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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Cook Stove (1913)

This is rather heavy-handed "humor," but it makes an interesting point about one of the drawbacks of the old iron cook-stove: it was uncontrollably too hot in summer -- a big selling-point for manufacturers or gas and kerosene stoves. In the 1830s and 1840s, some manufacturers had tried to get around the problem by providing insulating 'dress' for their stoves, so that they could be left in the kitchen and used in summer; or 'summer apparatus,' allowing the use of a much smaller fire for limited cooking needs.  But the more usual solution, especially with farm families, was just to take the stove outside into an open shed or 'summer kitchen'.

There's another side to this problem, of course: the gas or kerosene stove didn't make the kitchen warm enough in winter.  So in the late C19th through early C20th, many manufacturers sold "combination ranges" with a gas hob and a coal-fired oven for urban consumers, so that they could have the best of both worlds.

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Fitch, George [Author of "At Good Old Siwash"], "The Cook Stove," Atlanta Constitution 19 Oct. 1913, p. B4.

"The cook stove is the boon companion of the housewife.

The cook stove sticketh closer to the housewife than a brother, and twice as close as a husband. The husband sits across the table from his wife and reads the paper, but the cookstove snuggles up close to her and glows in her face, and burns her apron and her forearm, and spatters hot lard in her eye.

The cook stove has a temperature of 145 in its oven and 212 in its immediate vicinity.  This is unfortunate, because if its oven were larger the housewife might sit therein and be more comfortable while the meat was roasting on a chair in the kitchen.


The cook stove consumes coal and wood with visible reluctance.  It is harder to start than an automobile. ...

The cook stove is mild and dejected in the winter, and often declines to start at all.  When the thermometer is 30 below nothing but kerosene will start a cook stove, and many a bereaved husband points with pride to the patch in the roof, which covers the hole made by his wife when she went aloft by the kerosene route. But in the good old summer time the cook stove does not hesitate to burn. It will start on anything, and wll acquire a healthy red color on two lumps of coal and a shingle.  When the weary husband comes home at 6 o'clock and throws himself into his arm chair, he has to shut the kitchen door to keep from being broiled alive by the faithful and energetic cook stove over which his wife is at that moment bending, trying to restrain it from burning $1.75 worth of beef-steak to a cinder.

Women may not be mentally capable of wiping their tired hands and hurrying down to the polls twice a year, but they can do wonderful things on the cook stove. The cook stove, under woman's guiding genius, has made millions of men contented and fat.  It has also made the women of the world the principal supporters of religion.  Somehow after a woman has come to know a cook stove inside and out, and summer and winter, she has a fear of the extreme sultriness of future punishment, which cannot be obtained by a mere man."

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