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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Looking for the Fougerays: The Growth of the Philadelphia Stove Trade, 1810-1830

This is a bit different from what I've written here before, in that it's not just the republication of a piece of my research notes, it could develop into an actual research note in its own right.  Here's the story: a while ago, I came across a reproduction of a very nice illustration of an obviously early stove advertisement in a US newspaper:

 (Lee, History of American Journalism [1917], opp. p. 224)

What excited me about this was that early stove ads are quite rare, or at least they are if you don't have access to subscription-based US newspaper archives.  (For a few other, similar early ads, see the first few items listed in "Stove Catalogues [etc.]" on my new website, -- the Postley, James, and Wilson ads.  See also this more recent post.)  I knew that the Fougerays were members of the community of Philadelphia stove makers and sellers, the earliest and at the time (the 1820s) still probably the largest in the United States, and these were nice illustrations of the kind of thing they and their peers were buying from the S.E. Pennsylvania/S.W. New Jersey iron furnaces that manufactured the plates.  (For the location of these, see two Google maps -- one of the Jersey furnaces active between c. 1810 and 1840, the other of the suppliers to one of Philadelphia's largest stove merchants, Powell Stackhouse, in the 1830s.)

The obvious question I had was this: what was the date of the ads?  Obviously no earlier than the late 1820s, because of the reference to "Lehigh and Schuylkill Coal" (anthracite), which only came into extensive use from the middle part of the decade, but probably not much later, because the products listed and illustrated are so traditional -- an open fire grate, and a version of a three-boiler "Old Philadelphia"-style ten-plate stove with Federal-Era decoration.

Anyway, how to answer this question?  The quickest way seemed to be to trawl through editions of the Philadelphia City Directory, all of them very conveniently digitized and available through the Internet Archive, and most easily accessed through the Philadelphia GeoHistory site's Resources area,

And this turned out to be both productive and rewarding.  One can trace the development of the stove business in what was still America's second-biggest city, and the capital of the stove trade, as well as working out the Fougeray family's place within it.  In 1810, Rene J. Fougeray, who had arrived in the city after the French Revolution, is recorded as a "whitesmith," i.e. a worker in cold sheet metals, including copper, brass, and tin, as well as iron, at 99 North Front (later Second) Street, in the commercial heart of the city near the Delaware River waterfront.  [For a picture of this district, see Abraham Ritter, Philadelphia and Her Merchants: As Constituted Fifty @ Seventy Years Ago ... (Philadelphia: Author, 1860),]  In 1813, he is recorded as a customer of the Weymouth Furnace in New Jersey, who cast stoves from his patterns (Pierce, Family Empire in Jersey Iron, p. 128 -- pp. 141-2 demonstrate that the business relationship lasted until at least 1819).  By 1816 he was described simply as "Smith &c.," selling wood stoves for $20 and providing a guarantee to replace them if their plates burnt out within a year ("Notes and Queries," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 28:2 [1904]: 236-53 at 240), and by 1820 his business name had become "& Son" and its description had changed to "Iron store and stove manuf[acturer]."  His son George was listed at the same address as a "Stove manuf[acturer].," and in 1823 he took out the family's first and only patent, 3751X, for a "Stove for Burning Stone-Coal" (anthracite).  By 1825 he had premises of his own at #111, a block away from his father's establishment.  Finally, by 1829, father and son had been joined by Henry (b. 1806, so he had recently attained his majority and, probably, completed his apprenticeship) at #189.  So I had my answer: the advertisement cannot have been any earlier than 1829, and probably a bit later, despite the very conservative product lines offered for sale, if the language that both brothers were "continuing to manufacture" means what it seems to.

My first trawl through the directories was a bit crude -- I did not look at all of them, just 1810, 1816 (there is no 1815 directory in the collection), 1820, 1825, and 1830, until I found both Fougeray brothers listed, and then back until I found the first reference.  But it was then tempting both to refine the search and to extend it -- refining by seeing that George had established in 1822 the business outpost later occupied by his brother, and that he and his father had also opened a separate "stove store" at 166 North Third in 1823, probably an indication of the growth of their business and the beginnings of a separation between making and selling; extending by looking at ALL entries for members of the stove trade, so as to enable me to place the Fougerays in their local context.

