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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thoreau on Stoves

I've had Hawthorne here, and Emerson too, so it's got to be time for that third great New Englander.  And his recorded attitudes toward stoves are just as mixed as those of his colleagues.

First, here's a literary critic's interesting summary:

In "House-Warming"  Thoreau complains that "a small cooking-stove," acquired for the sake of economy, "did not keep fire so well as the open fireplace   . .  . [for]  the stove not only took up room and scented the house, but it concealed  the fire" (p. 174).  Behind this observation is Thoreau's vigorous protest in "Economy" against all forms of overheating, particularly overheating  through clothing and housing.  He calls attention to what might be termed the feedback of external, physical heat acting upon the inner fire, vital heat, of spirit, fostering torpor as a consequence, and injuring  the creativity of a man who has work to do.  As always, Thoreau's  ultimate plea is for the periodic return to those natural, unaccommodated  beginnings that are essential to personal growth and spiritual  renewal.

[George Monteiro, "Redemption Through Nature: A Recurring Theme in Thoreau, Frost and Richard Wilbur," American Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 4. (Winter, 1968), pp. 795-809 at p. 800,

Now for the man himself:

(A) Practical:

"According to Liebig, man's body is a stove, and food the fuel which keeps up the internal combustion in the lungs. ...

The grand necessity, then, for our bodies, is to keep warm, to keep the vital heat in us. ... The poor man is wont to complain that this is a cold world; and to cold, no less physical than social, we refer directly a great part of our ails. [Walden, p. 11.]

THE POND IN WINTER: the ice cutter who fell into the pond "was glad to take refuge in my house, and acknowledged that there was some virtue in a stove..." [Walden, p. 287.]

"When I am going out for an evening I arrange the fire in my stove so that I do not fail to find a good one when I return, tho it would have engaged my frequent attention present.  So that, when I know I am to be at home, I sometimes make believe that I may go out, to save trouble.  And this is the art of living, too, -- to leave our life in a condition to go alone, and not to require a constant supervision.  We will then sit down serenely to live, as by the side of a stove." [Journal, Vol. 1, p. 71, 20 Feb. 1841.]

[On his trip to Canada in the Fall of 1850] p. 61 "They had, as //p. 62 usual, a large, old-fashioned, two-storied box stove in the middle of the room, out of which, in due time, there was sure to be forthcoming a supper, breakfast, or dinner. The lower half held the fire, the upper the hot air, and as it was a cool Canadian evening, this was a comforting sight to us. Being four or five feet high it warmed the whole person as you stood by it. The stove was plainly a very important article of furniture in Canada, and was not set aside during the summer. Its size, and the respect which was paid to it, told of the severe winters which it had seen and prevailed over." [Henry D. Thoreau, Excursions (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1893),

Canadian Stove --
John Holland, A Treatise on the Progressive Improvement & Present State of the
Manufactures in Metal, Vol. II: Iron and Steel
(London: Longman, Rees, Orme,
Brown Green & Longman, 1833),  p. 185,
(B) Romantic and Sentimental:
The luxuriously rich are not simply kept comfortably warm, but unnaturally hot; ... they are cooked, of course a la mode. [Walden, p. 12 -- i.e. the problem is excess.]

An unclean person is universally a slothful one, one who sits by a stove, whom the sun shines on prostrate, who reposes without being fatigued. [Walden, p. 215 -- i.e. the problem is idleness rather than comfort per se.]

[HOUSE WARMING] "The next winter I used a small cooking-stove for economy, since I did not own the forest; but it dd not keep fire so well as the open fire-place.  Cooking ws then, for the most part, no longer a poetic, but merely a chemic process.  It will soon be forgotten, in these days of stoves, that we used to roast potatoes in the ashes, after the Indian fashion.  The stove not only took up room and scented the house, but it concealed the fire, and I felt as if I had lost a companion.  You can always see a face in the fire.  The laborer, looking into it at evening, purifies his thoughts of the dross and earthiness which they have accumulated during the day.  But I could no longer sit and look into the fire..." [Walden, p. 248.]

"The bells are particularly sweet this morning. ... How much more religion in their sound, than they ever call men together to!  Men obey their call, and go to the stove-warmed church, tho God exhibits himself to the walker in a frosted bush to-day, as much as in a burning one to Moses of old.

... What a good word is 'flame,' expressing the form and soul of fire, lambent with forked tongue!  We lit a fire to see it rather than to feel it, it is so rare a sight these days.  To have our eyes ache once more with smoke! ... Fire is the most tolerable third party. [Journal, Vol. 1, p. 511, 2 Jan. 1853.]

I deal so much with my fuel, -- what with finding it, loading it, conveying it home, sawing and splitting it, -- get so many values out of it, am warmed in so many ways by it, that the heat it will yield when in the stove is of a lower temperature and a lesser value in my eyes, -- though when I feel it I am reminded of all my adventures. [Journal, Vol. 2, p. 18, 9 Nov. 1855.]


