COLLECTION: Household Accessories

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Miniature Sad Iron

ca.1750-1800
Origin: Europe or America
Overall: 2 7/8 x 3 5/8 x 1 3/4in. (7.3 x 9.2 x 4.4cm)
Cast and wrought iron
Gift of an Anonymous Donor
Acc. No. 1971-1149
Diminutive "sad iron" with cast iron body poured around a wrought iron handle. Body of elongated triangular form with convex sides, a flat bottom, and molded top edges. While the sides of the handle are rectangular in section, its top portion is flattened to accommodate decorative filing and engraving. This embellishment includes four ovoid panels, separated and flanked by filed bars. The two central panels contain sets of initials, one of which appears to read "OAR" or "CAR," while the other is partly illegible and contains the letter "V" or "N." The outside panels are each engraved with a flower.
Label:Referred to as a "sad iron" or a "flat iron," these cloth smoothing devices were the most basic of the various pressing irons used in early America. With a heavy, solid cast iron body and a cast-in handle, the sad iron was charged directly by the heat of a fire burning in the hearth or by being set on a stove. Either way, care had to be taken so the bottom of the iron didn't dirty the cloth being pressed. Further complicating the process, the handle would also get hot, and had to be gripped with a good wad of cloth to prevent a burned hand.

While your average sad iron was much larger and heavier, this finely made piece would have been used for more delicate jobs and smoothing into tighter places. It may also have been appropriate for use by a child, either learning how to iron or just playing at the chore.