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Be it known that I, DAVID LITHGOW, of the city of Philadelphia and State of Pennsylvania, have invented a new and useful Improvement in the Construction of Flat-irons; ...
The object of my improvement is the employment of ordinary gas, introduced into the interior of the iron by a flexible tube, for the heating of the iron while used for smoothing purposes. Heretofore gas has been applied to flat-irons for such purposes by causing the gas to be thrown from the interior jets against the sides of the iron. In those irons is was also necessary to have side holes for the admission of air to support combustion and there was a constant tendency for the flame to escape through these side draft-holes, thus causing great risks to the person operating and to the articles being smoothed.

[From the 1858 patent]

A gas smoothing iron?

Ironing stoves, self-heating irons, and gas

women ironing with sad irons and Shaw's stoves It's 1858 and you've just heard of the wonderful, new self-heating irons. They're going to make life so much easier: no more running backwards and forwards to a hot stove or fire to change a cool flat iron for a freshly heated one, no more working in a roasting hot kitchen, no more trying to keep fireplace ash off the irons. Some of the self-heating irons use gas. Others carry little tanks of alcohol or gasoline.

But is this really an ad for one of the new gas smoothing irons? Although that's what the headline offers, read on and you find it's really a "miniature gas furnace" with one or two gas burners for heating traditional flat irons. In fact, it's an ironing stove rather like the larger ones used by commercial laundries or tailoring businesses.

one iron and stove cost four dollars Perhaps the ironing-stove set-up would be even better than a true gas iron? (See patent drawing below right) The rubber hose connecting an iron to the only gas supply, probably the new gas-light fitting, could be irritating or inconvenient for the laundress. Perhaps the "four feet flexible hose" is better attached to a small stove on the ironing table, than to the iron itself? Then you can press clothes freely with nothing to restrict your movements.

The advertisement started:

Gas Smoothing-Iron,
and Miniature Gas Furnace.
W.F.Shaw's Patent
Cost of heating one iron is but one-twelfth of one cent. Time taken to heat one iron is four minutes. One pint water will boil in five minutes. Used by slipping the end of flexible hose over any gas burner. The most economical means yet known for heating irons.
The only true principle, whereby all unpleasant and injurious odors are avoided. Warranted by far superior to any other invention for heating Smoothing-Irons ever offered to the public.
[Boston, Massachusetts, 1858]

drawings showing hose connector, chimney etc.W.F.Shaw also had an establishment in New York, where they had won a bronze medal for their "gas heating parlor, and cooking stoves, and gas flat iron heater" at the 1856 annual fair of the American Institute.

David Lithgow of Philadelphia was one of the first inventors of a gas iron. See his 1858 patent drawing to the right, and an extract from the patent text in the left-hand column. Early gas irons were also produced by Siemens in England and Germany, among others.

More about gas irons and ironing:

20 March 2008

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