|A large collection of tiny antique toy irons
and laundry toys was displayed by Kate Kelly
at the James Valley Threshing Show. Care
of clothing and other washable items, including
laundry and ironing, was the featured theme
of the Quilting display in the Heritage Crafts
Kate has many antiques of various kinds.
However, she is mostly interested in antique
toys for girls, such as dishes, dollhouses,
toy stoves and cookware and housekeeping
Her collecting started about
30 years ago
when she made her first purchase
of a Blue
Willow toy tea set. "After
I was hooked." Kate said.
desirability of these toys depends
age, condition, and rarity. But
simply their special charm that
whether they are added to a collection."
Kate and her toy glass dishes
Toy laundry equipment and toy irons
Though her collection began with antique
dishes and toy glass, it grew to include
a wide variety of 'girl's toys', including
toy irons. She showed about 35 different
toy irons dating from 1850-1960 in her toy
laundry display at the 2013 Thresher's Show,
along with a display of toy laundry items.
Kate's toy iron collection reflects the changes
made through the years in the real irons
that mothers used, including irons with solid
metal handles, metal handles with holes,
and wooden handles. The oldest irons had
solid metal handles that would get too hot
to handle, making ironing a very dangerous
task. Many changes were made in the design
of the handles to make ironing safer and
easier, but not until 1870 was a detachable
handle patented in the United States, invented
by Mary Florence Potts of Ottumwa, Iowa.
This detachable handle stayed cool while
the metal bases were being heated.
Kate further explains, "Mrs. Potts'
iron turned into a 'game changer' for women."
The Enterprise Company of Philadelphia bought
Mrs. Potts' patent, recognizing that her
invention would be a big hit with women.
They gave away a tiny toy working model of
the iron at the 1876 Centennial Exposition
in Philadelphia. Mrs. Potts' iron soon became
one of the best selling inventions of the
The little giveaway toy iron
an inch long, is now known among
as the "Enterprise Baby
and is part of Kate's toy iron
It is the tiniest one in the
middle of the
next to bottom shelf in the photo,
of another toy iron
More toy irons
The tiniest doll's laundry set
Among her toy collection, Kate also has toys
for boys as well as for girls. One such toy
is a large farm set on display in her home.
It includes several wood buildings and lithographed
wood farm animals, people, and machines.
Another favorite is her large "tramp
art" dollhouse, complete with stained
Though a relative newcomer to this area,
Kate considers South Dakota her home. Her
mother, Myrle Breck, was Superintendent of
Schools in Andover in the early 1960's, and
her family settled in the Ferney area when
South Dakota was still Dakota Territory. (Exerpt from story by Dorene Nelson)