Who Invented the Pressing Iron?

by Eric Benac

In 1882 Henry W. Seely patented the electric pressing iron. Before his invention it was very difficult to keep clothes wrinkle-free. Many housewives of the time had to resort to hand pressing, rolling, or even clumsy and dangerous steam and heat irons. Seely's invention made it easier for these housewives to keep their clothes pressed, and he helped revolutionize an industry. Without his electric pressing iron, the laundry business would be an entirely different business today.

Basic Facts

Henry W. Seely was born July 2, 1854, in Richville, Kentucky. He was married to a woman named Margaret and had three sons, Mark, John and Gintal. He also had two daughters, Jennifer and Marce. Not much is known about Seely other than he invented the pressing iron, and was the witness to the patent of many of Thomas Edison's inventions. He died on Nov. 9, 1908, in Shermer, Rhode Island.

Patent Witnessing

Besides his inventions, Seely has left his mark on history by the sheer number of patents he witnessed. His name appears on over 100 patents in the early 1880s, including Edison's light bulb. He continued to be a witness to patents until 1892.

Business Dealings

Seely kept a third of the rights to his pressing iron patent and sold the rest to Samuel Insul and Richard N. Dyer. Dyer was Edison's patent attorney. This partnership remained for several years. The New York Times named Seely and Dyer as involved in civil suits about some of Edison's patents. Though named in these documents, Seely apparently did not appear in court, as Dyer was the more prominent and well-known of the two.

The Invention

Seely's pressing iron revolutionized the care of laundry. Before his electric pressing iron, it was difficult to keep clothes wrinkle-free. Many hours were spent hand pressing clothes in inefficient and time consuming manners. Some irons used steam or heat in dangerous and impractical ways. Seely's electrical pressing iron harnessed the power of electricity, which was becoming more prevalent in America, and helped streamline laundry care for housewives.

Unsure of His Invention

Seely was a humble man and was quite unsure of the usefulness of his invention. On his patent, he expressed doubts about the practicality of his invention. He wasn't sure that an invention that ran on electricity would work as well as devices that ran on steam or heat energy. The prevalence of electrical pressing irons in every home and in every laundromat has illustrated how misplaced his doubts were.

About the Author

Eric Benac began writing professionally in 2001. After working as an editor at Alpena Community College in Michigan and receiving his Associate of Journalism, he received a Bachelor of Science in English and a Master of Arts in writing from Northern Michigan University in Marquette.