The ironing board is a staple of many households. Used for everything from ironing shirts to pressing sheets. It's very ubiquitous and this makes it hard to determine its origin. There is some controversy over who invented the ironing board, but most Americans point to the invention developed by Sarah Boone as the most likely source.
Sarah Boone is most often credited as being the inventor of the modern-day ironing board. Prior inventions didn't allow for efficient ironing of an entire garment. Boone's design, with its contoured shape and larger, curved surface, is still appreciated by those who iron today. It also included the idea of collapsible legs. Her patent was applied for on December 30, 1887 and granted April 26, 1892 in New Haven, Connecticut. The patent fully described her invention, using no exact figures for height and length. Instead, it described the pieces A, A1, B, B1 and so forth that fitted together to create the ironing board. No exact measurements were included to increase the breadth of the patent in case manufacturers chose to scale the design.
Boone's design meant that garments could be ironed quickly and efficiently. Previous designs required a garment to ironed piecemeal, removing the garment multiple times and increasing the risk of soiling. Because Boone incorporated a thin board, garments could be turned on it, meaning that all sides could be accessed prior to removal. And difficult spots, such as the sleeves, could be ironed easily on the larger surface she designed.
Sarah Boone is believed to be among the first African Americans to earn a patent. She was a former slave who lived in Connecticut in the late 19th century.
JN Brewster patented the "ironing board" 20 years before Boone's patent was granted. But Brewster's patent was for a board that was similar to a Murphy bed that folded up into a cabinet. J. Vandenburg and J. Harvey also patented a device for ironing in 1858, but their device was a flat table that didn't contain the contours that makes Boone's device so useful. Since these devices have faded into memory, whereas Boone's device is likely the one that is most similar to the one you keep in your laundry closet, most believe that Boone is the inventor of the ironing board.
In the future, we may credit Garry Allen, an Australian inventor, with the next generation of ironing boards. He has created an ironing board that folds in such a manner that it can become the size of a larger brief case. It is attached the wall with a single stud and can rotate 180 degrees, making it versatile and compact.
Carolyn Williams began writing and editing professionally over 20 years ago. Her work appears on various websites. An avid traveler, swimmer and golf enthusiast, Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mills College and a Master of Business Administration from St. Mary's College of California.