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Friday, January 13, 2012

Is This The Worst Stove Poem Yet? Sylvester Judd's "Philo: An Evangeliad"

Sylvester Judd (1813-1853) was a very minor literary figure, but not without interest -- Wikipedia supplies the basic facts and even a picture,

His huge prose-poem Philo: An Evangeliad (Boston: Phillips, Sampson & Co., 1850), is almost unreadable.  But Judd, like many of his contemporaries, evidently had a thing about stoves.  He described himself ("the Poet") as "A man like other men" -- he "hates / An air-tight stove, but cannot buy a better." (p. 125).  On p. 181 he really goes to town on mid-C19th stoves.  I can do no better than to quote him in full:

ANNIE. "This man unearths a stove, all arabesqued, / And daintily inlaid with birds and flowers."

PHILO. "Its history forenote; that stove doth plait / The Borean zone with tissue of the Line; / Our snowbound parlors, windows intersprigged / With frost, it renders quite Arcadian; / It shelters poverty, and tends the sick, / Relieves the body, purifies the soul; / In winter nights those iron birds will sing / Unto our Poet, and the flowers distil / Castalian sweets."

CHARLES. "Like taxes, toothache, tides / A stove has no respect of persons. Once, / At a vendue, I saw a horse-faced preacher, / A skipjack transcendentalist, a lean / And muzzy artist, barbers, scullions, trulls, / Bidding against each other for an Olmsted."

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Much of this makes no sense to me, but Judd's voices are mostly just talking about recognizable mid C19th parlor stoves. 

  • The 1840s was the first great age of decorated cast iron, and Annie sounds as if she is just quoting from a design patent (e.g. Ezra Ripley, Troy, NY, "Stove," Patent D377 (1851), 
  • Philo's reply is very pro-stove: "plaiting the Borean zone with tissue of the Line" means bringing the warmth of the Equator or at least the Tropics to the northern latitudes of New England.  Stove makers played on this promise in the way they named stoves -- e.g. the Madeira stove, to warm New England interiors until they were as good for consumptives and other invalids as the atmosphere of the Canary Islands to which they'd otherwise have to travel.  See Nahum Capen, ed., The Massachusetts State Record and Year Book of General Information. 1848. Vol. 2  (Boston: James French, 1848), p. 2, for a Madeira Stove advertisement, or p. 132 (including a picture); and John A. Dix, A Winter in Madeira: and a Summer in Spain and Florence (New York: William Holdredge, 1851). 2nd. ed., pp. 9, 81 esp., on Victorian health tourism,
  • An Olmsted was a very popular anthracite-fueled heating stove, invented by Prof. Denison Olmsted of Yale.  The patent for his "Stove or Furnace for Burning Anthracite Coal," 9167X (1835), lacks his text but has a nice picture.  And he described his stove in full elsewhere -- Denison Olmsted [Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, Yale College], "Observations on the Use of Anthracite Coal," American Almanac and Repository of Useful Knowledge for the Year 1837 (Boston: Charles Bowen, 1837), pp. 61-9,

An Argument for Fuel-Saving, 1832

I found this an interesting article -- written by the 'progressive' editors of a farmers' magazine in Western New York State (a.k.a. "The Burned-Over District") to try to persuade their readers of the benefits of stove use.  This is a pretty consistent line in agricultural journalism from the early 1820s, i.e. just about as early as there was any such thing as ag. journalism.  One of the important avenues down which the message of modernity reached rural readers.  Nice quotes highlighted.

* * *

[Editors -- N. Goodsell, A.Gordon], "Fuel," Genessee Farmer 2:49 (8 Dec. 1832): 383,

FUEL. There are certain seasons for introducing different subjects to our readers, when we hope they will feel more interest in them than they would at other times; and these, by editors like ourselves, who only expect to avoid being termed "absolutely dull," should, never be neglected. ...  So, with the present subject, we know of no time more proper than the present for introducing it, and none when, what little we have to say, will be more likely to be remembered.

