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Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Queen Anne or "Queenie" Stove {in progress}

From Cincinnati in the 1850s to the British canal boat cabin and gypsy caravan: 
the Odyssey of the "Queen Anne" or "Queenie" Stove

Modern reproduction "Queenie" stove,
seen in an antique shop in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, October 2009. 

This post had its origins a couple of years ago, in correspondence with a British enthusiast, John Handley, who was interested in finding out who designed something which has become a standard feature of "traditional" (i.e. modern and recreated. but in a style that has become traditional) bowtop gypsy caravans and narrow boats in the United Kingdom.  He knew that the answer was American, the question was simply which of the hundreds of American stove designers active in the mid-19th century had made it.

I was able to answer quite quickly.  What became known in the U.K., for reasons I cannot fathom (i.e. why give it this particular name?) as the "Queen Anne" stove was the work of two Cincinnati, Ohio residents, Conrad Harris and Paul William Zoiner, in 1854.  They called it a "Dining-Room Stove," made for burning anthracite and with a removable decorated top that hid two boiler-holes.  It was made for a particular purpose, as the name suggests: heating a dining room (or parlour) and also being able to do limited stove-top cooking -- keeping dishes warm, boiling a kettle, that sort of thing.  There were two sliding doors above the open grate, for fueling the fire, and a detachable "blower plate" to cover the grate, used when getting the fire going and also for slowing down combustion to keep it burning longer and more economically.  As theirs was a design patent it went into no detail about the stove's function or mechanical construction: there was no patentable novelty in these respects, their intellectual property was just "the figures, scrolls, and mouldings as set forth in the annexed drawings."  Harris and Zoiner had been inventing and designing stoves together since 1851.  Harris had been in the business as junior partner with a different man, Joseph G. Lamb, since 1849, while Zoiner, b. 1803 in Germany, was an experienced brassfounder who had recently moved from New York.  

Their design was on sale even before they secured their patent, advertised in the  1853 Cincinnati Business Directory  What this probably means is that the success of this pattern in the hands of their first customer persuaded them to go to the small trouble and expense of patenting it to defend themselves against imitation and give them an intellectual property right that they could also sell to other makers.

Harris & Zoiner must have sold ("assigned") the right to use their design to other makers, because it soon appeared in the catalogue of two new entrants to the stove business, Marcus Lucius Filley (of Troy, NY, the manufacturer) and his cousin Lucius Newberry (of Chicago, the base for their stoves' distribution in the midwest) in 1856, as the "Magic Franklin," available in three sizes.  Their illustration clearly showed Harris and Zoiner's names on the hearthplate rather than their own, but this is probably because engravings were expensive and they would have acquired the right to use them for advertising purposes along with the patterns.  This image and the one used by Tunnicliff (evidently just a different, smaller version, with less detail and definition) are useful because of the way they show the blower plate open, lowered onto the hearth.  

The Magic Franklin remained in Filley's Green Island Stove Works catalogues until at least 1867 and perhaps later, but after that its trail in America goes cold.

Or at least, so I thought.  But the tireless John Handley has found that Newberry and Filley weren't the only Capital District stove makers to purchase the right to use Harris & Zoiner's pattern, or perhaps simply to copy it once it was out of patent in 1860: they, too, had a Magic Franklin in their 1867 catalogue.  Perhaps they had simply bought the patterns from Filley, by 1867 a sole trader, together with the original advertising engravings?  Or were they just ripping them off?  Probably we will never know.  I have read, or at least scanned, a high proportion of the Filley company's voluminous surviving correspondence in the New York State Library at Albany and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, and there is no mention of the stove at all, as far as I am aware.  There was also a third major upstate New York maker manufacturing this stove, which they called a "Dwarf  Franklin," between c. 1858 and 1860: Jewett & Root of Buffalo.

* * *

If the Harris & Zoiner stove's trail went cold in the United States shortly after the Civil War -- not surprising, for  a small parlor cooking stove of outdated design and limited utility -- this was emphatically not true of its second, transatlantic career as the "Queenie" and its myriad variants.  The only place to get the full detail of this complex and moderately fascinating story is Handley's new book, The 'Queenie' Stove: The History of a Stove and its Counterparts (Author, 2020), the exhaustive research for which I never could have matched.  All that I can do here is (1) point any interested person who stumbles across this blog post in Handley's direction ( so that they can order it, and (2) briefly summarize his principal findings.

The Harris & Zoiner stove migrated eastwards thanks to the work of two émigré Scots tinsmiths, James Smith Jr. (b. 1816) and his friend from their Paisley childhood Stephen Wellstood.  James emigrated to New York when he was 16 (Stephen had migrated with his father in 1822), where he learned the tinsmiths' trade before moving to New Orleans and then Jackson, Mississippi where, like many tinsmiths, he branched out into the burgeoning stove trade as an early retailer.  He looked towards Cincinnati, the nearest large manufacturing centre serving the Mississippi valley, as his source of supply.

The climate, the unhealthiness of the place (endemic yellow fever taking one of his five children), and probably simple homesickness led him to return to Scotland, leaving his older son in Jackson to take charge of that part of the business.  James was intent on bringing American stoves -- technically far superior to their British contemporaries -- to the booming mid-Victorian market, and to that end he travelled to and fro across the Atlantic, acquiring new attractive patterns for manufacture and sale in Scotland and eventually much further afield in the British Isles and the growing Empire.  Initially Smith and his partner from 1858, Stephen Wellstood (who also returned to his home country), imported stoves from Cincinnati and assembled them in their Liverpool and Glasgow stores, or used them as patterns from which to have stoves made for them under contract by Scottish foundries.  The protections of U.S. patent law did not extend across the sea.  "Queen" stoves -- the name he gave to the Harris & Zoiner model -- were certainly being cast for them in Scotland by late 1859, and probably sooner than that.  By 1860 Smith & Wellstood had their own foundry, the "Columbian Stove Works" (emphasizing the Americanness of their products) to do the work for them -- excellent timing, as the Civil War would soon interrupt their supplies of American stove parts and new models.

* * *

Handley, following in the footsteps of other British company historians and stove collectors, devotes much of his attention to the long and complicated afterlife of the "Queen" stove.  The simple fact is that it was as easy for Smith & Wellstood's many Scottish and British competitors to imitate a successful model of theirs as it had been for them to appropriate Harris & Zoiner's design.  As a result, literally tens of different "Queens," some of them with slight differences in design or decoration, entered the British and Dominions markets over the next 80-90 years, and remained in production and on sale until the early 2000s.  

The most interesting feature of Handley's story about the long British (and South African, Australian, and New Zealand) history of the "Queen" is what it says about the conservatism of the British market and the lack of innovation by British manufacturers.  A product that included no novel technical features even when it was fresh-minted in 1853, entering an American market characterized by continuous design evolution and product improvement among (by the 1860s) hundreds of competing inventors and manufacturers, survived in much less demanding British (and Dominion) conditions far longer than any other stove model known, and particularly one from that period.  The Harris & Zoiner's stoves primitive traditionalism doomed it to a short life in its home market.  In the United Kingdom, in particular, the same characteristics helped guarantee its longevity.  


