Curling Irons /Curling Tongs
Curling irons or curling tongs are far from being a modern invention. In fact, these hairstyling tools have been around for centuries and were used by early Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek and Egyptian civilizations. Often used to signify wealth and beauty, Persian and Greek nobles used iron or bronze rods, that were heated over a fire, to produce impressive hairstyles, and for Egyptian nobles, stylish wigs. Even Babylonian and Assyrian men crimped and curled their beards with basic curling irons.
Sir Hiram Maxim, a US-born citizen of England, who gained hundreds of patents for various military, household, health, and beauty industry inventions (i.e. the maxim machine gun, a light bulb, an asthma inhaler, and a mousetrap) is accredited with patenting one of the earliest curling iron designs in 1866. By 1921, many more patents were materializing.
Frenchman Marcel Grateau is acknowledged as the official inventor of the curling tong. In 1872, Grateau revolutionized hair styling when he invented the “Marcel Wave” as alternative hairstyle to the long curls that were in trend at the time.
The curling tong he invented, and used to create the “Marcel Wave,” still closely resembled the curling irons used by ancient civilizations. Over time, only the handles of curling tongs and the size of the metal barrel varied from one tool to another; handles would often be made of different types of wood, or more expensive models would have nickel-plated handles and floral embellishments. However, curling tongs were still designed with metal barrels that needed to heated over gas burners. Many accidents resulting in burnt or damaged hair occurred as the heat of the metal tongs was difficult to control, even in the hands of trained operators. A problem which was solved with the invention of an electric curling iron, which was easier to control the apperatus’s temperature and therefore safer to operate.