Early electric iron, c 1880.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This early smoothing iron of unusual construction used an electric spark as its heat source. The soleplate is heated by pasing a current acros carbon arc electrodes. The hazards of fire and injury to the user made this method dangerous and short-lived. In 1881 the first electric iron using an element of thin carbon sticks was invented by Henry W Seely of New York. He obtained a patent for it in the following year.