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Stovemaker Writes to His Customer: John A. Conant, the Brandon Iron Co., & Henry W. Miller, 1835-1838

I just rediscovered that I had these letters in my files when I was writing my post about Henry Stanley's rotary stove and his problems in the 1830s at the hands of his competitors, including John Adams Conant (1800-1886), who seemed determined to violate his patents and confident of being able to get off scot-free.  They are about lots of things as well as just the rotary stove, and provide a small but (to me, at least) fascinating insight into the way that the stove trade worked in the first period when there was a booming region-wide if not quite nationwide market, just before the Jacksonian Economy collapsed into depression.  I have read enough similar stove trade correspondence -- from Philadelphia, Delaware, and New Jersey between the 1820s and 1840s; from St. Louis, Missouri between the 1830s and 1860s; and from Troy, New York, between the 1850s and 1880s -- to know that the character of this collection is representative rather than at all exceptional.  (For the most accessible and complete collection of such correspondence, see the David Cooper Wood Letterbooks -- a New Jersey and Philadelphia ironmaster and stove maker, from the 1820s to the 1850s; for the best (and indeed only) account of the growth of the industry, its markets, and its distribution system, see my Inventing the U.S. Stove Industry, c. 1815-1875: Making and Selling the First Universal Consumer Durable,” Business History Review 82:4 (Winter 2008): 701-733 [Winner, Henrietta M. Larson Article Award, 2008]. [Free Version here]).

These letters are the only records of the Brandon Iron Co. of Brandon, VT that seem to have survived.  They are in the special collections of the Clements Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, but the catalogue entry does not explain how or why they ended up there.  As they are original letters rather than letterbook copies, they must have come from the recipient, the Worcester, MA merchant Henry W. Miller, rather than anywhere else; but how they ended up in Michigan, or why the Clements Library acquired them, remain mysteries (until, at least, I ask them; there must be an archival record about some of this).  

I have transcribed the letters without making any changes to capitalisation, spelling, punctuation, etc.  () indicates a (sic), (indec) = indecipherable, and material in square brackets [] is my clarification of something that might need it.  // marks a change of page -- they are not numbered.  All of the letters are from the firm of C.W. [Chauncey Washington] and J.A. Conant until number 18 in October 1837, after which they are from J.A. Conant as Agent of the successor firm, the Brandon Iron Co., Chauncey having left the partnership.  Explanatory notes are added after each letter, as required; they are more numerous and also denser for the earlier letters, both because they are more interesting and also that, as the correspondence became routine, themes tended to recur.

For Conant's father John (b. 1773), his iron furnace, and his other stoves, see this blog post; for the younger John himself, the biographical account in John Caldwell et al., American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1994), Vol. 1, p. 235, accompanying his portrait (below).  Miller shows up in the 1845, 1850, and 1855 Worcester city directories as a leading merchant, stove maker, and hardware dealer (The Worcester Almanac, Directory, and Business Advertiser, for 1845 [Worcester: Henry J. Howland, 1845] -- ad., p. 145; 1850, esp. p. 174 [advertisement]; 1855, p. 199), who in 1841 helped the inventors of the Coes wrench to get their start in business.  In 1848 he was still selling and promoting "Stanly (sic)'s Rotary Cooking Stove," "The best rotary we have seen."  But otherwise I know little of him except that as recently as 1829 he had been a chairmaker, by 1832 he had entered the tinware and stove trade, and that he was a man whose household purchasing habits and lifestyle depict him as having become a very solid member of the local middle class. 

Head and shoulders crop, portrait of John Adams Conant by William Dunlap, 1829; original image from the Met. 

#1 -- 28 March 1835

Mr Miller.

Sir, Your Letter of 21st inst is before us -- We should be pleased to send you a Sample () our Rotary Stoves, but fear there will not be an opportunity very soon -- the Roads are becoming bad, and untill () merchants send for Goods after the wheeling shall improve, there will not be any team that we now know of going to Boston. [NOTE 1.1]

We make as yet only two Sizes of Rotary Stoves -- viz No 2 & 3. and our Terms are 20 pcnt () disct [discount] from $24 & $28. We deliver on Seaboard - say Boston.  Cash 1st April, or Int [interest] after.  4 pcnt less Cash down -- or on the delivery of the Stoves.  Our $28 Stove corresponds in size with Stanleys () $30 -- or $40 & trimmings -- our oven makes good all that Stanley sells for the ten dollars, except a Sad Iron heater & Tin Roaster, both worth perhaps two dollars -- and the Stove decidedly better. [NOTE 1.2]

Stanley had his Stoves in Concord NH early in the season, and after 15th Sept we had an order for a Load of ours by Land, which were soon sold and on the 1st Feby 70 of our kind had been sold and six only of Stanleys. We sold a large number in Augusta Maine, & then obtained $30 for No 3 -- // which we think would be a fair price with you at retail -- Stanley as we know does not intend reducing prices, which of course will aid the sale of ours.

We do not use Crank & pinion to motion () the Top with, but construct so as to have the bearing in the center, raised equal to the thickness of a thin washer, and move by aid of a short handle which may be attached to the outer edge of the Top on opposite sides in the fashion of a dove tail, is very simple and decidedly preferable to the crank.

With this difference and the oven (which by the way bakes any kind of Bread & equal to any kitchen oven) the Stove exactly resembles Stanleys () -- The draft is regulated by a damper in the rear which if raised permits the fire or heat to pass under the oven, if the contrary -- all the heat is thrown upon the boilers.

We have manufactured Stoves for fifteen years and have never seen a Stove that the public are so well pleased with, no one so far as we have any knowledge using them, desire to change for other kinds. [NOTE 1.3]

Our castings you will like when you see them, & we should be pleased to sell you or some one in Worcester // from two to four hundred -- If you should do a considerable business in the sale of our Stoves will pay charges from Boston to your place, and allow 4 perct extra on all you sell to dealers -- if you should have occasion so to do -- It is not our wish to have more than one customer in your place or section and would therefore like to have you come to a conclusion soon, having had word (emph. in original) from another House in your place, that a supply would be wanted. [NOTE 1.4] 

We are your &c

C W & J A Conant

Note 1.1 -- It was about 150 miles by turnpike road from Brandon to Worcester, and transporting stoves by wagon was quite possible, though expensive (see below, Letter #9), but not in the "mud season" at the end of winter.  The cost and practical limitations of overland transportation, particularly before the coming of the railroad, made water transport the normal choice for stoves and other non-perishable cargoes without a high value-to-weight ratio.

Note 1.2: It's always interesting to see manufacturers' terms of trade set out so clearly.  $24 and $28 were Conant's regular prices, with a 20 percent discount for a trade customer.  These prices included water transportation all the way to the customer's nearest port.    

All sales were made on credit, so Conant had to cover all costs of production, distribution, and credit risk for a minimum of several months before expecting payment -- in this case, Miller was being invited to order his stoves for the  1835-36 sales season, which peaked in the Fall, when farmers had harvest cash to spend and Winter to prepare for, and would not have to start paying for them until almost a year from receiving this offer.  It was realistically anticipated that many customers would be slow paying even then, so the seller would be compensated by getting interest on bills still unpaid  after that date.  The cash discount of just 4 percent for payment with order or on delivery seems to be an underestimate of the cost and risk involved in credit sales.  The necessity of running such long credits, having to finance all costs upfront and then waiting many months for cash to flow back, was probably the biggest headache for manufacturers like Conant aiming to sell costly consumer durables to a non-local market.  All stove trade business correspondence that I have read is dominated by the issues of credit and payment.  The best account of this system is in Rowena Olegario, A Culture of Credit: Embedding Trust and Transparency in American Business (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2006), esp. Chs. 1-2. 