Henry D. Thoreau, The Journal of Henry D. Thoreau, ed. Bradford Torrey and Frances H. Allen (New York: Dover Publications, 1962), Vol. 1 (orig. vols I-VII, 1837-Oct. 1855) and 2 (orig. vols. VIII-XIV, Nov. 1855-1861),

Henry D. Thoreau, Walden: An Annotated Edition, ed. Walter Harding (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995),

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Reverend Isaac Orr, "Inventor" of the Air-Tight Stove

The Reverend Isaac Orr was born in Bedford, New Hampshire in 1793 and died in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1844, at the age of fifty-one.  He graduated from Yale College in 1818, "having distinguished himself as a scholar, particularly in Mathematics and natural Philosophy," and became a teacher in the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, Hartford, and then the national agent for the American Colonization Society and Secretary of the African Education Society in New York. ["American Obituary for 1844," The American Almanac and Repository of Useful Knowledge, for the Year 1845 (Boston: James Munroe & Co., 1844), pp. 311-24 at p. 320.]

The learned and evangelical circles Orr moved in included three other influential Yale men: the Reverend Dr. Eliphalet Nott, principal of Union College, Schenectady, and the most prolific and influential anthracite heating stove inventor of the 1820s and early 1830s; Prof. Denison Olmstead, who also invented and profited by his own anthracite heating stove; and Prof. Benjamin Silliman, a publicist for the new wonder fuel and also for the domestic comfort and economy that it could provide. Nott, Orr, and Olmstead all demonstrated what a later commentator thought of as the blessings of America's patent system, which they all exploited: it had enabled "men of genius to live by their wits; a thing which thousands have always endeavored to do, but seldom succeeded in.  Now, when a man of brilliant faculties is nothing but a Professor, Teacher, or Artist, or Clergyman, at a poor salary, he turns his leisure hours to inventing something, for which the public are willing to pay."  And "why not?  Why should men of letters, of science, and the elegant arts, be compelled to sigh their hours away in penury?"  This was a question that Nott, Orr, and Olmstead had all asked, and answered to their own profitable satisfaction.  [For Nott and Orr, see The African Repository, and Colonial Journal 5 (1829-1830),; Orr and Olmstead both published in Silliman's American Journal of Science -- for Orr's contributions, see "On the Process of Memory," 23:2 (1833), pp. 278-280, and "To the Mathematicians of the United States and of Europe," 24:2 (1833), pp. 395-6,; for the quotation, see "American Inventive Genius -- Patent Office Report" [reprinted from the Rail Road Record], The Cincinnatus 2:12 (1 Dec. 1857), pp. 546-7,] 

Orr's chief claim to fame was his "invention," or at least patenting in 1836, of the air-tight, sheet-iron, wood-burning stove that bore his name.  This claim was disputed during his life and after his death by people who argued that Orr could not have invented this stove type because it was already well known and readily available.  [See Endnote]  But those criticisms did not stand in the way of his and his widow's ability to collect large sums from the makers to whom they licensed a right to manufacture and sell the comparatively cheap and simple appliances (far lighter and less costly than cast-iron stoves of similar capacity) that his patent controlled, and that any blacksmith or sheet-iron worker could manufacture.  By the mid-1840s, they were making about $4,000-$5,000 a year from this source, and were understandably frequent litigants in the federal courts as they attempted, usually successfully, to defend the goose that kept laying their piles of golden eggs. ["Matilda K. Orr v. James Littlefield and others, Circuit Court of the United States for the District of New Hampshire, October Term, 1845," Law Reporter 8:7 (Nov. 1845): 314-319 at p. 315,]

Orr had first come to the stove-making and -using public's attention early in 1833, with his widely reported assertion that he had "a stove of common size in his room, which he has found by actual experiment will keep a fire burning day and night the whole year round, with one cent's worth of wood a day, at $6 the cord! The fire will require touching but twice in twenty-four hours."  ["Economical Stove," Mechanics' Magazine, and Register of Inventions and Improvements 1:2 (Feb. 1833): 56,]  Three years later he patented it, providing an enormously long and wordy description of his stove's design, principles of manufacture, and methods of use in support of his claims, an application of a sort which the new Patent Act of that year, and the introduction of a professional examination before a patent could be granted, would soon render more difficult.  It survives in the archives of the US Patent and Trademarks Office in two versions, the handwritten 20 January 1836 original (Patent X9331, "Improvement in the Air-Tight Stove; and in the management of Fuel and Heat") and a reissued (and significantly revised) printed version of 12 November 1842 (Reissue 48, "Improvement in Air-Tight Stoves," attempting to address the defects in the original that had caused Justice Story to reject his suit against William C. Hunnemann & Son of Roxbury, Mass., for violating it, earlier in that year.  ["Mercantile Law Department. Law of Patents -- Orr's Air-Tight Stoves," Merchants' Magazine & Commercial Review 12 (Feb. 1845): 177-8,, reporting the later injunction case of Orr v. Badger in the U.S. Circuit Court, which Orr's widow won; the Hunnemann case had been settled earlier, for the plaintiff's costs and nominal damages of $5.]

The principal objectives of Orr's original invention were "lessening the consumption and ... increasing and otherwise improving, the effect of fuel" by designing a stove that was more efficient and controllable "than ... any stove known with less trouble in the management and with greater safety when the fire is left to itself."  The essence of Orr's design was to make his stove "so nearly air tight ... as to have the combustion of the fuel ... under the entire, immediate and ready control of the operator, so that he can raise it at once to any required degree of power, put it out or reduce it to any required or useful degree of slow combustion," and even "retain the fire merely alive, for a night or more or less, for the purpose of kindling without burying or stopping with ashes."  The resulting uniform but variable heat would be "especially useful for consumptive people" -- a common claim among stove inventors.  It depended on "making the openings to and from the fire, as few and small as is consistent with convenience and as tight as is requisite."  

