Tillie olsen i stand here ironing thesis proposal
Here is a photo of a "typical" kitchen in 1917 -- you'll note that the lady of the house is making some "artisanal" muffins in her earth-friendly wood stove. She must be a trend-setter because she does have a gas burner. Alongside that, we present an article from Popular mechanics that shows a clever way to form beeswax for use in ironing.The "One Size Fits All" handle enabled the user to select the iron that met the needs of the task (i.e a large iron for flats or a small iron for cuffs). The user could rapidly switch between irons as they cooled and were heated. However, the Potts invention did not address the problems of heat regulation and moisture -- factors that were left to the judgement of the user. In novices, these could have disastrous results such as scorches, burns, and fires. For the time being, ironing remained a boring and dangerous job, Mrs. Potts notwithstanding. The bright side was that you could do a whole lot more of this boring and dangerous task in the same amount of time.
The Electric Iron marks the beginning of a consumer revolution that lessened the burden (somewhat) on the American housewife who was largely responsible for the drudgery of laundry. For this discussion, we are going to focus on the as a representative of a whole class of electric irons. The American Beauty was NOT the first electric iron. On June 6, 1882 by Henry W. Seely of NYC patented the "electric flatiron" and used a carbon arc to create heat --- a thoroughly unsafe technology.The Seely iron weighed 15 pounds and took a very long time to warm up. It is of some note that Mr. Seely assigned his patent to the utility tycoon who would later be indicted for major fraud in selling securities in the electricity industry. In 1892, hand irons using much safer electrical resistance technology were introduced by Crompton and Co. and the General Electric Company, and this has been the standard ever since. This iron had an electric heating element in the base and a somewhat traditional hand-held chunk of metal on the top. Later "irons" would have the heating elements built in to the hand-held tool. The adavantage was that the thing always stayed hot. The disadvantage was the cord. However, the two-piece irons like the "Boudoir" had a definite advantage over the older method --- electric heat kept the iron clean. If you heated your iron on a wood stove, it could easily get dirty and ruin the clothes that were being pressed. This iron is particularly valuable because the collector has retained the original box! This probably dates from the World War I era.However, the  considers the American Beauty Iron to be "the first mass consumer electric appliance..."The American Beauty iron is a symbol of the decline of American Manufacturing. The irons were manufactured in Detroit from about 1912 to 1995. The architecture of the factory was quite noteworthy and was the study of an award-winning film called made by the German director, Dieter Moeller. (This should not be confused with a film with similar title starring Kevin Spacey)Here is a photo of the American Beauty Factory. It is as difficult to conceive of a manufacturer today building such richly appointed factories. The abandoned American Beauty Electric Irons factory sits on Woodward just south of Grand Boulevard in Detroit. Behind it can be seen the tower of the Fisher Building and part of the former General Motors headquarters, long abandoned, reaffirming the thesis that today the only things that Americans make are lawsuits and hamburgers.
The American Beauty is NOT the most beautiful iron ever made, either. For that honor, I would nominate the made out of Pyrex glass by the Corning Company.Because they were made out of glass, these implements are extremely rare (to say the least...)
Others, including our friends "40s Phil" and "Acme Ron" would lean to the winged as the most distinctive iron of the period:Ron has the following to say about these irons:The Pettipoint Iron was designed by Clifford B. Stevens and Edward Schreyer in about 1941:Back to the American Beauty Iron... the American Beauty has its share of admirers. Both the Baltimore Art Museum and the Museum of Modern Art include the American Beauty Iron in their collection of exemplars of the best in 20th Century Design. Of note is the fact that a very large number have survived intact, something that cannot be said for their graceful Pyrex competitors.In addition to the fact that it is historic, attractive, and durable, I have chosen the American Beauty Iron because I own two of them. I actually use these irons on a weekly basis and they still work perfectly. Not only that, I have all the patent drawings for them so I can illustrate how the various components work. The concepts used in the American Beauty are completely transferable to almost every other iron. Last week a friend's Rowenta Iron (c. 2003) broke down; I was able to disassemble it and fix it within short order because it is exactly the same inside as the American Beauty!To add to my traditional ironing center, I found the "Wil-Stan" Iron holder at a yard sale. As shown in the second photo, this was new old stock, and included its original labels. My guess is that the thing comes from before the 1940s, because the addresses do not have postal zones. Basically, it is an aluminum frame with an asbestos pad. It hangs on the wall and you can store an iron there. As shown in the third photo, the cord wraps around the stanchion at the top. Thanks to the asbestos pad, you can even put your iron away when it is hotHere are some Hints on Ironing offered by the American Beauty company. Thanks very much to our friend Karen for sending these images.Here is a peek into the Sunbeam factory where you can see the being made on an assembly line. These are real people working in a gritty environment -- no automation here.The last leg of this triangle came when I found a kit for a fold-away ironing board suitable for small apartments; my guess is that this comes from the mid 1940s because the addresses have postal zones, but not ZIP codes. The last two photos show all items in-place, Ironing Board, the "Wil-Stan," and the American Beauty Iron. It works VERY WELL!Recently, we got this note from one of our readers:During the 1940s, the US Government published a series of pamphlets on the proper operation of electrical appliances (these were a novelty in rural areas that were just getting electricity.) Here is an exerpt from the section on irons -- it suggests that one should always place the iron on an insulated surface to prevent fires.OK Now, let's look inside the American Beauty Iron
As you can see in the photos below, the handle is a very distinctive feature of the American Beauty Iron. The clear lucite center was very distinctive. Red and Amber variations were offered. Not only is the design of the handle , it is also . Frank Kuhn and Laurence H. Thomas are the creators of this marvelous gem, and received Design Patents 121,163 and 121,164 for this particular variation in June of 1940. However, the design is functional as well as attractive, as shown in the patent for the interior designThere are three parts to the handle:The handle is assembled from the front to the back. A long bolt connects parts A, B and C together. Most of the action is in part "B" -- the cord and cord protector pass into it from the side and the wires are connected to electrical terminals. Part A fits onto the iron body with a slip-fitting. Part B is held to the iron body with two screws. The back of the Heel is finished with a back-plate that is affixed with a blind spring clip.