Note 1.3: Conant's rotaries did not have the cachet and could not include all of the unique and useful features of Stanley's, as he spells out -- no easy crank-handle motion, not such an airtight design of the stove top; his disregard for Stanley's patent rights was not total.  So he had to compete on cost and, he claimed, build quality and customer satisfaction instead: he could undercut Stanley by just $2 (7 percent) on a bare stove or, he argued, up to 30 percent on a stove with "trimmings."  Stanley's stove came with essential extras including a "tin kitchen" (reflector oven) and other hollow ware required to make it fully useful.  Conant claimed that his integral cast-iron oven made them redundant and thus almost valueless.  Note how well-informed he was about the state of the market, including his rival's determination not to compete on cost.  Sharing this sort of information between manufacturers and trade customers was routine.  He did not just share these arguments with individual dealers by letter: he broadcast them to all consumers in his hometown newspaper:

Note 1.4: As the final paragraph explains, further discounts were available for a large buyer doing a more than retail business.  If Miller turned into a local distributor or jobber for Conant he would get an additional 4 percent discount to enable him to offer retailers a worthwhile margin, and Conant would pay his overland transport costs from Boston too.  There was no formal "agency" system at this stage in the development of the business, but certainly the makings of it in Conant's quite common wish to have just one large customer (200-400 stoves per year, c. $5-10,000 of business) in each market.  This simplified distribution, and also made price maintenance easier if consumers could not play one retailer off against another as the latter competed for market share -- see paragraph three in the following letter, and also Letter #8.

#2 -- 13 April 1835

[same salutation] 

"We received your Letter of 8th inst this morning -- Should be pleased to sell you some of our Stoves, but must decline in all cases sending them out on commission. [NOTE 2.1]

The name of the individual we alluded to, we have forgotten, not having had any Letter or his name in writing, but think it was Newcomb. [NOTE 2.2]

It is not our object to multiply customers in the same place, and we should advise you & your present competitor to avoid by all means running in prices -- which you understand all about, without our suggestion.

If you desire, we can forward you a Stove -- by way of N[ew] York to Boston on the 1st of May -- we sold [i.e. bartered] two Stoves to a Mr Sears, or Simon Seaver, of Prescott, for Brooms. You could no doubt see those Stoves with little trouble.  Our Stoves will be in good order, fitted // complete -- large plates loose, & small ones Boxd () -- [NOTE 2.3]

I should be pleased to answer your orders if sent in, before we have contracted for all we make.

Yours Respectfully"

Note 2.1: With sales on commission, title to (and responsibility for) the goods sold by a dealer remained with the manufacturer until they were bought by a consumer, at which point the sale price (less commission) was supposed to be paid by the dealer to the manufacturer.  Such a risk-free arrangement was obviously popular with dealers, but understandably rejected by manufacturers unless they were desperate to dispose of goods with some prospect, however small, of generating a return, or perhaps wishing to break into a new market.  Standard stove trade terms were that title passed when the goods were delivered off the ship at the port of arrival, i.e. manufacturers only bore the risk of breakages in transit -- a real problem with thin cast-iron plates -- for the safest though longest portion of the journey from factory to market.

Note 2.2: Caleb Newcomb was one of Worcester's two workers in tin, sheet-iron &c., according to the 1828 Worcester Village Directory.  At the town's cattle show in 1832 he had "presented a Tin Drum or cylinder of his own manufacture, which was highly approved by manufacturers."  (Worcester Talisman 1 [1828], p. 209 & New  England Farmer 10 [1832], p. 141.)

According to the McLane survey that same year  Worcester's tinsmiths were just Newcomb's firm and another partnership, Rice & Miller (our guy, who had moved out of chair-making).  Real estate, buildings, and fixtures for the two of them were worth $1,800; Tools, Machinery, and Apparatus, $500; average Stock in hand and in process of manufacture, $900; Raw Materials $435 US-sourced, $4,503 imported; Payroll Output Value $8,950 including 17 tons of iron manufactured into stoves, stove furniture, and stove pipe $4,700.  Two working proprietors were assisted by five workers over 16 and a boy, and total wages amounted to $2,015.  These were, in other words, classic artisan businesses, using hand tools and muscle-powered machinery, and not very value-adding.  Even in 1832 the stove trade made up more than half of their business.  

The 1837 Commonwealth of Massachusetts industrial census (its and indeed any state's first) reported three tin shops in Worcester by then, employing 14 hands, and doing $18,300 worth of business, i.e. considerably more than just five years earlier.  By that time Worcester was growing and industrializing rapidly -- its population increased by 80 percent in the 1830s, a growth rate second only to Lowell (221 percent) in the state -- and most households would need one or more stoves.  It was thus an important market for Conant (and Miller) to tap into.

Tinners and whitesmiths like these men were the most common group of artisans from whom stove retailers were recruited, in the 1820s and 1830s and for decades afterwards -- they already supplied household needs, including for kitchen utensils, and had the skills required for e.g. fabricating stove pipe, assembling stoves from the collection of loose plates and other parts that were shipped, installing stoves in customers' houses, and providing a repair service.  Conant was subtly telling Miller that if the latter decided not to accept Conant's terms, he would be equally happy to deal with his rival Newcomb.

Note 2.3: Finding a way of safely shipping fragile, increasingly thin cast-iron plates hundreds or even thousands of miles was one of the challenges the stove trade had to overcome in its search to build a region- and eventually nation-wide market.  When Conant said his stoves were "fitted," what he meant was that they were trial-assembled ("mounted") at the factory so that any defects could be identified and rectified, joints filed for a good fit, holes drilled in plates for hinges and catches, etc., and then disassembled for transit.  Loose plates were usually packed in straw in barrels or sacks, small plates boxed not just to protect against breakage but also simply being mislaid en route.  Stove distributors like Miller or retailers like Newcomb were absolutely essential to the industry's market expansion, particularly because of the need for skilled final assembly, installation, and after-sales service.  A relatively complex, novel, and costly consumer-durable good did not fit easily into established patterns of wholesale trade, so had to develop its own.

#3 -- 28 August 1835

[usual salutation] 

"We loose () no time in saying to you that as we expected your information of Albany trial through Mr Newcomb was incorrect.

The Plaintiffs Dana & Chard {?} did not obtain an injunction against French, but failed in the attempt. It was plain that the Court leaned strongly to the side of Plffs () -- & did everything for their protection, and after {indec} the Court to do something a decision was procured putting French under (not $50,000) but Two Thousand dollars bond, not that he should refrain from vending but that he should truly account to the Court if required the number he should make & vend, that if Stanley did ever find himself able to maintain an action he should know how many, or how much damages to claim -- all amounting to nothing. The same facts could at any time be proved by his furnace -- any one of his clerks -- & in various other ways, but this year, a few suits must be had to enable Stanley to
sell his Stoves. All those facts we have recd () from a personal interview with a gentleman of our acquaintance resident in // Vergennes Vt. who attended the trial, & being deeply interested in the result was carefull () to know all about it, & a Mr Flower {?} during the interval of an adjournment of the Second trial went to Connecticut and gave the facts in the case as sworn to on both sides (by the way the Testimony does not clash much), and took Rogers M Shermans () opinion of the case in writing, a copy of which we have, this opinion is able, clear, and unequivocally against both Stanley & Town, & makes the principle of the Rotary Top Stove common property, the case stands so clear now that we have no hesitation in engaging to defend you jointly with yourself as far as cost and time of Counsel goes & pay full amount of damages ourselves if any are secured. In consequence if any thing you may {indec} in the way of buying & selling our Stoves. {indec name -- evidently a lawyer} of Rockingham this State have given an opinion {indec -- exactly??} corresponding with Mr Shermans (). [NOTE 3.1]

It was allowed at the Albany trial that If () French would not use a crank {?} the Court could not notice him at all but so clear is he that the case will turn out to Stanleys () discomforture () that he will not give an inch.

We are in Great haste 

Yours &c."

Note: This is a fascinating account of what was obviously one of the preliminaries to the Stanley v. Hewitt case later in the year, in which the distinguished Connecticut advocate Roger Minot Sherman, nephew of one of the Founding Fathers, led the team representing Hewitt on behalf of, and with the support of, Stanley's other patent violators.

Church & Dana were Stanley's agents (wholesalers) in Troy, who had made a $12 profit on each of the 5,000 of his rotaries that they had sold over the previous two years, so were obviously almost as interested in defending his patent as he was himself.

