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News Article
The pressing nature of ironing collecting
By Susan Emerson Nutter

ASHLAND, Ohio — In these days of wrinkle resistant clothing and wrinkle releasing sprays; it is hard to imagine the importance irons and ironing once played.

There was a time when a wide variety irons and ironing equipment were touted to make the job of ironing day easier. On Feb. 25, Bennett’s Premiere Auctions Group sold Part 1 of the Dr. Raymond Thomas Collection of flat irons, sad irons, and trivets. The Thomas Collection is made up of more than 1,000 items and two more auctions will be needed to disperse the rest of it. These are slated for April and May.

The top lot of the February session was a cast-iron machine fluter with 4¼ inch brass rollers that realized $520. Prices do not include a 15 percent buyer’s premium. The base of the fluter, which had screw holes for mounting to a table, was 4¾ inch square, and the machine stood 12 inches high, overall.

Fluters were a necessary piece of equipment in the 1870s when dressmakers were using pleated frills, also known as fluting, extensively in their designs. Both dressmakers and higher end laundries offered ironing services where such a fluting machine would be necessary. In order to heat the ridged rollers that pressed rows of fluting, a metal “stick” called a heating iron was heated and put into the hollow interior of the roller.

Along the same line, but less elaborate was the cast-iron Washburn hand-roller fluter and base that sold for $452. The roller barrel was 3 inches long while the base was 4 3/8 inches long by 3 inches wide. Here the cloth to be pleated was laid on the base and the heated roller was placed on the fabric and rolled resulting in pleats.

Another ironing tool used to iron waves of ruffles creating flounces without flattening them was a goffering iron, also called an Italian or tally iron. This iron looks like a metal test-tube set horizontally on a stand. The iron is heated again by inserting a heated metal rod into the tube. Frilled cuffs and collars would be curled around the tube, while other items like ribbons were moved across it. “Goffering irons were used to press material that could not be done so with a regular iron,” said Jim Bennett, Operations Manager for Bennett’s.

The Thomas collection included a circa 1850 European double goffering iron having two tubes held aloft above an ornate cast-iron base and topped with a brass finial. Standing 13 inches high with an 8 inch long barrel and 4½ inch long barrel, this goffering iron brought $310.

Irons that were made by well-known companies are a draw and if they have special attributes; even better. A Sear’s gas pressure iron with a pump and wooden handle made $150. This iron was 8 inches long, while a Coleman (yes, the camping Coleman) “Magic” iron #10 made $120. Made in Canada, this iron sold with its original box and miscellaneous items including a measuring can.

“The Coleman iron was the highest example of modern technology of the day,” Bennett said with this example being in very good condition.

Figural irons or “effigies” are desirable in their own right, but collectors are also attracted to these because they are so beautiful to display. Case in point, Bennett’s offered a swan-shaped cast-iron, flat iron from the late 1800s. At 5 inches long and 3 inches high, this beauty sold for $275. “Other effigy irons would include those shaped like trains, deer, or other types of birds,” Bennett said.

And children’s pieces continue to draw favor. The novelty of envisioning a young person ironing with a smaller version of the adult’s tool is a draw. A child’s brass sad iron sold with its matching brass turret for $211.

“While these could have been made for children, I believe many of these smaller irons that are labeled a child’s version were actually salesman’s samples,” Bennett said. “Though children’s irons did exist, which is a bit frightening if you think about a child handling a heated piece of metal.”

Of the trivets that sold this day, the top lot was an ornate brass example shaped like a shield with a beautifully braided handle. This 9 inch long example realized $220.

For more information call (419) 207-8787 or visit

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