In the first number of the present volume, we attempted to give a table showing the relative value of different kinds of fuel made use of in the United States; and also the advantages and disadvantages of the different methods of burning the various kinds for the purpose of heating dwelling houses; to which table we beg leave to refer our readers, or that part of them who received the first numbers during the summer, when the article alluded to might have been past over without a fair perusal. [see note at end]

By that table, it appears that nine tenths of the heat generated in the combustion of fuel in the common fire place is lost. There is a kind of traditional lethargy prevailing in the country on the subject of fuel, which our large towns and cities are more free from; and we are strongly inclined to believe, that it costs the same number of families more to warm their dwellings in the country, where wood is not worth more than one
dollar per cord, than it does in our cities, where it is worth eight or ten dollars.

Were an article to be advertised which would not cost more than from ten to fifteen dollars, simple in its construction and use, and which would last an age, and the public be assured that it would save nine tenths of the expenses of a family for bread, how readily would people purchase it. Now the saving qualities of such an article would be very like a Stove, which many refuse to purchase because they cannot see the fire when it is burning within it. For the accommodation of those people who have such a taste for looking in the fire, (because it saves them the trouble of thinking) we wish some Yankee would invent a representation of a hearth fire, which might be hung up in the room for these mutes to gaze upon.

There are many who through neglect increase the quantity of fuel consumed in an unwarrantable degree. First, their cellars are not sufficiently secured against the frost by banking, caulking &c. by which neglect their vegetables are frozen and lost; and the cold air thus admitted finds its way to every part of the building. Others, who, while they are attentive to their cellars, neglect every other part from the cellar to the garret; their windows, if not broken, are not caulked; their doors are not listed -- and when reminded of their neglect by their neighbors, take refuge under the old adage, that "a free circulation of air is necessary to health" -- then why not stay out of doors entirely?

We wish to have our farmers enter into some mathematical calculation upon the subject of warming habitations, making it a matter of dollars and cents, putting down time as money, and divesting themselves of the idea that a person cannot be warmed without seeing the fire, for it is as ridiculous as it would be to say he could not be cooled without seeing the wind.

[NOTE: The reference is to the editors' article "Relative Value of Fuel," Genesee Farmer 2:1 (7 Jan. 1832), p. 2,

"In a climate like ours, fuel is so absolutely necessary, that any calculations respecting the price, relative value, or mode of using it, will at once be considered as coming under the head of Domestic Economy, and we presume will be acceptable to most of our readers."

They reprinted the findings of Marcus Bull's famous Philadelphia experiments a decade earlier, which concluded that an open fireplace lost 90 percent of the heating value of its fuel up the chimney -- for which see Marcus Bull, Experiments to  Determine the Comparative Value  of  the Principal Varieties  of  Fuel  Used in the United States, and also in Europe.  And on the Ordinary Apparatus Used for their Combustion (Philadelphia: Judah Dobson, 1827), ]

An Early Stove Enthusiast

And this is what it takes to make me get off my butt again -- I just thought when I read it "this is really interesting, because it talks about the new technology of comfort and a new way of living in a way that's pitched at the ordinary [middle-class] reader."  Doesn't say anything very novel, but the only evidence of this sort of conversation that I've come across before now has involved members of Philadelphia's scientific elite, whereas this is in an ordinary magazine.  It discusses all of the usual reasons for not liking or using stoves, and it explains their benefits quite pragmatically.

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"A Projector," "For the Evening Fire-side," The Evening Fire-side, or Literary Miscellany [Philadelphia] 2 (1806): 37-8.                                           

"HABIT is second nature," and often is the reason for our continuing to suffer inconvenience, and not unfrequently absolute pain, rather than make the requisite //p. 38 exertion to emancipate ourselves from its fetters.

Opinion also governs us: not our opinions, neither, but the opinions of others; nor do those ideas always concur with our interest, or the benefit of others: on the contrary, they are frequently at variance with both.