There was nothing new about an air-tight sheet-iron stove per se, so Orr's claim depended on the combination of new or distinctive design features that his embodied -- as we can see in the sketch below, a sliding door (d) for fuel; a rotating circular regulator (Fig. 2) to control the air supply; a balanced flap (i) to maintain some room ventilation via the chimney; a damper (d) and distinctive chimney cap to aid in combustion control and prevent downdrafts; and a cast-iron insert (Fig. 3) enabling the stove to be converted into an anthracite-burner, if so desired.

Isaac Orr's Original Patent Drawing, 1836

Orr's patent did not impress the most important and expert contemporary critic, Thomas P. Jones, formerly Superintendent of the Patent Office, and editor of the Franklin Institute Journal, the principal means by which information about significant new inventions was communicated to members of the technically savvy American public.  Jones was quite dismissive: it was not "easy ... to tell for what this patent has been obtained; whether for a stove of a particular construction, or for the art of managing the fuel."  Orr's claims on his invention's behalf were "general and diffusive," and all that distinguished his device from many similar, including some already patented, was the "degree of good fitting" and perfection of workmanship. ["List of Patents Issued in January, 1836, for Improvements of Machines, &c., to be Used in Agriculture of Domestic Economy.  With Remarks, by the Editor of the Journal of the Franklin Institute [Extracts from the Journal of the Franklin Institute]," The Farmer's Register [Petersburg, VA] 4:6 (Oct. 1836): 353-6 at 354-55,]

However, fortunately for Orr, Jones was no longer taking the decisions, and his evident opinion that the only patentable novelty resided in some of the individual design elements did not stand in the way of the acceptance of the whole.  When, six years later, the patent was judged defective, Orr was able to rewrite it almost completely, eliminating problematic claims and marginal features, and supplying far more detail about construction and operation, so that it continued to produce a good income for his widow years after his death.  Even after the patent finally succumbed to challenge, Orr's stove (or at least, the sheet-iron air-tight) lived on, as a standard product in many stove-makers' stock lists for the next several decades.
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Revised claims in the 1842 Reissue:

[p. 1] The main objects of my invention are to keep a store of air and fuel hot and otherwise prepared in the highest useful degree for combustion; to cause the same hot air in the stove to circulate many times to, through, and around the fuel and fire; to keep the air of the room soft, moist, and mild in the highest useful degree, and to keep a low fire burning steadily for several days without tending. 

[There follows a detailed description, and guidance on manufacture, installation, and use.]

[p. 3] The peculiar advantages and effects of the air-tight wood-stove may be summed up as follows: The fire is easily regulated. A store of wood sufficient for from one to seven days can be kept constantly hot, dried, and charred and slowly burning without any attention. Very little air but what is heated ever comes in contact with the fire, as a store of heated air is always kept in the large air-chamber of the stove, and mixes with the fresh air admitted before it touches the fire. By means of the circulation of the hot air and smoke the whole stove is kept at nearly the same temperature. The temperature of the apartment is regulated with the greatest ease and a uniform temperature preserved for any length of time. The air of the room is rendered soft and mild, and so moist that a thick dew is often deposited on the windows, even in mild weather, and the air is never injured by coming in contact with red-hot iron. A cough or headache is relieved and even cured by the air. The furniture and wood-work are less shrunk and cracked by the use of this stove than even by summer weather. The chimney, being closed at the ventilator and heated by day and open during the night, rapidly renews the air of the room and makes it drier and less chilly, while it is colder.

A great economy of fuel is effected by this stove, as almost all the heat madein it is saved and given out to the apartment, instead of being carried away through the flue. It also effects a great economy of time, as it uses much less fuel and has to be supplied with fuel much less frequently than any other stove known, and as the combustion can be regulated with so great ease and certainty.  [Orr claimed that it was only necessary to remove ashes every two to four weeks.]

Other biographical snippets:

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Note: A charming account of a much earlier sheet-iron stove user and advocate is Ann Bromfield Tracy's memoir of her brother John, a Newburyport and Boston merchant:  

[p. 93] "From John's miserable constitution, he was compelled  to give much attention to subjects connected with slender health; and among these stood early on the list, the best mode of heating rooms, during our very cold, and often protracted winter season.

For himself, after having carefully observed and carefully studied the comparative advantages of the  most approved modes, and having in his own case no  reference to elegance of appearance, he adopted, thirty-five //p. 94 or more years ago [i.e. c. 1816, the "Year Without a Summer"], the simple, cheap, easily obtained sheet iron stove; as the most effective for  the attainment of immediate heat, the degree of which might be easily regulated by a register, and a damper in the funnel; and the dry heat would be avoided by keeping a tea-kettle, or any vessel of water on the top, thus yielding hot water for shaving, or tepid water for bathing, to those who did not prefer  cold; and "last, though not perhaps least," in his  view, this stove admitted the use of no fuel but wood, which he esteemed as more healthful than any kind  of coal

He used no other stove in his own apartment, through life; having procured a new one of the same sort but a short time before his decease.

