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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Sad iron

In the nineteenth century, women undoubtedly used a "sad iron" to press their families' clothes. One meaning of "sad" at that time was "heavy." Although many of these irons were small, they were very heavy.

When sad irons were heated near an open fire or on the stove, their handles became red hot. Women tried wrapping aprons or towels around the handles, but still burned their fingers. Mary F. Potts, of Iowa, made herself a heroine to women when she patented a much lighter sad iron with a detachable wooden handle.

Detachable wooden handle.
Invention made upon which several sad irons could be heated at the same time. Photo courtesy: Reconstruction Era National Monument, Beaufort, South Carolina