Archive ID: 2010-011-1

Flat iron

Date Created: circa 1920

Donor: Pat Wigsmoen

Media Type: Object


This flat iron is circa 1920. The iron would be heated in a fire or on a stove. The wooden handle was to help keep it cool for the user. Helen Brokop in her oral history describes the process of washing and ironing clothes in the 1920s. Helen explained, “Up until about 1926, or ’27, we had what they call a combination stove in our kitchen. One side of it, you could burn wood and coal and cook on that, and the other side it was gas. Well, when it was real hot in the summer, you used the gas. Because it was expensive and you weren’t gonna waste that [the gas] in the winter because you got heat out of the stove and you did your cooking on it besides. And there was also a connection on the side [of the stove]. And you had a gas iron, for ironing clothes. And you could hook that onto the gas jet, and it would heat the iron by gas. And it was a HEAVY iron. I mean the women had muscles in those days, believe me. When there was no wash-and-wear clothing, everything got washed. I remember once we were at my sister-in-law’s home… A friend of my sister-in-law said, “Oh yeah, Monday morning,” she said, “the last thing my mother would say to me was, “Go down the basement and push the clothes down in the boiler.” And [my niece] said, “Well what do you mean? Then [the friend] said, “Well you had to boil your clothes to get them white.” And my niece then said, “All right now, I’ve listened to all your stories and everything,” she says, “but that’s going too far, when you tell me you had to boil the clothes!” And we said, “No, no. Everybody had a big copper boiler, and you had a laundry stove. And you put a good fire in that laundry stove and then you washed your clothes by hand. First on the washboard, you rinsed ’em out, and then you put ’em in this hot soapy water and you’d boil them until they got white…When you told her about the boiling the clothes, she wasn’t gonna buy that. That was a little too far fetched [to her]. But it was the truth.”

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Family   Home Labor   Household Items   Women’s Experiences   1900-1919 (WWI Era)   Other/Unknown   Other/Unknown   Object   2010-011   Clothing   Tools