When Mr. Orr's air-tight sheet iron stove, a few  years since, came into general and approved use, my  brother remarked, that it was very gratifying to him  to find a mode of heating rooms, which we had considered a blessing, and had used for nearly thirty  years, should now, with some improvements, but essentially  the same, be received into general use; and then referred to some items, which he had long  thought ought to be observed, and concerning which,  Mr. Orr is particular in his printed description, to wit:

"That the stove should be air-tight, that the stove  funnel should be kept cleansed and scraped; that a //p. 95 ventilator is essential to the enjoying the very great  advantages of his mode of warming a room."

I have often heard him say, that it was a source of  unspeakable satisfaction to him, that he, who had the  means of procuring the best, were any better accessible, was now using from choice a stove, that might be bought for a few dollars with more or less funnel,  according to the size and height of the room, by every  poor family in the country, at the sacrifice only of  strong drink, and tobacco, and by industrious habits  in the husband; and by the exclusion, on the part of  the wife, of unnecessary articles of dress, and many  unreasonable wants, such as the indulgence in green  tea, loaf sugar, &c., not needed for the table; and at the same time, the free use of water, in a warm room,  might induce habits of personal cleanliness, that  would soon become as delightful as they would be  salutary to the health.

His apartment was [p. 132] "a commodious chamber on the second  floor, ... having two or three closets, one  large enough to contain half a cord of wood, if he had  desired to have so much at a time, and being furnished  also with a variety of the best kindling stuff in use;  which being placed by himself overnight in his "best  of all possible" sheet iron stoves, went off at the touch //p. 133 of a lighted match in the morning, like a small piece of ordnance, thus heating his room in five minutes to 75 degrees of Farenheit (sic). He was aware, that with his  habits of early rising he ought not to expect, or desire,  any one to be in his room at half past 4 o'clock,  in the winter season, to light his fire, even had he  wished such a service done for him, but with his previous  preparations for producing a quick heat, any one in his chamber would have been an annoyance instead of a convenience. 

On the day of his death he [p. 164] "kindle(d) the fire in his trusty sheet iron stove,  for the last time; and ... shave(d) himself for the grave!"

Ann Bromfield Tracy, Reminiscences of John Bromfield [Not Published] (Salem, MA: Gazette Office, 1852),

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Pioneer Cooking Stove, Indiana, late 1830s

I'm quite fond of this article, not simply because it is such a good retrospective account of the coming of the new technology to a midwestern frontier community in (probably) the late 1830s or early 1840s, but also because it is one of the first things I came across, years ago, when I was beginning to discover how much online resources would enrich my knowledge of the history of the stove and its users.  The Making of America project was one of the first really good historical text archives.  Its coverage seems quite limited nowadays, but back before the development of Google Books and the Internet Archive it struck me as wonderful.

-- 0--

'Ronald, of Indiana', "The Pioneer Cooking-Stove," The Ladies' Repository: a Monthly Periodical, Devoted to Literature, Arts, and Religion 17:1 (Jan. 1857), pp. 39-41,

[p. 39]  

DOES any body know when cooking-stoves began? Were they invented all at once, like bass-wood hams? or shall we answer these questions as Topsy did those involving her origin, "Don't know —spect they growed?" The first approach that I remember, was an anciently fashioned "ten-plate," with a place to boil a tea-kettle or receive a frying-pan. The idea thus suggested was subsequently developed, till, as we enjoy our patent, premium, air-tight, or combination, which can roast, bake, boil, broil, and stew all at once, we are convinced that this is truly a progressive age, and we a progressive people-progressive alike in compromises, constitutions, and cookery. 

Henry Schreiner of Philadelphia's "New Orleans Victory" Ten-Plate Stove, c. 1815-1830

Some of my fair readers may say, "No cookstoves! impossible! They never could get along without them." Softly, miss, just step over and ask your grandma. She will take pleasure in showing how breakfasts were done, and in cooking her dinners over again. She will tell you how she "baked her brains" over a roaring hickory fire--how she fretted about the oak wood, which would pop, snap, and smoke, but would not burn —how she was tried in temper by green beech, or a load of crooked limbs in harvest-time, till she raised a regular domestic row--how, fastened in the left side of the ample fireplace, was a "crane," with divers hooks of varied length, upon which were hung tea-kettle, stew-kettle, and mush-pot--how bread was baked for Sundays, rollings, huskings, quiltings, weddings, and infairs, in the brick-oven, and on smaller occasions in the Dutch-oven; and she will also tell you, what I honestly believe, that we have no such bread in these days. She will tell how johnnycake was baked on a board, hoe-cake on a hoe, and ash-cake in the ashes; also, what a sensation was produced when some cute Yankee brought out the polished tin reflector, which had most pleasing reflections, for they produced luscious pumpkin-pies and delicious, creamy biscuit -- such biscuit! I yet love to reflect upon those reflected biscuit--

They linger in my memory yet; 
Nor ever did their crust deceive me 

and how admirably it baked turkeys, and how "sound it was on the goose question." She will also tell how, when Christmas came on, the fatted turkey, after decapitation, plucking, and stuffing, was hung up before a rousing fire, by a string which was twisted round harder and harder, till the twist threw it back, and round again the other way, keeping up an impartial roasting and a "perpetual motion" on a small scale, while the dripping gravy was caught in a cup. 

