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 (email@example.com) 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.