Maynard French was the maker of the principal rival to Stanley, the Town stove, and certainly his main legal opponent.  (See this post for French and the Town and other rotary patents.)  Conant's stove was evidently different in operation from Town's, more of an independent copy of Stanley's but without the rack and pinion mechanism, so his interest in the patent suits was different, as was his preferred outcome: that the rotary principle should be determined to be unpatentable per se.  Conant was so confident that Stanley's patent would not stand that he did not confine his assurances to customers to his private business correspondence, he spread it all over the papers.

Vermont Telegraph ad., 12 Oct. 1835 onwards -- note also the continuing emphasis on his product quality and sideswipe at Stanley's price.
The "gentleman from Vergennes" was probably the foundry operator J. D. Ward, also a violator of the Stanley patent and thus an interested party as well as Conant's competitor -- see his ad. in the Burlington Free Press 1 April 1836, p. 3.

Roger Minot Sherman, 1773-1844, was a prominent lawyer in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and a politician and judge in his home state.  "To a mind of the highest order, at once brilliant and profound, he added the embellishments of literature and science and the graces of Christianity."  "American Obituary for 1844," The American almanac and repository of useful knowledge, for the Year 1846 (Boston: James Munroe & Co., 1845), p. 319.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Rotary and Circular Stoves -- Henry Stanley's and Others'

The Circular or Rotary Stove -- Stanley's and Other Inventors' 

Henry Stanley's rotary stove, patented in December 1832 and on public trial for some months before then, was the first and most successful of this kind available on the American market.  It and its imitators were sold widely across the northern states, and particularly in New York and New England.  It may not have been the first stove with a rotating top, but it was the first such stove to be patented, workable, and saleable.  It was also extremely profitable: Dana & Church, Stanley's agents in Troy, reported that between 1833 and 1835 they sold more than 5,000 stoves at a profit of $7-$9 each for Stanley and $12 for themselves on a retail price of up to about $40.  (As a proportion of average annual earnings, this was about as large a purchase as a consumer durable worth between $12,000 and $24,000 today, depending on the comparator used -- unskilled wages or production worker compensation.)  Stanley sold most of his stoves directly, through agencies owned by family members in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, which meant that they secured the profits from distribution as well as manufacture.  The stove's success made it a prime target for imitation over the next several years.

* * * 

The original patent does not survive, only an amended version taken out after the decision in Stanley v. Hewitt in November 1835 caused it be surrendered, rewritten to remove its defects (claiming too much originality), and resubmitted.  We are left with two versions of the revised text, one handwritten (7333X, 1832) and the other printed (91, 1836), but they do not differ significantly from one another, except that 91 does not include the image at the head of this post.  Both describe the stove in detail.  

Briefly, it was a development of a common stove type introduced in Vermont in the late 1820s, the step stove, except that it did not have a stepped top, and an iron oven N behind the firebox A was only an optional and not a normal feature.  Stanley's stove had the usual long firebox for burning wood (and an optional grate inside on which to burn the new wonder fuel, anthracite), and a large hearth containing a sliding, sunken tray D (a "box hearth"for ash removal, draft control, and also some cooking -- a reflector oven ("tin kitchen") could be placed in front of the open front doors, or the box hearth cover could be removed, coals raked forward into it, and a griddle placed over the top. 

An early Stanley Rotary, with cap removed, showing inside of firebox. 
Used gratefully, with the owners' and photographer's permission.

The stove's USP was of course the rotating top, which had three key parts:
  • A flat, circular plate E extending over the fire box and right to the back of the stove with two sections cut out of it, one over the fire box itself, the other to allow the products of combustion to exit to the stove pipe.  The plate had a raised rim around its circumference, and a raised cup G at its centre.  
  • The stove cap sat on top of plate E and was an even more complicated, precise piece of casting.  It had a centre pivot pin H sitting in the cup G, and an incised groove in its underside which made a reasonably airtight tongue-and-groove joint with the raised rim of plate E.  It also had cog-gear teeth around its circumference that engaged with a handle-turned pinion I attached to plate E, and together with the centre pivot G/H bore its weight so that the tongue-and-groove joint did not bindTo further reduce friction and improve the seal, the groove was supposed to be partially filled with black lead (graphite).  Regular stoves had almost no moving parts and were mechanically extremely simple.  Stanley's showed his background in mechanical engineering, and the precision of which his Poultney foundry was capable.

  • The other main features of the cap were the four boiler holes L, of varying sizes, and the flues M joining them.  These directed the products of combustion from the fire, around under all of the boiler holes, and then out at the back into the stove pipe through the aperture K.  The holes were covered by cast-iron lids with wrought-iron "bails" or handles allowing them to be lifted off when the cook wanted to place a pan (also cast iron) in them, exposing the bottoms of the pans to the full heat of the fire and the combustion gases.  Some cooking could also have been done directly on the covers themselves (griddle cakes, biscuits), of flat-bottomed ware would have been placed on them for warming rather than operations requiring a fiercer heat.     

What the patent documents do not say is how Stanley came to build his stove, and why, and what its advantages for the consumer were supposed to be.  Some of these questions were answered in the eight-page pamphlet Stanley had printed to promote and accompany his stove, others in newspaper advertisements for his stove and its rivals and imitators.

When Stanley introduced it, most American cooks, even in the most developed northern states, were new to stove-top cookery and used to cooking on or in an open hearth.  Stanley's stove accommodated itself to their habits.  It enabled "the obtaining at any time, such a degree of heat as may be required for either boiling or stewing," which a hearth cook could achieve by moving her vessels closer to or further away from the hottest parts of the fire, but was more difficult on earlier stoves.  It also saved a lot of labour in lifting or moving heavy cooking vessels.  The stove top was fairly low, hence reducing lifting, and suiting cooks used to sitting, squatting, kneeling, or stooping by an open fire.  Equally helpfully, the low top meant that the stove could simply be fitted inside an existing kitchen fireplace and use its chimney; and the crank handle made it easy to rotate a cooking vessel closer to the heat (immediately over the fire) or further away (towards the back), at the same time as freeing the cook of the need to reach deep into the fireplace itself to get to the rear boiler holes.  The relatively small fire box and well-controlled draft also meant that Stanley's stove would do a lot of cooking for relatively little fuel.  

Newburgh Telegraph 30 Oct. 1834, p. 2.

Convenience, controllability, labour-saving, and economy: these were what justified the Stanley stove's high price, and enabled its maker and distributors to rake in the profits.  This recent video of a surviving Stanley makes this all reasonably clear, even better than the still pictures. 

* * *
In the court cases in the 1830s in which Henry Stanley attempted to defend his patent against imitators, rivals, and challengers, the greatest threat to him came from the testimony and sometimes the physical evidence provided by other members of the stove trade who claimed to have invented, built, and used key features of his rotary cooking stove years before he did.  But there is no trace of these earlier supposed inventions, except perhaps in the case records in court archives, if they still exist anywhere.  His main challengers, Elisha Town of Montpelier, VT, and Gould Thorp, of New York City, did not register their own first stove patents until after he had.