The results of this trawl are summed up in a spreadsheet, "The Philadelphia Stove Trade 1810-1830," available to view on Google Drive.  The way I compiled it was by searching out all entries for different kinds of stove makers and traders (the varying terminology used by artisans and businessmen to describe themselves is itself interesting) in the 1810, 1816, 1820, 1825, and 1830 directories, and tracking them both forwards and backwards -- i.e. if somebody (for example Henry Volkmar) showed up as a stove maker in 1816, 1820, and 1825, but not 1830, I looked to see what had become of him in 1830; and if somebody else only appeared to have entered the trade in 1825 (e.g. Henry Abbett), I tracked his career back over the previous fifteen years. Occupational or business descriptions highlighted in yellow are those most closely associated with the stove trade, and the ones from which most businessmen who eventually specialized in it were recruited -- in Philadelphia, generally blacksmiths, and smaller numbers of sheet-metal workers. Occupations highlighted in green are those allied with the stove trade, notably pattern making, where the careers of the two locally-born wood pattern makers, Isaac (or James) Deaves and Powell Stackhouse, can be tracked, as well as their English immigrant rival Robert Welford (see Mark Reinberger, Utility and Beauty: Robert Wellford and Composition Ornament in America [Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press, 2004] -- Wellford did business with the Fougerays, p. 43). Finally, those highlighted in light blue had no obvious connection with the stove trade, though there is in fact a logic to their inclusion here -- Barnard & Co. (plough makers) were the Philadelphia branch of the Delaware Furnace manager's own business; and Powell Stackhouse's journey toward specialization as a stove pattern maker led from his original craft (cabinet maker) via a period trading in a different class of household goods (as a china merchant), and even when he described himself as a pattern maker he was in fact also a large-scale trader in stoves.

Perhaps the key finding is the discovery, or at least detailing, of something I already knew about: the development of a distinct "stove district" in the city, shown here in a Google Map -- a clustering of makers, sellers, and associated trades mostly along a few blocks on Second Street, close to the waterfront where their heavy cargoes of stove plates arrived from the furnaces, which enabled them to take advantage of the "agglomeration economies" of doing the same business close to their suppliers, collaborators, and competitors.  How did I know about this stove district?  Largely because I had looked at the wonderful lithographs in the Wainwright Collection at the Library Company of Philadelphia, which showed the extent and appearance of the stove district by mid-century. 
These and other superb images are all easy enough to find: go to ImPac, the Library Company's catalogue of its digitized images, and search the "Philadelphia on Stone" collection using the keyword "stove."  The first five results are all on one page.  For the sixth, search all collections, not just "Philadelphia on Stone," and get more stove hits.

Other findings (or, better, confirmations) are:

(a) that most Philadelphia stove makers were recruited from the blacksmith's trade rather than from occupations or businesses more common elsewhere and a little later, notably hardware retailers and tinsmiths (see Elva Tooker, Nathan Trotter, Philadelphia Merchant, 1787-1853 [Cambridge: Harvard U.P., 1955], p. 123); and

(b) that the timing of the increase in the numbers of specialized stove makers and sellers took place precisely when expected, i.e. in the aftermath of the War of 1812, with its associated fuel crisis and postwar manufacturing boom, and alongside the rapid adoption by Philadelphia households of anthracite as their principal fuel in the mid- to late 1820s.  The number of artisans and businessmen describing themselves as "stove something" is almost certainly an undercount of the number of places from which Philadelphia consumers could buy stoves and grates, or where they could get them repaired -- many blacksmiths, tinsmiths, and other metal tradesmen participated in the trade in a small way -- but it is indicative of the growing importance of the business that increasing numbers of entrepreneurs specialized in it, and advertised the fact.
  • 1810: one stovesetter; 
  • 1816: the same, plus a stove smith, a stove maker, and a sheet iron and stove manufacturer, altogether four small enterprises; 
  • 1820: fourteen makers of stoves and in a few cases other related goods, plus a specialized stove pattern maker; 
  • 1825: seventeen makers and finishers; 
  • 1830: twenty-seven.