Who Invented the Ironing Board - History of Ironing
The Ironing Board, Where Would We Be Without It?
Most people today take ironing boards for granted as an essential piece of household equipment. But next time you are pressing a shirt, it's worth remembering that the ironing board is a relatively new invention. In fact, it wasn't until the early 20th century that ironing boards began to appear in stores in the United States and, later, in Europe.For centuries, people used to press their clothes on any flat surface, with the kitchen table being one of the most popular places, or even a piece of wood laid between two chairs. The Vikings, back in the late 800s, came up with an innovative way to press their clothes. They used heated rocks as an ‘iron' and laid their clothes on a large, flat piece of whalebone. Some people regard this as the forerunner of the modern ironing board.
But it was many centuries later, in 1858, before the first ironing board was patented by W. Vandenburg in the United States. This inspired several others to also patent variations of Vandenburg's ironing board, with the best-known being a black American woman, Sarah Boone in 1892, who is often cited as the inventor of the modern ironing board.
Sarah Boone's ironing board was similar in shape to the ironing boards of today, being long and narrow with a curved point at one end, to make it easier to iron shirt sleeves. By 1940, manufacturers were producing all-metal collapsible ironing boards with tubular legs, and the basic design of ironing boards has changed little since then, although they have become lighter in weight.
A typical modern ironing board has a flat metal surface, covered by a foam fad and often topped by a decorative cover made of heat-resistant fabric. The pad usually contains small vent holes, to allow the steam to penetrate clothes and then escape.
At one end of the board, there is normally a heatproof area where a hot iron can be rested. A well-designed iron-rest is large enough to hold the iron safely, without risk of it falling off.
Modern ironing boards also have extra features, to make ironing easier. These include ‘sleeves', which are about 2 feet long and 6 to 8 inches wide, attached to the board, for ironing sleeves and small items of clothing.
Types of modern ironing board
There are three main types of ironing board - portable, table-top and wall-mounted.
Portable Ironing Boards
The most common type in American homes is the portable ironing board. They have extendable legs that fold out for use, and fold away for storage, and can be moved to where ever in the house ironing is done.
The height of the board can be adjusted, to suit the size of the person doing the ironing, and some people prefer to lower the board and sit down, rather than stand.
One of the disadvantages of portable ironing boards is that they are cumbersome to carry and the extendable tubular legs can be awkward to set up, particularly for older people.
Table Top Ironing Boards
The second type of ironing board - the table-top board - has short legs and, as it name suggests, is designed to sit on a table top or counter. These compact ironing boards are easy to carry around and set up in a confined space, which makes them popular in student dorms. But they are too small to allow large items of clothing to be placed properly on the board, which is a drawback when ironing sleeves or anything that needs to fit around the end of the ironing board.
Wall Mounted Ironing Boards
The third type of ironing board is mounted on the wall. It can be folded out when required for ironing, and then folded away when not in use. These wall-mounted ironing boards are particularly popular in smaller houses or apartments, where space is limited, as they can be stored away virtually flat against the wall. Wall-mounted ironing boards can be installed in confined areas, even in walk-in closets.
Even in larger houses, many people prefer wall-mounted ironing boards, as they are convenient and save time. They take only a few seconds to pull out or put away, eliminating the need to carry the ironing board and unfold awkward collapsible legs. Wall-mounted ironing boards can be swiveled out at any angle into the most convenient position for ironing, and are strong and sturdy when in use.