Elisha Town was "a most ingenious inventive Cabinet Maker" with a history of commercially unsuccessful mechanical improvements stretching back more than twenty years (for which see this other blog post).  He was, according to the town historian, writing in 1860, a "genius."  "Montpelier [the state's capital, second-largest town, and biggest center of manufacturing and trade] never produced, and it is doubtful whether the whole state ever produced, a man of a more truly inventive mind. But his book knowledge of mechanics and previous mechanical inventions, was quite limited; and he was known to have studied out principles and spent much time in building machines for their application to inventions, which,though perfectly original in him, were found, at last, to have been long before made and put in operation by others. And although he was continually getting up something new, yet we now find his name coupled with no invention of much importance... Like most men of inventive genius, he was through life emphatically poor, but was ever esteemed, up to the time of his death a few years ago, a most inoffensive and worthy citizen."  Announcing his final patent, in 1837 -- a device to enable railroad locomotives to climb steep inclines -- the Vermont Telegraph, of Brandon, used similarly respectful language to praise the efforts of "our worthy and persevering fellow citizen." ["Vermont Against the World," 30 Aug. 1837, p. 3]

"Elisha Town's Improved Crane Stove," his first stove patent, taken out in December 1833, 7871X, was not a rotary at all, but simply a less drastically modified step-stove.  The drawings are of the revised (1836) version of his patent, number 37 (new series) including a removable furnace (for charcoal or, more probably, anthracite) fitting underneath the oven of his baking stove.  This was probably intended, though the patent was silent about its purpose, to enable the oven and large rear boiler hole to be used in summer, with less fuel consumption and a correspondingly reduced amount of heat in the kitchen, just as in the earlier Conant stove (for which see this blog post).

The distinctive features of the original and improved versions of the Crane Stove were the swinging covers, or "cranes," for the front two boiler holes.  They served a similar purpose to the turntable top on Stanley's stove, allowing the cook to regulate the heat applied to a vessel by moving it away from the fire.  Apart from these, Town's was a pretty standard step-stove, except perhaps for the double plates, with an air gap between them, at the front of the oven.  The intention of these was to prevent a hot spot within the oven, and (probably) reduce the problem of burning out of the oven plate immediately behind the fire, a weak spot in any stove design.  Other step-stove designers in the 1830s attempted to achieve the same object with slightly different means of reinforcing and/or insulating the vulnerable plate.  (Stanley avoided the problem altogether, by not having a conventional oven, and designing his fire box to make it easy to replace the plates most likely to burn out.)

Town's was evidently a commercial product rather than a design destined to get no further than the Patent Office.  Jonathan Wainwright, a local manufacturer and dealer, explained and highlighted its advantages in an advertisement.  It was, he claimed, a stove "that will make its way into almost every family. This stove takes in a large round boiler back, and two smaller in front, that can be swung off the fire: a convenience not found in other stoves -- also, has a Furnace attached underneath that can be used without heating the whole stove, and will be found very convenient for summer use -- has a large oven, and taken altogether will be found a perfect stove."  Wainwright operated his own furnace, which probably answers the question about how the impecunious Town managed to get his stoves made and sold.  [Jonathan Wainwright ad.Burlington Free Press 30 Nov. 1838, p. 3 -- this ad ran until 1 Mar. 1839, i.e. throughout one stove sales season, but it is the only such advertisement for Town's stoves in the Vermont newspapers in the Library of Congress's collection, which suggests that Wainwright may have had exclusive rights to the stove but did not find it sold as well as he had hoped.]

Town, Elisha. Montpelier, VT. Cook Stove, Called Town's Rotary. 8206X. 16 May 1834. Class 126/1R

However successful or otherwise Town's Crane Stove may have been, as a design and/or as a commercial product, in the following year he determined, or was persuaded, to compete with Henry Stanley even more directly, producing a rotary of his own. (Whether this was a version of the stove he claimed in court to have invented a decade earlier, and even had cast in Starksboro, VT, is impossible to tell for sure, though some advertisements asserted as much, while others described it as something quite different: a stove whose top revolved because its oven underneath did.)
It differed from Stanley's in being operated, not by rack and pinion, but by raising and lowering the whole top stove plate with the foot-operated lever projecting at the side of the stove near the floor.  Town did not explain how the plate was supposed to be rotated once it had been elevated -- perhaps by the cook giving a hefty push to the hot iron rim with a hand wrapped in protective cloth, balancing on one leg while the other held the lever down; a tricky operation made all the less pleasant by the smoke and heat pouring into the kitchen at waist level while the stove top was raised.  This cannot have been a very attractive feature of it, and indeed one of the advantages that Stanley claimed for his rotary over all of the competitors was the quality of the tongue-and-groove seal between the top plate and the rim it sat on.  [M.N. Stanley & Co., "To the Public," Albany Evening Journal 1838 frame 0854.]  

On the other hand, Town's rotary had a perfectly flat top, and claimed to be easier to cook on and keep clean than Stanley's, because he provided flue space below it for the bottoms of cooking utensils to project into, as in any conventional stove.  Stanley relied on his system of raised collars and flues above the rotating plate, so vendors of his and Town's rival rotaries had something other than just their claims to originality, precedence, and thus legality to argue and advertise about.
Town's stove also had a conventional oven behind the firebox, a feature Stanley's lacked.  It was made by Maynard French of Albany and sold by Rensselaer Granger of Troy and W.H. Cheney of Albany, amongst others. According to French's advertisement in the Albany Evening Journal, his "Improved Rotary" was "made of the best Scotch and American pig iron, and for smoothness and beauty of casting, is not surpassed by any. ... [W]herever the stove is seen, it is taken in preference to any other," more than 2,000 being sold in the spring and summer of 1836 alone [5 December 1836, p. 4]. 
In another advertisement that same summer Granger promised to "warrant and defend all who may purchase Rotary Stoves of me, from all damages."  This was a necessary part of their sales pitch to buyers, because Stanley's lawyers had already advertised "forbidding all persons from purchasing or using Rotary Top Cooking Stoves  made by Mr. French, and others."  Town's rotary stove was, Granger claimed, "the one that defeated [Stanley's] pretended rights [in the suits in 1835 before Stanley v. Hewitt], and will hold the application of the rotary motion as applied to a cooking stove, and every stove Mr. Stanley makes that the top revolves is an infringement of Mr Town's patent, and he will be prosecuted for such infringement."  [There is no record that this actually happened, but given the lack of reporting of most federal cases absence of published evidence does not necessarily mean that something didn't happen.]
An incomplete record of the battles between Town's rotary design and Stanley's, in the courts and in the market, is all that we have, but it seems clear that Town's was a serious challenger.

Henry Hewitt, "New Rotary Cooking Stoves!!" St Lawrence Republican 15 Jan. 1839, p. 2
Though described as a Town stove, the mechanism was completely different.

Thorp,Gould -- New York, NY -- Cooking Stove Pat. No. 9778X June 25, 1836

This patent survived, or was restored after, the Patent Office Fire of 1836, but unfortunately not its drawing.  However, the description is pretty clearly of a standard three-boiler stove, which Thorp describes as an improvement of the lost Philologus Holly (or Holley) cooking stove patent of 1 March 1822, X3462.  Holly was still alive, showing up as an active but untrustworthy Freemason in 1832, and then in successive New York City directories in the early 1840s as a land agent, real estate broker, and architect, so he would presumably have been available in 1835 to serve as a witness against Stanley alongside or instead of Gould or Town, had his testimony been useful.  There is no evidence in the patent of the system of flues designed to distribute heat evenly to the cooking holes that, Gould claimed, Stanley had appropriated from him, while Stanley counter-claimed that the borrowing had all been the other way round. 

Thorp himself was a New York City stove merchant, recorded in the directories between 1834 and 1838, and trading just five doors away from Stanley's own Water Street warehouse and manufactory.  As so often in the stove industry's patent wars, these pitched neighbour against neighbour.   

Nott, Eliphalet -- Schenectady, NY -- CookingStove Pat. No. 7948X January 9, 1834

Nott's stove was large, heavy, and far more complex than Stanley's.  It was probably intended for big, prosperous households and commercial or institutional customers, like his anthracite heating stoves.  Its design principle differed from Stanley's in that its key object was fuel economy -- extracting the maximum in cooking capacity from its fire, which required the central location and disposition of ovens and boler holes around it.  Though its plate of boiler holes was circular, like Stanley's, it was not rotating: the stove depended instead on a system of "valves" (dampers) to direct heat to one side of the plate or the other.

