that I have developed an interest in the history of clothes irons, probably somewhat ignited by a recent purchase at an online auction.
Looking at the history,  a  conventional solid metal clothes iron of the 19th century weighed around 5 pounds (2.3 kg) to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) and had to be heated on a stove. It was so hot, that often a rag or thick cloth mitt was utilized to touch the metal handle to prevent burning the fingers. Once this all-metal iron cooled down, the ironing job at hand had to stop until it was reheated. 
Improvements were on the horizon.

Mrs. Pott's Sad Iron with Removable Handle - 1871

Mary Florence Potts sad iron with detachable wooden handles
Sad Iron, U. S. Patent 113,448, April 4, 1871, Mary Florence Potts, Ottumwa, Iowa. The invention is a detachable handle for pressing irons. This permits a person to heat a number of iron bodies on a stove, attach the handle to one and iron with it until it cools, then attaching it to another heated iron body.
This is an ad for the Mrs. Pott’s  Cold Handle Sad Iron. The  base of this iron  could be put on the wood burning stove to get hot while the wooden handle was removed by lifting the knob below the handle releasing it from the base. The advantage of Potts’s system was that there was always a waiting heated base ready to be switched out with the used cooled base, so the ironing could continue immediately.
The iron was more comfortable to use than the flat iron that had attached handles and made of steel causing the handle to become as hot as the base.   A set of nickel plated sad irons sold for sixty-four cents.  Extra handles could be had for eight cents each.

My Collection:

These images show a  smoothing iron (sad iron) handle and a bases. The handle itself has no marks, dates or other recognizable features, and it will fit on all the bases.
The first base was manufactured by the A. R. Woodyatt & Co. foundry in Guelph, Ontario Canada between 1899 and 1902.
Size 2 (6.2″ long, 3″ wide and 1.5″ high) and  weighs about 5 lbs.
The A. R. Woodyatt foundry was located in Guelph, Ontario
This company later merged with the Guelph Malleable company  into the Taylor-Forbes company at Guelph, which continued to make sad irons.
The following image shows
2 bases (bodies) from the The Ives & Allen foundry, also known as H. R. Ives & Co, Montreal.
These are the Mrs. Potts-style sad iron. They are double-pointed in shape and they requires the detachable handle. The top plate is cast with lettering:
H.R. IVES & CO. MONTREAL at the top
The top plate has two convex slotted screws affixing it to the body of the iron. It has a smooth sole. It is embossed near the latching area: N0. 55 SIZE 1 (3.7 lbs., 6″ long, 2.5″ wide, 1.5″ high), the other Size 3 (5 lbs., 6.5″ long, 3.5″ wide, 1.5″ high)

These types of irons were usually sold in sets and the three or four bases shared a single detachable handle. One would keep a couple iron bodies heating up on one’s stove, while a hot was being used. When it cooled, one would unlatch the handle and pick up a hotter iron by latching the handle to it.

Asbestos Sad Irons - 1906

In 1906,  there was a new invention in the iron department. The Asbestos Sad Iron design really did use asbestos.
It was under the handle, inside a “hood” or cover that fitted over a heated “core”. There was also a bit of air space between the iron and the cover to help keep it cool.
It “bottled up” the heat, said an ad, so it was all channeled through the hot solid steel surface that pressed the clothes smooth. No heat rose upward to bother the woman ironing.
Most often sold in sets of three there were other sets that came with various irons or bases.

My Collection:
Neither of the hoods has any identification marks as to where it was manufactured.
The 3 bases are all the same (5.8lbs., 6.5″ long, 3.25″ wide) and all the 72-B embossed on the top. There is more lettering, however, I am unable to decipher it.
I think it says Made (left) USA (right) – # 1 on both sides.

I will try to add to my collection, and update. As for now, I will continue to use my sad iron, a sad iron because it sits in a dark closet,  barely used, not living up to it’s full potential.

Washboard – The Economy

The Economy Washboard by The Canadian Woodware Co.

