This is a very unique item used as a clothes iron to make the pleats popular in the 1800s and early 1900s on collars and sleeves. We have all seen queen elizabeth in her fluted collar - well, this is how it is done the fluter/ iron was placed on the wood stove and used to iron the pleats into the clothing. Basically a specialized version of a sad iron.
A fabulous period piece of history. More info: the rocker-like device is called a geneva fluter (it proudly says so right there, embossed on the top in raised letters), and many late 19th c. Women would probably have recognized it. The fluter is a specialized kind of "sad iron", used to press the fluted ruffles on linen cuffs and collars and other trim.Made from cast iron, the fluter would have been propped before the coals in the hearth to heat. The piece to be ironed would be moistened and laid over the grooved base. Then, with a potholder wrapped around the handle, the heated iron would be rocked over the cloth, and with a hiss of steam, the linen would be perfectly pressed with rows of narrow flutes or pleats.
The weight of the iron and the heat would do most of the work, and compared to pleating and pressing the narrow ruffles individually, this. Truly must have been a labor-saving device. Still, there also must have been plenty of room for error and scorching, and the learning curve must have involved considerable trial and error, plus a burn or two. Made by a foundry in geneva, il, that specialized in household goods, the popular hand fluters were manufactured from 1866-1920, and were exported around the world. Once only wealthy ladies with maids and laundresses could have such skillfully ironed linens.Now women of the rising middle class wished to be fashionable, too, and the geneva fluter took its place in households across america. This item is made of cast iron.