And many other marvels will she also relate of the ante-cook-stove period, marvels to you as wonderful as the Arabian Nights, or the events in the life of Dred. Washing-day, for instance, was an institution then--the iron and copper kettles were carried out and swung in the shade of some willow or sycamore-tree, beside the "branch," where was plenty of soft-water. 

James "Saddlebag" Cooking Stove --
probably the biggest seller in New England and along the Northeast Seaboard, c. 1815-1825

But the cooking-stoves were invented. In an older state, and while living in town, we had owned the primitive article [see above illustration]; but when we moved to a newer state, and into the country, we did as others--cooked by the fireplace. But ever and anon came the ominous intimations of what could be done in the culinary department if there was only a cook-stove. The neighbors looked with suspicion and surprise upon such suggestions; they implied dissatisfaction with the lot Providence had assigned us, and then it was putting on city airs. If it came it would destroy primitive simplicity, introduce a new class of artificial wants, would bring in luxury which had already ruined quite a number of ancient notions, and might thus ultimately dissolve the Union. These were grave constitutional questions; but history records more than one instance in which the kitchen cabinet has triumphed over the fears of alarmists and the vox populi.*

* [Footnote] I think myself happy in having so formed this sentence as to get in this Latin. I fancy I see it in neat italics, and people looking upon it wonderingly, and saying, "What a scholar! Did he graduate at Yale?" Please don't tell them of the Dictionary of Quotations.
It stood firm; and soon an advocate appeared: near us lived a family of good neighbors--the "united head" of which had been Shakers, but had fled from "the village," because they thought it was "better to marry than to" stay there--the good ex-Shakeress said if her friends all died and left her to widowhood, it would be her last request to them to leave her a cooking-stove. Yet this only made the opposition stronger, for those who merely doubted before, were now convinced that if the Shakers used them, there could be no good in them. 

The discussion lasted several months, and took a wide range, including, in addition to the political aspect, economics, hygiene, and aesthetics, and was argued objectively, subjectively, synthetically, and analytically. But there was an energy in the kitchen cabinet no opposition could subdue —it prevailed; and it was agreed that the stove should [p. 40] come if the "Union had to slide". What sort it should be, where to get it, and how to bring it, were grave questions. The farm lay about sixty miles from the Queen City, and about forty-seven from the then young capital of our own state. [Which would place it in the neighborhood of Rushville]  The comparative advantages of the two points were duly considered, and decided in favor of the capital, much from the same reason which induces a man to employ a quack in preference to a good physician, because he belongs to his own Church.

The stove and its furniture were purchased, and wagoned the forty-seven miles, much of it over our primitive railroads, so trying to eggs and elliptic springs. Having been long expected, the news of the arrival spread rapidly; and our kind neighbors gathered in to help unload--very kind were they, and much disinterested--albeit they did want to see how the thing looked.

Well might they. It was a curiosity--it would be a greater curiosity now. Its total cost was sixty-five dollars in good money, the transportation some ten or fifteen more. It was a substantial stove, containing, in the matter of metal, enough for six such stoves as are cast in these degenerate days. As to appearance, I would describe it if I could. I find myself much in the predicament of a teamster, who was given to undue profanity. While hauling a load of ashes up a long hill, some mischievous elves came softly up and displaced the bottom of the bed so that the ashes would gradually escape. They then slipped past him, and secreted themselves where they knew he would stop his team, expecting to hear him swear like "our army did in Flanders;" but when he discovered the trick, and saw the rich trail up and down the hill-side, he drew a long breath, heaved a deep sigh, and said, "It's no use--the English language can't do justice to the occasion." The readers of this magazine know my acquaintance with, and command of the nervous, explosive descriptives of our language; but I "can't do justice" to that stove! Venerable mass of monumental iron! vast pile of pot-metal!

"Who knows what master laid thy keel,
What workman wrought thy ribs of iron;
What forges rang, what anvils beat,
In what a blast and what heat 
Were made thy" cap, dampers, etc.?

The inventor's name has escaped my memory--strange it should, for it is my mature conviction, that many a poor fellow has been pilloried for less atrocious deeds than inventing that stove.

Its plan was a double rotary movement. The top, pierced for several boilers, was rotary, and, using the language of a boarding-school young lady, "all devolved on a pivot," so each kettle and pot was in turn directly over the fire chamber. The oven also rotated by a cog-wheel movement, and was worked by a crank, so, after one side had baked awhile, the other could be wheeled next the fire and share its turn. Where, or how the pipe was placed I can't tell; I know it was so fixed it wouldn't draw.

Stanley Rotary Stove Patent Drawing (original version, without oven)

It was lifted out, the pieces counted, compared with the bill, and pronounced correct. The double-rotary movement, the cog-wheel, and crank, excited much admiration. The machine was run nearly all that night.