Burnell, Levi -- Elyria, OH -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 8509X November 25, 1834

Burnell's stove differed from Stanley's in that the circular top plate was fixed, while the firebox was mounted on casters or rollers so that the direct fire could be brought under one boiler hole or another.  This seems to have been more of an imaginary design than a practical one -- moving a hot, heavy metal firebox with no assistance from a gear or lever could not have been easy. 

Burnell was Secretary and General Agent of Oberlin College, and very well acquainted with Philo Penfield Stewart, a much more successful stove inventor also working at Oberlin at exactly the same time.  He was the former head of the defunct Lorain Iron Co., and before that a druggist in Rochester, NY as well as an abolitionist pioneer.  This was not his only patent -- like Town, he also addressed the important problem of making it easier for railroad locomotives to climb hills (8284X), as well as developing improved steam boilers (8212X) and means of propelling boats in canals and shoal water (8211X), all in the same year.  

He and Stewart were probably engaged in the same task -- trying to boost the finances of their fledgling college by making and selling useful inventions. Stewart's stove (for whose patent Burnell served as a witness) succeeded in this respect, though only to a moderate extent; Burnell's does not seem to have got any further than the Patent Office.

Spoor, Abraham D. -- Coxsackie, NY -- Cook Stove Pat. No. 8573X January 7, 1835

Spoor, b. 1791, was a physician in Coxsackie in the Lower Hudson Valley. Evidence for the production and sale of his cooking stove is limited, but there must have been enough of both to encourage him to persist with it.  This was neither his first stove patent (that was 8084X the previous year, an anthracite heating stove of more conventional appearance and arrangement, worth reissuing in 1838 the better to defend it against imitators and infringers), nor his only round stove (there was also 8574X, taken out the same day as its partner), nor yet his last (8043 for "Agitating Grate-Bars," in 1851).  Whatever the commercial fate of Spoor's circular cooking stove design, he was certainly a serious and quite successful inventor.  His anthracite heating stove and grate design was bought, brought into production, and sold widely, first of all by the Nott family's Union Furnace in Albany, and then by J. & A. Fellows of Troy.  [J. & A. Fellows, "Notice," Troy Daily Whig 1839 frame 1130.]  At least one example of his cooking stove still survives.

Spoor's "Salamander Cooking Stove" was designed to solve a particular problem for the first generation of users of anthracite stoves, accustomed to the very different way that it burnt as compared with the wood they were used to, and the stoves suited to it:
the want of sufficient flame and the limited extent of the horizontal surface of the fire in stoves cooking with anthracite coal hitherto in use have made it difficult if not impossible to expose more than one or two boilers at once to the degree of heat necessary to carry on culinary operations to advantage and ... also it has been found difficult in such stoves to increase or diminish the fire suddenly for different purposes...

Spoor's answer, like Nott's, was to place the fire directly under the middle of the top plate, 
The ... top of the stove has several openings for boilers and kettles or other cooking utensils, the openings for them being in such order and arrangement that all of them to the number of three or more stand partly over and are directly exposed to the fire and may consequently be kept boiling at the same time, thus avoiding the necessity of removing one after another successively to the fire, or of giving a rotary motion to the plate in which they are contained to attain the necessary degree of heat.

Like Nott's, Spoor's was thus a circular rather than a rotary stove -- "The circular form, tho' not essential, being the best adapted to the arrangement that is to be made of the boilers and other utensils for cooking..."  The heat applied to individual boiler holes was also provided by a secondary flue controlled by dampers, so that one or more could receive a double dose.  Spoor's stove, like the original Stanley, had no conventional oven, except for reflector ovens ("tin kitchens") that could be placed around the hot radiating iron column on which the top plate stood.

Gill, Bennington -- New York, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 9285X December 9, 1835

Gill was Maynard French's partner in the stove business: French ran manufacturing operations in Albany, while Gill operated their store on Water Street in New York alongside Gould Thorp's and Stanley's.  His was also a circular rather than rotary stove, like Nott's and Spoor's, and his claimed improvements also included a complicated arrangement of "valves" (dampers) to direct the heat to one or another of the four boiler holes.  Thomas P. Jones, editor of the Journal of the Franklin Institute, was rather dismissive of it in his influential review of new American patents published there in July 1836: it was unoriginal in design and, he thought, "we should much prefer one of Stanley's rotary stoves to it, as being less complex, and more convenient."  However, Jones was not the most unbiased commentator: wearing his other hat, as a patent agent, Stanley was already one of his clients.

French,Maynard -- Albany, NY -- Stove-cap, Rotary Pat. No. 9451X March 2, 1836

French's rotary looked as if it was a step-stove like Stanley's, but equipped with a proper iron oven behind the fire like Town's and, later, Chester Granger's.  In fact, as the specification made clear, his claimed innovation was just that he, like Town, raised the entire top of the stove high enough above the oven that Stanley's arrangement of raised caps for each individual boiler hole was dispensed with, but unlike Town there was no foot-lever to raise the top in order to rotate it, so he could, like Stanley, provide a better permanent seal.  The imitation went further -- his stove-cap could be rotated with a rack and pinion mechanism like Stanley's, or a "leaver" like Town's, or even a knob like Chester Granger's (below).  French's patent was thus presented as an improvement which could be applied to any of his rivals' stoves.  But there does not seem to be much evidence that it was, and Thomas Jones was as dismissive of it as he was of Gill's -- "We see no essential difference between these caps and those used by Stanley nor any superior advantage to be derived from them." (JFI 18:5 [Nov. 1836], p. 317.) 

Douglas, Beriah -- Albany, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 9806X June 30, 1836 (the drawing is with his parlour stove patent of the same day, 9805X, and vice versa 

Douglas's was a very idiosyncratic design, originally made, like Spoor's to burn anthracite rather than wood.  It was actually made and sold -- as late as 1844-5 the Schenectady stove dealers Clute & Billings and Worcester, Massachusetts's Aaron Billing still advertised it as "The Best Stove Out" (Schenectady Cabinet 26 Mar. 1844, p. 1; The Worcester Almanac, Directory and Business Advertiser [Worcester: Henry J. Howland, 1845], p. 99).  Beriah Douglas, b. 1794,  was a Yale graduate, medical doctor (and dentist), and the father of Senator Stephen A. Douglas.


Granger, Chester. Pittsford, VT. Stove, Cooking. 9875X. 1836. Class 126/1R   
Granger took out his rotary stove patent after Stanley's had been voided as a result of the judge's decision in the Hewitt case.  The text is a long, detailed, and complicated description, not helped by a drawing providing no information about the stove's internal structure and workings.  In essence it seems to be a closer imitation of the Town patent than of Stanley's, lacking the former's impractical lever action to raise and rotate the turntable, but also the latter's rack and pinion to move it easily.  Instead it had roller bearings, which were supposed to make it possible to turn the hot stove top by hand, presumably using the grip on the right hand side.  Otherwise, and like Town's, it's a very standard flat cook stove, with sunk hearth and a side door for feeding wood into the firebox, plus a small integral oven behind it.  This seems to be closer to the kind of rotary described in the 1839 Hewitt advertisement than Town's patent was, though Hewitt relied on the latter for legal protection, probably because it was earlier and the story of its invention in the previous decade added to its value.

