The Historical Text Archive: Electronic History Resources, online since 1990 Bringing you digitized history, primary and secondary sources

Ironing boards

I bet you did not know that one of the first references to an ironing board goes all the way back to the late 800’s. The Viking women would carry along with then an ironing board made of whalebone. The women would use heated rocks to smooth the seams of their clothing. It appears that even the early Vikings could appreciate pressed wrinkle free clothing.

For centuries people continued to use make shift flat items on which to do their ironing. A popular item was, and still is, the kitchen table. This allowed a mother to cook dinner, watch the kids and iron at the same time.

It would be quite some time before someone finally did patent the ironing board.

In 1858 W. Vandenburg patented what he called the ironing table. Vandenburg would file an additional six ironing board patents over the next four years. Through the rest of the eighteen hundreds of other people would develop and patent different variations of the Vandenburg ironing board.

One of the widely held beliefs was that Sarah Boone patented the ironing board in April of 1892. Part of the uproar over this was because she was a woman and happened to also be an African American. Many people were up in arms when a newspaper article quoted her as the inventor of the ironing board.

Sarah did not invent the ironing board. What she did do is to make a new and improved ironing board with patent number 473,653. Sarah’s improved board was much more narrow then the traditional board. This, along with the boards curved shape, allowed for ease of ironing shirtsleeves.

As the improvement in irons increased so did the improvements in the ironing board. Today an ironing board can cost you as little as seven or eight dollars and they are in nearly every household in North America.

Next time you are pressing a shirt remember the rich history of the ironing board.