I was led into these reflections while sitting in my parlour by my close stove, where, at a small expence of fuel, I enjoy a more comfortable warmth than is obtained by a common fire side, at this cold season, by a consumption of thrice the fuel. Here I partake of an equability of temperature; there is no part of my parlour where a visitant cannot enjoy himself; he is not compelled to fry his shins and scorch his face to keep the blood of his back in circulation, as he is not annoyed by those cold streams of air, so common in rooms where open fire places are made use of, and which are so prejudicial to comfort and health. Nor are these all my blessings arising from a ten plate stove; the pipe is carried through my chamber, and renders it quite comfortable. When I retire to rest, I do not shiver with cold; when I rise in the morning, a renewal of the fire below has prepared the chamber for dressing with comfort, and I am not oppressed when a-bed, by a dozen blankets, or as many coverlets.

"But I cannot bear the heat of a stove," says one neighbor." I abominate  them," says another: "they look so ugly; nasty black things, they spoil the looks of a parlour." "They are not fashionable," says a third: " Mr. such a one, or Mrs. such another, has none, and I would sooner, for my part, so I would, have my toes frozen, than introduce one into my house." And so, my dear friend, you cannot bear the heat of a stove: and why? if the air is too dry, put a bason of water on your stove; if it is too warm, open the window or door, or moderate the fire. But what shall I say to make an "abominable thing" look handsome? By speaking of its utility; by proving that the parlour is by it in effect enlarged, as every portion of it is made habitable by the warmth it communicates. "But I like the looks of a comfortable fire." Aye, and by looking at a comfortable fire you spoil a pair of fine eyes, and a fine complection too, by the streams of keen air you suffer, which are productive of colds, by destroying the equilibrium of circulation. But, my fashionable neighbor, what shall I do with your objection, while you build your opinions on those of Mr. Spendthrift and of Mrs. Sprightly? I can hardly hope to convince you without converting them: and while you have the courage to brave "the pelting of the pitiless storm," with your sleeves tucked up to your shoulders, and your elbows frozen as black as negro Sam's, I have no hope you will think the article of comfort of any consequence in your vocabulary. And is the economy of fuel of no consequence? Suppose I burn four cords of wood while you burn twelve; is the saving of forty dollars per annum nothing? If I can afford the expence, thousands in this city cannot; and every cord of wood saved, has a tendency to keep down the price for the convenience, yes for the existence of those who can scarcely purchase one.

Although, having overcome some prejudices, I obtain comfort as a compensation, yet I am far from enjoying all that is practicable to derive from such a source. Many houses in the city have their kitchens in the cellar. If we suppose such a kitchen to be supplied with a stove calculated to roast, bake, and boil for the family, an ornamental pipe from such a stove, carried through the back (or other convenient) part of the parlour
above, and thence through the chambers, would render them all comfortable, without any addition to the fuel necessary for the purposes of cooking. It would be a fortunate circumstance for the Community if some persons, capable of giving a tone to the fashions of the fashionable world, would turn their attention to economy and comfort on this point. If Mr. Spanglewit or Madame Beaumonde would invite their dinner or card parties to rooms warmed by invisible fire, it must soon be the rage of the day, and a saving of 20,000 cords of wood per annum in this city would pay all its taxes, and leave a surplus for private charity, or any thing else.

* * *

This actually sounds quite like the "Philosophical and Ventilating Stove" invented and installed in his own house by Oliver Evans, the great engineer -- see his The Young Mill-Wright's and Miller's Guide (Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1848; 12th. edition), "The Art of Warming Rooms by Fire," pp. 351-4, -- the not very clear illustration is the upper plate on p. 410.  The difference is that "Projector" only envisaged using the heat from an uninsulated metal stove pipe to warm upper rooms, whereas Oliver Evans wrapped his stove pipe in a metal jacket so that fresh air from the outside of the house would be warmed in the 2" circumferential space and then vented into the rooms.  This is the basic principle of the "Baltimore Heater" popular in row houses there from the mid 19th century -- "invented" by John Latrobe in the 1840s; see "Restoring the Baltimore Heater," Old-House Journal  12:9 (Nov. 1984), pp. 191, 206 --