4.03.2012

sad-iron Tuesday

vintage sad iron, prow view

There's something about an old iron that reminds me of a ship charging across the waves—of the Atlantic, obviously, carrying to America Europe's "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." But the sad ship above gets its "tempest-tossed" weight from asbestos, adding another layer of pulmonary meaning per the famous Statue of Liberty poem. The iron is soon for sale, and after Curious Geoff bought it, he opened up the bottom to see what was shaking around. Inside, the iron reads: "Asbestos Sad Iron." Fun for the whole family, this household-tool toy (or toy-sized household tool?) is. Surely the original asbestos only adds to the antique resale value?


"PAT. May 22 1900"

What's also interesting here is that the 1900 patent probably revolved around the wooden handle upon which women burned themselves far less than earlier metal ones. Although this sad iron is circa 1900, the part I remember most clearly from the 2002 PBS pioneer-life reality-TV show, Frontier House, was one of the women saying life on the ol' 1883 homestead was about as hard and repetitive as it could get, while at least one of the men was claiming he was having such a grand time in the 19th century building chicken coops and fences and such that he'd (almost?) rather not return to his 21st-century life. How's that for gender imbalance?

Imagine domestic life regimented by a daily household-chore schedule: Monday for washing, Tuesday for ironing, and so on—lather, rinse, repeat—with nothing enduring to show for one's labor. My maternal great-grandmother, born in the late 1800s, still operated on such a schedule, and as a married woman even into the 1920s did laundry for the Baldwin Hotel in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and cooked daily for not only her own family of nine but her husband's parents and some of his adult siblings as well. Cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning—cleaning bodies, cleaning clothes, cooking three meals a day, all with wood or coal and no electric machines. No wonder only middle- and upper-class women of that era tended to become hysterical, whether from shaking the bars of their patriarchal cages or frantic from inadequate orgasmsworking-class women were simply too busy.


"Oreg 4046 Cosney" (?)

But I digress. Like the Cosneys (see photo), my grandparents scratched their SSNs into household objects, such as the pair of leather-strapped binoculars my grandmother brought out from the mustard metal cabinet between kitchen and dining room with which to spy from her second-story windows on the single-story neighbors. (She had no ill will—she was just bored in her oxygen-cord-dragging, TV-watching retirement.) Nowadays, such possessive marking would be an open invitation to identity theft. Ah, the good old days, when nobody knew about the carcinogenic properties of asbestos and children cut their own willow switches for whippings. In 112 years, will our great-great-grandchildren scoff at our ignorant, ubiquitous use of plastics or something that hasn't even made the list of suspected-things-for-some-future-generation-to-worry-about?

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