Sarah Boone

Black Inventor Improves the Ironing Board

Sarah Boone - Ironing Board.

If you've ever tried to iron a shirt, you can appreciate how difficult it is to iron the sleeves. Dressmaker Sarah Boone tackled this problem and invented an improvement to the ironing board in 1892 that would make it easier to press sleeves without introducing unwanted creases. She was one of the first black women to receive a patent in the United States.

Life of Sarah Boone, Inventor

Sarah Boone began life as Sarah Marshall, born in 1832.

In 1847, at age 15, she married freedman James Boone in New Bern, North Carolina. They moved north to New Haven, Connecticut before the Civil War. She worked as a dressmaker while he was a brick mason. They had eight children. She lived in New Haven for the rest of her life. She died in 1904 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

She filed her patent July 23, 1891, listing New Haven, Connecticut as her home. Her patent was published nine months later. There is no record found of whether her invention was produced and marketed.

Sarah Boone's Ironing Board Patent

Boone's patent was not the first for an ironing board, despite what you may see in some listings of inventors and inventions. Folding ironing board patents appeared in the 1860s. Ironing was done with irons heated on the stove or fire, using a table that was covered with a thick cloth. Often women would simply use the kitchen table, or prop a board on two chairs.

Ironing would usually be done in the kitchen where the irons could be heated on the stove. Electric irons were patented in 1880 but didn't catch on until after the turn of the century.

Sarah Boone patented an improvement to the ironing board (U.S. Patent #473,653) on April 26, 1892. Boone's ironing board was designed to be effective in ironing the sleeves and bodies of ladies' garments.

Boone's board was very narrow and curved, the size and fit of a sleeve common in ladies' garments of that period. It was reversible, making it easy to iron both sides of a sleeve. She noted that the board could also be produced flat rather than curved, which might be better for the cut of the sleeves of men's' coats. She noted that her ironing board would also be well-suited for ironing curved waist seams.

Her invention would be most convenient to have for pressing sleeves even today. The typical folding ironing board for home use has a tapered end that can be useful for pressing necklines of some items, but sleeves and pant legs are always tricky. Many people simply iron them flat with a crease. If you don't want a crease, you have to avoid ironing over the folded edge.

Finding storage for a home ironing board can be a challenge when you live in a small space, Compact ironing boards are one solution that is easier to put into a cupboard. Boone's ironing board may look like an option you'd prefer if you iron lots of shirts and pants and don't like creases.