Humanities › History & Culture Who Invented the Iron? The Work of Henry W. Seely Share Flipboard Email Print Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images History & Culture Inventions Famous Inventions Famous Inventors Patents & Trademarks Invention Timelines Computers & The Internet American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Mary Bellis Inventions Expert Mary Bellis covered inventions and inventors for ThoughtCo for 18 years. She is known for her independent films and documentaries, including one about Alexander Graham Bell. our editorial process Mary Bellis Updated February 23, 2019 Hand irons are devices used for garment pressing. Irons have been heated directly by gas flame, stove plate heat, or, in the case of the modern iron, by electricity. Henry W. Seely patented the electric flat iron in 1882. Before Electricity The use of hot, flat surfaces to smooth out fabrics and reduce creasing dates back thousands of years and can be found in many early civilizations. In China, for instance, hot charcoal in metal pans was used. Smoothing Stones have been around since the 8th and 9th century and are known as the earliest western ironing devices, looking somewhat like large mushrooms. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, a variety of metal vessels were made that could bring a hot surface to rumpled cloth. Such early irons were also known as flatirons or sadirons, meaning “solid” irons. Some were filled with hot materials, such as coals. Others were placed directly in a fire until their ironing surfaces were hot enough for use. It was not uncommon to rotate multiple flatirons through a fire so that one would always be ready after others had cooled down. In 1871, a model of iron with removable handles—to avoid having them heat up as the iron did—was introduced and marketed as “Mrs. Potts’ Removable Handle Iron.” The Electric Iron On June 6, 1882, Henry W. Seely of New York City patented the electric iron, at the time called an electric flatiron. Early electric irons developed around the same time in France used a carbon arc to create heat, however, this proved unsafe and commercially unsuccessful. In 1892, hand irons using electrical resistance were introduced by Crompton and Co. and the General Electric Company, allowing for the regulation of the iron’s heat. As the popularity of handheld electric irons took off, sales were propelled even more by the introduction during the early 1950s of electric steam irons. Today, the future of the iron appears uncertain. The latest technological developments have come not from the iron industry, but from the fashion industry. An increasing number of shirts and pants these days are sold as wrinkle-free… no ironing required.