The capacity of the stove to prepare alimentary substance was then argued in detail. The great question was, "Will it bake corn-bread?" It was argued pro and con. I, miserable sinner, hoped it wouldn't, for I didn't want to see a dodger for six months. We had no distilleries then, and the best we could do was to eat the corn-we and the hogs-hence, corn-bread was an essential. The young suitor asked, ere he popped the question, "Can she make good corn-bread? Lacking this, music, drawing, embroidery, French, and dancing went for nothing. The majority decided in the negative; but the kitchen cabinet and the ex-Shakeress argued the affirmative most strenuously-subsequent developments proved the majority half right, for it never did more than half-bake a pone.

Of course the autobiography I published in this monthly some years ago, is distinctly remembered by every reader. I had occasion in that document to state that I have ever been a persecuted man. Take this fact in proof: I was made wood-purveyor of this stove. Green wood it refused to recognize, and ignored some sorts of seasoned. It would burn none unless split into kindling. But the selection and hauling of the fuel depended upon others. I found myself as bad off as the Israelites required to make brick without straw- finely-split dry wood was required of me by the kitchen cabinet, while I received nothing but load after load of green limbs or unsplittable chunks. At length even my sweet temper gave way, and I stopped the team, saying, unless I could have dry wood I wouldn't cut another stick and they might do the best they could for dinner. The master of the team saw that my purpose was taken, and said, "Why, the man is in earnest!" The seasoned wood came, and I ever bore the title of the man.

That stove seemed possessed of strange intelligence. Let strangers, or especially honored guests, arrive, and bake it wouldn't. In vain did [p. 41] I split the wood fine, and cross the wood; in vain would I fall an ash rail and "cut up the lap," bake it would not. In vain did we take out the ashes and soot; in vain did we ply the crank the more we tried the more it refused to bake.

Yet, with all its faults and foibles, that old stove had a mission. It is true we afterward sold it for fifteen dollars, yet it did a work. It was pioneer. Others followed in swift succession. Soon one of our neighbors reported a better stove bought with twenty dollars less money. We were compelled to own up; but he was soon reminded that crowing was uncertain. One of his neighbors bought the "newest style," with the "latest improvements," and laid out fifteen dollars less! He was wonderfully crest-fallen, and grew amazingly philosophic, and hastened to an old couple, and urged upon them the importance of a cooking-stove, and so desirous was he to add to their comfort, that he would sell them his, as good as new, for five dollars less than it cost. The old gentleman received the proposition gravely, but declined to purchase; and was soon seen hauling home one, span new, glittering all over with tin-ware, bought for twenty-five dollars. The ex-Shakeress, too, had one without waiting till her friends all died.

I must also mention, as a faithful historiographer, that soon after the stove came, a debating-club was organized, and kept up till the questions were exhausted. Then came on thrashing-machines, false-teeth, reapers, daguerreotypes, and hooped skirts. They came after our stove. Noble pioneer! it "headed the column on."

I do not, however, believe that it had any appreciable influence upon the compromises of 1850, or the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas troubles. I do not believe it, if it was prophesied that there was danger of a dissolution if cooking-stoves came in. History must settle this.

But much as stoves are improved, I still think some things are not so well cooked as in the days of fireplaces and ovens. 0, how often have I sighed for a good old-times, fireplace-cooked "potpie," such as was prepared in those days at rollings! I ne'er shall look upon the like again. What mush was then made! How we young folks would sit the winter night by the ingle side, and watch the bubbling up of the coming supper! No unskilled hand was permitted to use the mush-stick-too much was at stake. Did any body ever pretend that a bona fide pone was ever baked in a stove? Impossible! But I refrain -- savory memories come up; but what good will it do to think them over?--the substance can't be had. More's the pity.

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What kind of stove was "Ronald" recalling?  It's hard to tell, because his description is a bit odd in that it speaks of the oven as having been rotary too.  However, the most popular rotary stove in the region was also the most celebrated, Henry Stanley's, made in Poultney, Vermont since the early 1830s, and by other manufacturers under licence.  Here is a contemporary recommendation:

Caroline Gilman, The Lady's Annual Register, and Housewife's Memorandum-book for 1838 (Boston: T.H. Carter, 1837),

[p. 27] The Kitchen. Let us look into the kitchen; we need not  be ashamed of the place ... What a contrast between the kitchen of modern times and that of the period when King Alfred baked his cake on a  wooden board!  Kitchen utensils have fast accumulated, and dressers and closets are crowded with forms that would  puzzle a mathematician. This was the natural consequence of the restless ingenuity of civilized life until the present philosophy of mechanics was attained, by which cooking  and washing are reduced to the most simple forms. Among  the most admirable inventions for cooking are the cooking-stoves of Dutcher, Rathburn [RATHBONE], Whitney, James [the "Saddlebags," illustrated above], and the Rotary  stove -- the prices of which vary from twenty to forty  dollars, according to the size, and extent of apparatus; they  can be obtained in any of the principal cities .... With either of these //p. 28 cooking-stoves, even the mother of a family in delicate  health need not fear the overwhelming warmth which has  heretofore driven her from the kitchen; and her fair daughters  can prepare the most elaborate cookery without injuring  their complexions. One of the great charms of these inventions  is the air of neatness they throw around a kitchen... 

