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Friday, January 13, 2012

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.

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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 --

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