These irons are a sampling of the Streamlined Irons exhibit, currently installed between Terminals C and D of the Philadelphia International Airport.
Manufactured between the 1930s and 40’s the irons are from the collection of Jay Raymond, who has studied them since the 1980s. In 2008 he published Streamlined Irons, a survey and assessment of the design, manufacture, and cultural significance of these little marvels. More info on the book, which is spectacularly designed and photographed, and Raymond himself, here. Info on the exhibit here.
Released in 1982, the book Quintessence celebrated the ineffable perfection of things as disparate as the Ace Comb (the wide tooth end, on properly mulched hair, can leave glistening corrugated rows that keep their shape for days), Coppertone (mixed in there too, surely, is a secret extract of hot sand, salt water, endless summer days, and the hyperactive glands of teenagers), the Crayola Box (what a treat to fold back the lid on the brand new box and see every single color lined up at attention with a perfect point), the paper bag (the luxurious beauty of the basic material eloquently restates the miracle of paper) the classic oil can (that plik plok plik plok sound…. that indicated the maintenance of civilization as we know it), Timex Mercury watches, the Polaroid SX-70 and the Honey Bear (who would have thought such a thing possible. Poetry in plastic).
As co-author Owen Edwards puts it in his excellent introductory essay, quintessence is the quality of objects to “exhibit the rare and mysterious capacity to be just exactly what they ought to be… imponderable but undeniable.” Furthermore, to be in the presence of the quintessential is “to feel delightfully close to the center of something extraordinary and to be totally and inexplicably at home.”
Agreed. So we are going to borrow the term and the style (black and white photos and short essays) of Quintessence to celebrate the things that are soaked through with their own awesomeness. Who knows, could be an Estes Rocket, the umlaut, or Raquel Welch, to name a few things that immediately spring to mind. More soon.