Chester Granger (b. 1797) came to Pittsford from the Salisbury, Connecticut, iron district in 1826, to join his father Simeon who had bought a blast furnace producing pig iron and stoves, which was where the first Conant stoves had been made in 1819.  In 1829 they built a foundry for stove-making near the blast furnace.  The Grangers were important local citizens -- the community that grew up around their works, a mile out of town along Furnace Road, is still called Grangerville.  Simeon died in 1834, and Chester took over as the leading member of the family partnerships that continued to run and develop it until after the Civil War.  Chester was remembered at the end of his long career as an ironmaster, bank director, and railroad promoter as "a man of energy, public spirit, and sterling integrity, and many a poor person can testify as to his private charity and benevolence."  As in the case of Elisha Town, it is unlikely that Henry Stanley would have spoken as kindly of him, and certainly not in 1836.  

Granger's stoves were advertised and sold, for example in Brattleboro and vicinity in the 1837-1838 seasons, but it's not clear that his patent rotary and the "celebrated conical stove" were one and the same; it is however possible that the curious raised collars like Stanley's forming the boiler holes on the top of the stove gave it its name, to distinguish it from all of the other rotaries thronging the market.  It seems to be the stove design either used or copied (but without attribution) by another Vermont manufacturer, William Blake, at the same time; or it might, of course, have been copied from him.  

Burlington Free Press 21 Oct. 1836, p. 3.

Granger, Rensselaer D. --  Troy, NY -- Stoves, Adding ovens to rotary Pat. No. 282 July 17, 1837

Granger's was an obvious modification of both Stanley's and Maynard French's, with Stanley's step-stove design and French's raised but flat top rather than Stanley's individual caps or collars for each boiler hole.  But its principal claim was that it applied the well-known "elevated oven" principle (a sheet-iron oven heated by the gas passing through the smoke-pipe) to a rotary, thus providing it with a better and more convenient one than Stanley's reflectors.  Granger's plan to support the elevated oven on two smoke-pipes, one in the middle of the top plate and the other, conventionally, at the rear of the stove, was improved on by Stanley himself, who moved the oven to the rear of the stove and rotated it through 90 degrees so that it did not sit awkwardly above the cooking hob (see the Ford Museum's Stanley).  

Granger obviously continued working on this feature too -- his next patent, No. 2308 in 1841, was for an improved design of elevated oven, arranged like Stanley's but only requiring a single flue pipe to support it.  Note how sophisticated elevated ovens -- originally little more than sheet-metal drums -- had become within less than a decade of their widespread adoption:

Mott, Jordan L. -- New York, NY -- Stove, Combination Cooking Pat. No. 466 November 20, 1837

Mott was the most experienced and also the largest stove manufacturer in New York City.  This was a modification of his ordinary anthracite cooking stove with the addition of a three-boiler rotating top instead of the usual flat one.  It had a large downdraft-flue oven at the back of the stove in the usual place behind the fire, and one curious feature: the top plate could be completely enclosed in a metal dome or cover.  

This was designed to meet one of the objections to cooking stoves from middle-class urban consumers (Mott's main clientele), the fact that steam and smells from cooking normally just vented into the house rather than, as in open-fire cookery, being borne away up the chimney.  This was thought to be unhealthy as well as too reminiscent of the smelly atmosphere with which poorer households without a separate dining-room and parlor, and therefore doing most of their living in their kitchens, were forced to put up.  In a stove of Mott's design, some of the heat, and most of the steam and smells, went up the smoke flue.  The value of the rotating top in this arrangement was that it enabled the cook to bring the pot she wanted, or needed to work with, in front of the access door in the dome.  

This stove does not seem to have been designed for its user's convenience -- the patent is silent about how, apart from by brute force, the top was supposed to be rotated -- but it's reasonably safe to assume that most of Mott's customers would have been able to leave this, and coping with cooking in and under the dome, to a hired cook, while they sat in the parlor or dining room and appreciated the absence of cooking smells and their own refinement.
Heermance, Garret G. -- Poughkeepsie, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 852 July 24, 1838

This was a combination of features from Spoor's and Gill's circular stoves and Mott's cooking stove, but with his own unique additions.  It was lever-operated (qqq) and the oven occupied the space above the rotating top, under something like Mott's dome and with the same purpose, conveying kitchen "effluvia" into the smoke flue.  One obvious disadvantage of this design was that it was either a four-boiler stove top or an oven; it could not be both at the same time.  It must also have been extraordinarily heavy and inconvenient to use.  Heermance's stove came in larger or smaller sizes and in anthracite or wood-fired variants. 

Ketcham, Micah -- Boston, PA -- Stove Pat. No. 1,159 May 25, 1839

Ketcham's stove patent drawings (four pages) and text really need to be read to be appreciated.  His was a four-boiler, wood-fired flat cook with a rotary top, and of fairly ordinary form, except that he made it much more complicated than any other inventor through the addition of a feature others had used before him -- a firebox on a rack and pinion, so that the fire could be brought closer to or lowered away from the pot cooking directly above it as a way of giving more control of cooking temperature.  Other rotaries, like Stanley's, achieved the same objective more simply, by moving the pot closer to or further from the heat of the fire.  Ketcham also included other refinements in his quest for precision -- dampers and air inlet controls.  

Ketcham was a New York state native and a collaborator in the stove business in Boston with William A. Wheeler, a Worcester iron founder.  Later the same year they took out a stove patent together, No. 1419, for what was in most respects a standard four-boiler step-stove, but with the same rack-and-pinion grate.  It's reasonable to assume that these stoves were made and sold, but their unique design feature did not catch on.  Other inventors and makers achieved the same objective of temperature variation more simply but adequately, with airtight construction and draft dampers.


Stanley, Henry -- West Poultney, VT -- Valve for Elevated Ovens Pat. No. 2664 May 11, 1842

Stanley's original rotary stove had had no very satisfactory conventional oven, a defect Rensselaer Granger had addressed in his own 1837 patent by applying the already well-known elevated oven to his rotary, a device he had improved on further in 1841.  In response Stanley had added an elevated oven to his own stoves, as shown in the Ford museum's example, and improved it here by making its heat more controllable with the inclusion of three rotary dampers enabling the cook to direct all, some, or none of the hot gases going up the smoke flue around the oven.  This patent enabled the user to control all three dampers with a single lever, visible on the Ford stove, a simple mechanical linkage removing the need to move each one separately.  This small but useful improvement demonstrates the same thing as his original rack-and-pinion rotary top: the way that his mechanical engineering background made his stoves different from and better than other makers'. 

French, Maynard -- Cincinnati, OH -- Stove, Rotary-Top Pat. No. 2,666 June 11, 1842

This was an improvement of his own 1836 patent, redesigned to remove two of its weaknesses which were evidently similar to those afflicting other rotary stoves except Stanley's: 

In my stove as originally patented, there was a wide rim cast on the rotating plate, and the lower edge of this was received into a circular groove cast on the upper side of the stationary top plate; but this arrangement was found to be objectionable, on account of the friction, which frequently rendered the motion of the top plate very difficult; but by my present arrangement [balancing the top plate on a centre pivot, as in Stanley's original design], and which I have had under trial for nearly two years, I have found that this objection is completely obviated, the revolution being quite easy, while the juncture of the two rims is sufficiently close to prevent the escape of smoke, or gas, into the room.

By this time French had moved from Albany, but he assigned (sold) his patent to his ?brother Ira back in Rochester, NY.  This patent, like Rensselaer Granger's elevated ovens and Stanley's 1842 and 1845 patents, provides useful evidence that all of these men were professional stove makers who stuck with and improved their products over several years on the basis of practical experience of design and manufacturing problems and comparison with market rivals. 

Hart, Albert D. -- Pittsfield, MA -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 3,164 July 8, 1843

This stove looks primitive, pointless, and impracticable, and the text of the patent does not explain its construction or function at all well either.  