Stanley's rotaries and their Cincinnati maker figured in a widely reported patent case of 1839, Henry Stanley v. Emor Whipple [2 McLean, 35. December Term, 1839], for which see James B. Robb, compiler, A Collection of Patent Cases Decided in the Circuit and Supreme Courts of the United States (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1854), Vol. II, pp. 1-10, or to Whipple, his versions of the Stanley "had superseded all others" wherever it had been introduced (p. 5).

Like most popular stove types, Stanley's rotary was not entirely novel, and it was widely imitated. Other rotary stove patents included:

Stanley, Henry -- Poultney, VT -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. X7333 December 17, 1832
Town, Elisha -- Montpelier, VT -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. X7871 December 16, 1833
Nott, Eliphalet -- Schenectady, NY -- Cooking Stove Pat. No. X7948 January 9, 1834
Town, Elisha -- Montpelier, VT -- Cook Stove, Rotary Pat. No. X8206 May 16, 1834
Burnell, Levi -- Elyria, OH -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. X8509 November 25, 1834
Spoor, Abraham D. -- Coxsackie, NY -- Cook Stove Pat. No. X8573 January 7, 1835
Gill, Bennington -- New York, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. X9285 December 9, 1835
Town, Elisha -- Montpelier, VT -- Stove, Crane cooking Pat. No. 37 September 28, 1836
French, Maynard -- Albany, NY -- Stove-cap, Rotary Pat. No. X9451 March 2, 1836
Douglas, Beriah -- Albany, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. X9805 June 30, 1836
Douglas, Beriah -- Albany, NY -- Heating Stove Pat. No. X9806 June 30, 1836 [records for these two patents are confused -- the description of one is with the drawing of the other, and vice versa]
Granger, Rensselaer D. --  Troy, NY -- Stoves, Adding ovens to rotary Pat. No. 282 July 17, 1837
Mott, Jordan L. -- New York, NY -- Stove, Combination cooking Pat. No. 466 November 20, 1837
Heermance, Garet G. -- Poughkeepsie, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 852 July 24, 1838
Ketchum, Micah -- Boston, PA -- Stove Pat. No. 1,159 May 25, 1839
French, Maynard -- Cincinnati, OH -- Stove, Rotary-top Pat. No. 2,666 June 11, 1842
Hart, Albert D. -- Pittsfield, MA -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 3,164 July 8, 1843
Stanley, Henry -- W. Poultney, VT -- Stove, Rotary-top Pat. No. 4,238 October 25, 1845
Mott, Jordan L. -- New York, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 7,347 May 7, 1850
Mott, Jordan L. -- New York, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 7,366 May 14, 1850
Hill, W.W. -- Greenport, NY -- Dampers in rotary stoves, Arrangement of, Pat. No. 11,010 June 6, 1854

These were all (or almost all) patents for real stoves, the work of leading dealers and manufacturers in some of the trade's main centers, many of them leaving significant evidence of their sale (including advertisements, prizes in trade shows, etc.).  All of them can be inspected online, either at the USPTO's own site or via Google (e.g. for Rensselaer Granger's) but none of them seems to fit "Ronald of Indiana"'s peculiar description any more closely than Stanley's does.

Endorsements for Orr's Air-Tight Stove, 1842, and some counter-arguments

More on the theme of the active discussion of methods of home heating in progressive farmers' journals.  Orr's Air-Tight deserves an entry all of its own --

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Isaac Orr's Air-Tight Heating Stove -- 1842 Patent Drawing 

J.C.M., “Orr's Air-Tight Stove,” The Farmer's Cabinet, and American Herd Book, 6:6 (15 Jan 1842), p. 173,

p. 173 Mr. Editor,—I approve of the rule to exclude advertisements, as such, from the pages of the Cabinet; but when a real advantage to the community can be made known by mention of it in the course of its publication—particularly when the recommendation comes from one who has tested its pretensions, and found them in every respect what they purport to be, and who is, moreover, in no way interested in the sale of the article, either directly or indirectly—it would appear to be doing general service to point it out as a thing to be desired, and not as a thing to be advertised.

In the Philadelphia Ledger of this morning, is an article on the burning of anthracite coal in stoves, in which the writer remarks, that great use is made of iron vessels for evaporating water to regulate the atmosphere of the apartments thus heated by coal fires; and recommends the substitution of earthen vessels for this purpose, renewing the water every day and rinsing out the bowl; water evaporated in iron vessels being very offensive, rendering the atmosphere of the apartments impure as well as disagreeable; advising, for parlours where the atmosphere is desired to be pleasant and agreeable, a small quantity of Cologne water to be added to the clean water, which will diffuse itself in the atmosphere of the room, and make it pleasant ! The writer adds, "The heat produced by hard or anthracite coal, is very different from that produced by bituminous coal, and is injurious to persons in delicate health; rooms in which hard coal is burnt, require more ventilation than where bituminous coal is used."