The Another Auction sale buy – the Economy washboard manufactured by the “The Canadian Woodware Co. in St. Thomas, Ontario – Canada.
This company has been making washboards since the company’s founding about 1916 in St Thomas.
It is made with a wooden frame and the brand name is written in large letters on the front and reads “Economy”. This washboard features a metal grate that is in very good condition. That metal grate means you can make music with it if that’s your thing. It measures 31cm x 60 cm x 4cm and construction is strong and sturdy with no excessive imperfections.
A washboard is a tool designed for hand washing clothing. Clothes are soaked in hot soapy water in a washtub or sink, then squeezed and rubbed against the ridged surface of the washboard to force the cleansing fluid through the cloth to carry away dirt. Washboards may also be used for washing in a river, with or without soap. Then the clothes are rinsed.
I am thankful for my washing machine, and the dryer.
My mother would tell stories of having to do the laundry by hand in the cold of winter. These were the days before washing machines, before indoor plumbing and running water. The clothes had to be taken to the wash house, clothes were rinsed in cold water, and during the winters my mother’s hands would be red, raw and swollen because of the icy temperatures.
I do not remember my mother ever using a washboard, but I do remember my mother’s first wringer washer and next to it a centrifuge, to get rid of as much water in the clothes.
Washing machines have improved since then and thanks to modern technology,  laundering clothes is much less of a chore. Thankfully laundry is done no longer on a specific day of the week, which was usually Mondays; it is no longer a chore that took a whole day; it is no longer dependant on the weather (even though clothes dried outside on the clothesline smell so nice and fresh); now we just throw a load of laundry in the washer, the dryer and hopefully the clothes make it out of the dryer on the same day. Oh, the luxury! Let’s not complain anymore about doing laundry!

“Plunge & Scrub” – a line from a favourite movie of mine, 
“Far and Away”, with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman


I  enjoy auction sales, and in the past have come home with “treasures” and stuff. Once I went to an auction sale at a nursing home. The place was packed, and one could barely see the items that were up for bids. I was under the impression I was bidding on a box of board games, and I was the one to win that particular lot. I did not go home with a box of games, instead I went home with 2 boxes of catheters, because that is what I had been bidding on. I can laugh about it now.
I recently discovered the on-line auction, not ebay, but a local estate auction. Items listed are up for a week, with images and description and bidding is done from the comfort of my couch. The day after the auction is over, you just go and pick up the items you won.
I am now the proud owner of a new steam iron, even though ironing is at the top of the list of things I don’t like to do, after 37 years of marriage I needed a new iron, and I bought it at my first  online auction for $10.00. With this lot also came an old, pink sewing box with its contents, which consisted of a lot of buttons, needles, thread and among others 4 thimbles.
Even though I own a few thimbles, I have never used them, and really never had a close look at them.
I have now 8 thimbles and I was quickly able to separate them in 2 groups of 4.

The first set of 4 were easily distinguishable from the others. They were shiny and looked cheaply made.
The first one was made in Taiwan, the other 2 metal ones, which were different sizes, were made in Spain. The largest was a porcelain thimble, probably made for the souvenir market. A Christmas themed from Prince Edward Island, Canada, with the price sticker still attached on the inside. Bought at one time for $2.99. This thimble would have been too large and too heavy to be used.

A thimble is a small hard pitted cup worn for protection on the finger that pushes the needle in sewing. Usually, thimbles with a closed top are used by dressmakers but special thimbles with an opening at the end are used by tailors as this allows them to manipulate the cloth more easily.
A thimble is traditionally worn on the middle finger of your sewing hand.
The dimples and grooves on a thimble catch the needle eye and keep it from slipping. A thimble protects the finger from the eye end of the needle. Pushing a needle through thick layers of fabric is much easier with a thimble. Pulling a needle through fabric layers can be very tiring on your thumb and index finger.
Metal thimbles began to be made in standardized sizes around the middle of the nineteenth century Frequently the size is marked on the inside top of the thimble, what thimble collectors call the “apex.”  Ceramic thimbles are not sized.
Sizes differ in the US (size 6 small to size 12 large) and in Britain it is the opposite (size 12 is small and 3 is large).

The other 4 were heavier and worn.
So far for my research:

“Made in England”
Size 1

“Size 9”
(because it is smaller than the previous one, it is measured on a different scale – so I would assume it is American)

“Size 11”
 it is bigger than the previous one, so must also be American)

This is an antique Goldsmith Stern & Co. Sterling silver thimble. The thimble has the Goldsmith Stern & Co. and Stern Bros. maker’s marks, and marked “STERLING” and “10” on upper band. Greek key design on lower band raised rim.

l will continue to research and trying to find out where these came from, and I will never look at the thimble the same way.

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