In this nationally televised episode titled Collecting Irons Martha Stewart is joined by PITCA member Dave Irons of Northampton, PA. Dave collects vintage irons and is the author of several books on Irons, all available in our Store.
Exhibited September 13, 2014 – November 8, 2014 at the University Museum, Sutton Hall located at Indiana University of Pennsylvania located in Indiana, PA.
Reprint of article in IUP Magazine
About 25 years ago, Maureen Flaherty Post ’63 had one collectible iron—a flat iron (a doorstop in many homes). One thing led to another: She received a gift of six assorted irons from one of her eight sisters. She began looking for irons and iron-related objects at flea markets and antique shops, then researched their use and history. She got involved in a professional guild, the Pressing Iron and Trivet Collectors of America. Eventually, her collection grew to around 1,000 pieces, all of them accompanying her as she moved from New Jersey to North Carolina in 2009.
After talking with her sister Susan, an attorney, Post decided to donate her collection for educational purposes and approached her alma mater, IUP. The University Museum accepted. Post spent more than a year inventorying the collection and packaging it (in 60 boxes) for transport to IUP. This fall, more than 200 pieces were on display in the University Museum for the exhibit Irons: Functional Tools to Art Objects.
A native of Turtle Creek, Post majored in home economics at IUP and worked in education for about 50 years, mainly in schools for students with disabilities. Even as a vice principal, she kept an iron, ironing board, and two sewing machines in her office, and many students—mostly boys, she said—would make use of the equipment to fix their clothes. Post also has a master’s degree from Georgian Court College in New Jersey.
Richard Gillis (PITCA President 2009-2010) and his collection was featured in June 2010 by the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Here is the article. (NOTE: Unfortunately the Video no longer links. On 8/31/16 the PITCA Webmaster emailed the Chattanooga Times again to see if we can obtain an updated link for the video.)
Pressing Matters: Hobbyist assembles collection of 2,000 Irons
by Karen Nazor Hill
Richard Gillis would be hard-pressed to ignore any wrinkles in his clothing. The 74-year-old Rossville resident has about 2,000 clothes irons in his possession. A native of Canada, Mr. Gillis said he started his iron-collecting hobby by accident after moving to Tennessee in 1978. "I had a wood shop with a potbelly stove, but it leaked sparks," said the semi-retired hydraulic specialist. "So instead of using (the stove), I painted it and got a couple of vintage irons to sit on it as decorations. I also got one to use as a doorstop."
The more he looked at the irons, the more curious he became about their evolution, he said. Irons in his collection, stored museum-style in an outbuilding, are mostly vintage and range in value from $20 to $1,000 each. The oldest of his irons, from Scandinavia in the early 1800s, is shaped like a flattened rolling pin. Though the majority of irons in the Gillis collection were, and still could be, functioning irons, others are whimsical, children's toys and game pieces. The tiniest iron in his collection is an original Monopoly playing piece. The heaviest is an Egyptian foot iron weighing 35 pounds.
Most of the irons were purchased at auctions. "But I have bought them at garage sales, antique stores and estate sales," he said. One of the most interesting was purchased at a flea market in Chattanooga, he said. Manufactured around 1940, the iron is incorporated into a suitcase. When the suitcase is opened, the handle, attached to a cord, pulls out. The handle is actually an iron, and the top of the multipurpose suitcase was designed to be used as an ironing board. Mr. Gillis owns a number of travel irons, as well as a large steamer trunk, made in the 1920s, that contains drawers, a closet and a foldout ironing board. "People were serious about their clothing being pressed in those days," he said.
History shows that people in earlier times used irons made from soapstone, wood, glass, bones and porcelain, said Mr. Gillis, who stays up-to-date with his hobby as a member of the Midwest Sad Irons Collectors Club ("sad" meaning solid or heavy). Specialty irons were made for such specific purposes as ironing puff sleeves, brims of hats, pleats, lace, collars or cuffs.
Mr. Gillis said he doesn't know the exact value of his collection, but a similar collection sold recently for $284,000. Meanwhile, Mr. Gillis stays on the lookout for irons that have thus far eluded his collection. "I have most everything I want," he said, "but if something comes along I'm interested in, if it's a good price, I'll buy it."