Horbal/Weimar Iron Exhibit, Illinois

Exhibitors: PITCA member Jack Horbal & fellow iron collector Herman Weimar

  • December 21, 2014 through June 2015
  • Heritage Center, Historic Wagner Farm, Glenview, Illinois

The display consisted of approximately forty irons giving a good cross-section of the field. Included were examples of flat, sad, charcoal, slug, liquid fuel, natural gas and electric irons. Also shown were travel irons (including one that can be used to heat water for tea) as well as toy, sleeve, polishing and tailor irons and a fluter.

Pressing Irons

by Jack Horbal

Once man progressed out of furs and skins into woven fabrics for clothing, and the immediate needs of survival gave way to community living and social hierarchy, a new need arose: neatness. Washing fabrics in water tends to make them wrinkle in the same way as hair curls when wet. The need for pressing arose.

It is not known when exactly people started to press clothes smooth to remove wrinkles. The Chinese were using hot metal for ironing long before anyone else, using open pans filled with coals as early as the first century B.C. Northern Europe was using unheated stones, glass and wood for smoothing until trade with China in the 12th century introduced the idea of using heat to iron clothes. European blacksmiths started forging simple irons (flat irons) in the Middle Ages.

Ironing is the use of a heated tool (an iron) to remove wrinkles from fabric. The heating is commonly done to a temperature of 355-428 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the fabric. Ironing works by loosening the bonds between the long-chain polymer molecules in the fibers of the material. While the molecules are hot, the fibers are straightened by the weight of the iron, and they hold their new shape as they cool. Some fabrics, such as cotton, require the addition of water to loosen the intermolecular bonds. Permanent press clothing was developed to reduce the ironing necessary by combining wrinkle-resistant polyester with cotton. (Wikipedia)

In America it became traditional that Monday was washing day and Tuesday was ironing day.

Woven throughout the entire history of irons are two important issues, mainly how to heat the iron and at the same time how to keep the handle cool to the hand. As you look at the irons on display notice the variety of solutions and designs.

The irons displayed here span about a hundred years, from about 1850 to 1950.

All Photos (5)