This iron was manufactured in England by GEC in approximately 1952. The model is the GEC Universal Voltage Travelling Iron CAT. No. D5827. If holiday makers, or people travelling on business, wished to iron their clothes whilst away a light portable iron was needed. If they were travelling abroad, they would need to be able to change the voltage used by the iron. Foreign travel was less common than now, so the iron was aimed at those travellers most likely travel outside this country.

The iron weighs three pounds, or 1.36077711 kgs. This is much heavier than modern travel irons, but lighter than a modern steam iron weighing about 3kgs; so the iron was quite light and made more portable by the handle folding down. It used 300 watts of electricity compared with about 3000 by modern domestic models.

To use the iron the handle needed to be raised and locked into position by pushing forward a hinged bracket at the rear of the vertical handle support. Then the required voltage needed to be set. If the voltage was between 200 and 250, the connector on the cable had to be fitted with that voltage displayed on the back of the connector. Similarly if the voltage was between 100 and 125 the the connector needed be fitted to display that voltage.

The iron was sold in a cardboard box, which included instructions and hints on ironing:

  1. If the iron becomes too hot, switch off the current. This implies there was no thermostat.
  2. Rest the iron on the backrest when not in use.
  3. Allow the iron to cool down before putting it away.
  4. If called away when ironing, switch off the current. This will prevent the risk of scorched clothes and will save current.
  5. When disconnecting the flexible (cord), do so by gently pulling the connector off the iron.

The iron shown here is no longer in the original box, but has been fitted with an attractive soft bag. Hopefully the user remembered not to plunge it into water!

More information:

Date 1950s
Material(s) MetalPlasticRubber
Item number MBPO219

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • When you go on holiday, do you iron your clothes?
  • When and where have you ever used a travel iron?
  • Do you think this iron would have worked well?
  • In the 1950s where did you go on holiday?

User Stories

The iron shown here is available from online sellers, though intended more as a ‘collectible’ than a household appliance. Modern travel irons are no more expensive.

The Science Museum has a  much earlier GEC travelling iron, which is described as ‘GEC ‘Magnet’ universal electric travelling iron outfit, nickel-plated, comprising iron, stand, water container (for heating water for tea or shaving) and lid with slot for curling irons, c. 1922.’

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