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Rotary Iron: Making a New Day Out of Tuesday 1946 Ironrite Company

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“How the Ironrite automatic ironing machine makes the life of the housewife much easier.” As of 2014, new rotary irons sell on the Internet for $2,000 to $13,000.

Public domain film from the Prelinger Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).

A mangle (as it is called in the United Kingdom) or wringer (as it is called in the United States) is a mechanical laundry aid consisting of two rollers in a sturdy frame, connected by cogs and, in its home version, powered by a hand crank or electrically. While the appliance was originally used to wring water from wet laundry, today mangles are used to press or flatten sheets, tablecloths, kitchen towels, or clothing and other laundry…

Clothes press

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first use of the word in English from 1598, quoting John Florio who, in his 1598 dictionary, A World of Words, described “a kind of press to press buckram, fustian, or dyed linen cloth, to make it have a luster or gloss.” The word comes from the Dutch mangel, from mangelen “to mangle”, which in turn derives from the medieval Latin mango or manga which ultimately comes from the Greek manganon, meaning “axis” or “engine”. Some northern European countries used a table version for centuries, the device consisting of a wood cylinder around which the damp cloth was wrapped, and a curved length of wood, the mangle, which was used to roll and flatten the cloth.

In the second half of the 19th century, steam was harnessed to laundry purposes and commercial laundries used steam-powered mangles or ironers. Gradually, the electric washing machine’s spin cycle rendered this use of a mangle obsolete, and with it the need to wring out water from clothes mechanically. Box mangles were large and primarily intended for pressing laundry smooth; they were used by wealthy households, large commercial laundries, and self-employed “mangle women”. Middle-class households and independent washerwomen used upright mangles for wringing water out of laundry, and in the later 19th century they were more widely used than early washing machines. The rollers were typically made of wood, or sometimes rubber.

The Steel Roll Mangle Co. of 108 Franklin Street, Chicago, Illinois offered a gas heated home mangle for pressing linens in 1902. In the 1930s electric mangles were developed and are still a feature of many laundry rooms. They consist of a rotating padded drum which revolves against a heating element which can be stationary, or can also be a rotating drum. Laundry is fed into the turning mangle and emerges flat and pressed on the other side. This process takes much less time than ironing with the usual iron and ironing board.

There were many electric rotary ironers on the American market including Solent, Thor, Ironrite and Apex. By the 1940s the list had grown to include Bendix, General Electric, Kenmore and Maytag. By the 1950s home ironers or mangles as they came to be called were becoming popular time savers for the homemaker…

A clothes iron, also called a flatiron or simply an iron, is a small appliance: a handheld piece of equipment with a flat, roughly triangular surface that, when heated, is used to press clothes to remove creases. It is named for the metal of which the device is commonly made, and the use of it is generally called ironing. Ironing works by loosening the ties between the long chains of molecules that exist in polymer fiber materials. With the heat and the weight of the ironing plate, the fibers are stretched and the fabric maintains its new shape when cool. Some materials, such as cotton, require the use of water to loosen the intermolecular bonds. Many materials developed in the twentieth century are advertised as needing little or no ironing.

The electric iron was invented in 1882 by Henry W. Seeley, a New York inventor. Seeley patented his “electric flatiron” on June 6, 1882. His iron weighed almost 15 pounds and took a long time to warm up. Other electric irons had also been invented, including one from France (1882), but it used a carbon arc to heat the iron, a method which was dangerous…