Stanley, Henry -- West Poultney, VT -- Rotary-Top Stove Pat. No. 4238 25 Oct. 1845

This was the mature, final form of Stanley's Rotary.  By this time he had lost control of his own foundry, and this stove was probably made and sold by other manufacturers who had bought the assignment to his patent as well as, or instead of, by Stanley himself.  Stanley had abandoned his original design for the top: instead, he had adopted Maynard French's 1836 pattern and, somehow, made it work, after French had done quite the opposite and taken Stanley's centre-pivot idea.  He had also completely redesigned the body of his stove so that he now supplied what the market for "flat cooks" demanded -- a large oven behind the fire, with downdraft flues (though these were of his own, fairly distinctive design).

Advertisement, Foster & Co., Worcester, MA, Barre (MA) Gazette, 13 Nov. 1846, p. ##. 
This shows Stanley's cranked rack-and-pinion mechanism, though the patent does not.

Jordan L. Mott, New York City. Cooking Range, Pat. 4,248, 1845.

Jordan Mott's cooking range, the first with a rotary top ever patented, combined some features of other designers' (two large, low-level ovens and two distinct working spaces either side of the fire; the drop-down doors) with the rotary top from his and others' cooking stoves at the time, which enabled the cook to bring any one of the four cooking holes near to hand for working, and directly over, or further from, the fire, to control cooking heat.  There was a single big cooking hole over the left-hand oven, for a very large boiler (most likely for domestic water heating).  There was also a space behind the fire "for water back for heating water for bathing and other purposes."  In addition, the range had Mott's patented fuel-feed door above the fire, for ease and safety in refuelling.  

Mott explained that his stove-derived layout, with each oven wrapped in damper-controlled flues, and the rotary top, allowed for larger ovens in a more compact, convenient, and user-friendly appliance: "As ranges are usually set within the fire-place, there is no way of removing the boilers from the top except over the front, which has been very inconvenient and by some persons almost impracticable with those heretofore in use, particularly when boilers are set in the rear, or when the breast of the chimney is low."  

Mott's experienced attention to practical details of manufacture and use showed throughout his comparatively short, concise description.  "The sides and back of the fire-chambers against which the linings rest, are so made that a section of each can readily be removed when defective by burning out and its place supplied at a small expense.  In the top plate of the ovens I usually make depressions from one half to one inch in depth to receive sand, ashes or other bad conductors of heat, which serve to equalize the heat in the oven by preventing the top baking faster than the bottom."

Mott's range was the product of a stove maker rather than of a specialist range-builder.  Unlike those of most of his competitors, Mott's range was factory-built and (probably) partially assembled, then shipped and installed as a unit.  It was not customized and then built in situ.  It dispensed with the inconvenient oven behind and above the stove, and it was built with the user in mind.  (For more about ranges, see this post.)

Mott, Jordan L. -- New York, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 7,347 May 7, 1850

The principal interest of this patent is that it shows the mature form of Mott's rotary cooking stove, with a centre-pivoted top not unlike Maynard French's 1842 version, and no longer encumbered by being covered with a steam-, smell-, and heat-containing dome.  Mott's new patented features -- a hinged support for the drop-down oven door, a redesign of boiler-hole covers to make them more durable -- were, he stressed, equally applicable to other cooking stoves.

Mott, Jordan L. -- New York, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 7,366 May 14, 1850

Similar to the above -- none of Mott's patented improvements was specific to a rotary stove, and some could even be used on parlour and other stove types.  But the drawings show the stove's decorative exterior as well as elaborate mechanical construction, and the description of his (non-patented) rotary top, running in (not on: friction would have been excessive) a thin bed of sand, points to one of the rotary's weak points: what happened to its air- and smoke-tightness and basic functionality if the top warped because of excessive overheating?  The sand joint was Mott's attempt at an answer, before he abandoned rotaries altogether, as most makers already had.

Benjamin Wardwell, Fall River, MA, and Ephraim A. Barstow, Providence, RI. Cooking Range, Des. Pat. 513, 1852.

The photographs of the blackened cast iron plates do not reproduce very well in the online patent records.  The two plates on the left are the top of the oven (with oval smoke pipe exit) and the top plate above the firebox (with circular boiler holes within a raised circular rim).  The squiggly lines trace the profiles of particular plates.  

This was the very first range design patent (for design patents, see my article "'The Stove Trade Needs Change Continually'," Winterthur Portfolio 2009, esp. pp. 376-85).  By 1852 about 80 percent of heating and cooking appliance patents were for designs rather than improvements, i.e. ornamentation and external appearance rather than construction and function.  Wardwell and Barstow's decision to go down the cheaper, easier Design Patent route, makes perfect sense.  It was simple to establish patentable originality, and by the 1852 one could even submit a photograph of the object you wanted to patent rather than the more expensive technical drawing, possibly supplemented with a model, required for an "improvement."  

As we can see from some of the above patents, range inventors were already struggling to establish minor patentable differences between their designs and their competitors'; and by the early 1850s the market for ranges was becoming large enough for it to be worthwhile to begin to distinguish one's products from other near-identical products on grounds of their appearance rather than their functionality.  As ranges began to be foundry-made products rather than customized installations artisan-built on site, it also became more possible to think of them as, at least potentially, well-finished consumer durables that householders would buy because they would look nice in the kitchen rather than simply because they would do the job.

Wardwell & Barstow's range was very similar in layout to Pond's 1851 patent, save for one key feature about which the patent was silent: the rotating top plate, enabling the cook to bring boiler-holes to the front for lifting pots on and off, stirring, etc., without needing to reach across the hot iron range top to the rear holes.  The patent was silent, because the feature was unpatentable even in the context of an "improvement" patent, as the rotating-top stove was by then such a long-established (though passé) type.  But this feature was, according to the advertisement below, "acknowledged by all that have seen it to be the grand desideratum for a Side Oven range," probably because the space around the top plate in a range of this layout was so cramped.  Apart from that, both were foundry-made products designed to be installed into a relatively small fireplace opening, and probably bought semi-assembled.  

The patentable matter that distinguished their range from Pond's and others had nothing to do with its key working feature but was simply the decoration of the well-finished plates: "a wheat sheaf surrounded by a running vine" on the larger fireplace, oven, and warming chamber doors, and "a truncated pyramidal, lozenge shaped projection from which spring in opposite directions two lance heads.  In line of each of these lance heads there is another lance head in a reversed position, the whole being in a sunken panel and surrounded by a cordon of mouldings" on the other side and front plates.  We can see these more clearly in their advertisement than in the patent application:

Ad. in George Adams, The Rhode Island Register for the Year 1853, unpaginated front matter.

Hill, William W. -- Greenport, NY -- Dampers in Rotary Stoves, Arrangement of, Pat. No. 11,010 June 6, 1854

This is a bizarre, unique patent for a type of stove -- one in which the oven rotated, like the drum of a washing-machine, not the top, which was conventional -- about which its inventor was predictably enthusiastic ("the utility and superiority of these rolling ovens are beyond question"), though he was honest about previous versions' disadvantages, principally very high fuel consumption.  

The real problem with all stove ovens that he was addressing -- uneven heating where one side was next to the fire and the others were all cooler -- had been dealt with fairly satisfactorily by many stove designers over the past forty years through a combination of some insulation (an air gap, or fire brick) between the firebox and the front of the oven, and wrap-around flues to ensure reasonably even distribution of heat.  Cooks also accommodated themselves to their ovens by, for example, moving loaves from the top to the lower shelves in the course of baking.  So this looks like an answer to what had become a non-question.

One possible explanation for the rotary oven type and its non-survival is that Hill's claim for its superiority was qualified: it was for "when continuous baking is conducted."  So perhaps this stove type was for a narrow but particular market -- commercial and institutional bakeries, rather than ordinary kitchens -- which would explain its non-appearance in museum collections or stove makers' catalogues, which were directed at the normal domestic market.  In any event, even supposing that this was a real stove, made, sold, and used, rather than just another "paper patent," it did not catch on, and had no imitators.