Why should not the little lady have her little ironing-box, and undertake the ironing of the pocket-handkerchiefs?

–Harriet Martineau, Household Education 1861

On June 6, 1882, Henry W. Seely of New York City patented the electric iron, at the time called an electric flatiron. Early electric irons had also developed around the same time in France using a carbon arc to create heat, however, this proved unsafe and commercially unsuccessful. Same went for China, which very earlier on used hot metals to straighten out clothes.

In 1892, hand irons using electrical resistance were introduced by Crompton and Co. and the General Electric Company, allowing for the regulation of the iron’s heat. The handheld electric iron proved to be very successful and popular. It became a mandatory household item. Sales especially went up after the introduction of electric steam irons in the 1950s.

Today, the future of the iron appears uncertain. The latest technological developments have come not from the iron industry, but from the fashion industry. An increasing number of shirts and pants these days are sold as wrinkle-free… no ironing required.