Built in the late 1700s or early 1800s, this child’s iron is a small replica of the type that was heated on a wood burning stove to iron clothes. It was made by slave blacksmiths on the plantation of a wealthy southern planter, and presented to the little girl of the family as a gift. It had been kept in the family ever since. Dr. Francis Rigney contacted the Smithsonian to find a suitable place for the miniature iron, and they suggested he contact us. We are pleased to be able to add this interesting piece of our country’s history to the collection, as it represents “miniature engineering” under most extreme circumstances. Note the very smooth, polished surface of the face of the iron that contacts the clothing in the upper right photo.

The final photo in black and white, taken by Dr. Rigney, shows in better character the finish of the outside of the iron. It has survived over 160 years, finally bringing recognition to the slave who made it and acknowledging his craftsmanship.

Exhibit added: April 26, 2011 - Last modified: May 26, 2023

Presented by The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship