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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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"Dubuque Potts" sad iron stand manufactured in the 1800s. Sad irons were heated on the stove and then used for ironing. Women often burned their fingers until detachable handles were invented.

Known as the "Sad Iron", U. S. Patent 113,448, April 4, 1871, was granted to Mary Florence Potts of Ottumwa, Iowa.

The invention was a detachable handle for pressing irons. This permitted a person to heat a number of iron bodies on a stove, attach the handle to one and iron with it until it cooled, then attached the handle to another heated iron body.

The model was 8" x 5" x 6" and had a metal body with a smooth bottom, a gold colored metal latch, and wood handle. The body was filled with a white non-conducting material, perhaps Plaster of Paris. The name "Mary Florence Potts" was engraved in script.

Mrs. Potts claimed in her patent that this material held the heat longer so that more garments could be ironed without reheating the iron. Mary Potts received a series of patents for variations on her iron. Some patents also were reissued.

"Mrs. Potts' Sad Iron" was widely manufactured and licensed in the United States and Europe. Her picture was featured in advertising. The iron was exhibited in the Centennial Exhibition at the Smithsonian and also in the 1976 Bicentennial Exhibition.

Sad iron without handle