ELECTRIC IRON Invertor Henry Seeley 1881

ELECTRICALLY,AN IRON IS SIMPLE; its circuit consists of cord, thermostat, and heating element. The string tension on the thermostat elements is varied to give different temperature settings. and the iron, once hot, will cycle on and off within a few degrees of the desired temperature.

The goal: For heat to loosen long-chain polymer molecules in fibers, while the weight of the iron straightens them out. But the chore of ironing predates any understanding of “long-chain polymers.” Indeed, the popular curve-and-point shape of most irons dates back to before the electrical days.

(The point proved useful in dodging buttons.) These early irons had to be heated on wood stoves before use. In 1882 the first electric iron was patented by Henry W. Keeley, using a carbon arc for heat—not high on the safety scale. A decade later Compton and Co. and the General Electric Company improved it with a version of the technology used today.

The iron soon became the first mass-market electric appliance, finding its way into more than 90% of American homes today.

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