Now, having myself been long subject to the inconvenience and injury arising from burning anthracite coal in close stoves, and having suffered considerably in my health from the cause above alluded to, I have at length been induced to substitute in their place the air-tight stove invented by Orr, for the burning of wood; and if it were possible, would describe the difference experienced from the change—but words are inadequate, and therefore I need not attempt it. The price, $10, will be saved in the difference in the cost of fuel the present winter; while the convenience, cleanliness, comfort, and consolation, arising from the circumstance of having at all times, by night as well as by day, just so much heat and no more, as you desire and in an instant, merely by turning off or on the draught by the finger and thumb, are just inconceivable, and not to be appreciated except by experience. It may be added, the fire is made up in the morning by supplying half a dozen short billets of wood, and no more will be required, under ordinary circumstances, for twenty-four or perhaps thirty-six hours, the stove being perfectly closed on retiring for the night, during which the process of charring goes on, but no flaming. I am tempted to say, I closed tight the door of my stove at ten o'clock last night, and having occasion to rise at three this morning, preparatory for a journey, I found the atmosphere of the room 70 degrees of heat by the thermometer, at the farthest part from the fire; and by raising the draught half an inch, I increased it to a degree that quite surprised me. It is not too much to say, I calculate that one-tenth part of the wood required to heat a room by burning in an open chimney, will be more than sufficient to keep the same room at the same temperature by means of the air-tight stove; and then, the convenience of having to light the fire but once in the season, and taking from the stove in the morning sufficient charcoal to light all the other fires in the house, will render it the most profitable, as well as desirable, of all the numerous contrivances that have come down to us in the shape of about five hundred varieties of stoves, of all sizes, shapes, and prices. I am now quite convinced that the expensive apparatus for warming houses by hot air is no longer necessary, for by means of the air-tight stove, all that is desirable can be obtained far more certainly, quicker, and incomparably more pleasant in its effects, at a tenth of the expense; and by which, also, the very prevalent complaint of bronchitis will, I am satisfied, be avoided, the cause of that disorder being the inhaling of air that has passed over a red-hot body of metal, thus having been rendered unfit for respiration—at least, this? is my firm conviction, in which I am justified* by the effects of the last few days, since I have discarded the iron cylinder coal-stove, and obtained one of the air-tight wood-stoves. For the sick-chamber it is peculiarly adapted, as it emits no unpleasant smell, creates no noise or dust in managing, diffusing a gentle heat, or rather glow, that can be regulated to a degree by means of a thermometer at any moment, keeping it up to that point which might be recommended by the physician—a point which, in many cases, is of vital importance ; while to the medical practitioner himself, whose office-hours are uncertain to a proverb, and whose nights are so often broken in upon by professional calls, the use of this stove is most desirable; for on leaving home, he can regulate the draught by closing the door, and in an instant, on his return, raise the heat to the degree he might choose, and that, after the absence of twelve hours, or even double that time. And the student, also, whose hours of recreation are so //p. 174 often taxed with a cold reception on return to his studies, can now determine upon the exact degree of warmth which the spirit of his subject may require for its full development, and regulate the damper accordingly, be it poetry or be it prose, by night or by day.

But to none will it be more convenient than to the farmer, whose concerns so often call him and the members of his family abroad, or into the kitchen or dairy, at which time friends may call and render a fire in the betterrnost room very desirable, although it might be required but for a short time; it is, therefore, but to leave one of these stoves pretty well filled with wood in the morning, closing the door, and he has it in his power to give his warmest friend a correspondent welcome in an instant by opening the draught; and on his taking leave, to shut it, and as effectually to put a stop to any further expense of fuel, be it even until the end of the day. In short, I know of nothing of the kind that can at all compare with the air-tight stove, either for economy, comfort, cleanliness, or convenience. I pray you, Mr. Editor, try it.
J. C. M.
7th of December, 1841.

We have tried it, and bear willing testimony to all that our correspondent has advanced in its favour, adding the answer of a friend, of whom we inquired its character after a year's trial—" We would not be without it for ten times its cost." In fixing it, the chimneyboard should be made perfectly tight, by putty, if necessary, or, perhaps better, by pasting stout paper over it. And before laying the wood, cover the bottom of the stove about two. i nches thick with wood-ashes, upon which place your kindling, and upon that the wood; after the first lighting, let the wood be as large as will pass in at the door, and the rougher and harder it is, the better. A degree of care will be necessary in regulating the draught, both at the door and the valve in the smoke-pipe, but the art will be very soon acquired by practice. It may be well to add, it is said a slight explosion has sometimes taken place in the stoves on first lighting the fire, when the air in the chimney has been so cold and heavy as to prevent the warm air in the stove from passing quickly, but that is no more than what all stoves are liable to, if the chimney-board is very tight, as it ought to be; we have, however, guarded against this contingency, by cutting a round bole in the chimney-board just below the smoke-pipe, over which is suspended by a small nail a piece of tin, which, in the event of a pressure of air in the chimney, opens into the room and forms a safety-valve. And we have hitherto observed, that the pressure of the air in the room has the power to press it so closely, as to render the opening perfectly air-tight—there it is, however, if at any time, its preventive powers should be called into requisition.

In the "Yankee Farmer" for the past week, we find the description of a stove which might be supposed to have been taken from the air-tight stove of which we have been speaking; it is given under the head, " The true principle of stoves," and ia worthy particular notice. " In order to produce the greatest quantity of heat in proportion to the quantity of fuel consumed, a stove should present a large quantity of vertical surface to the surrounding air, and that surface should be smooth, for the purpose of facilitating the ascent of a current of rarefied air. If any projection impedes this upward current, the heat accumulates and remains comparatively stationary, and thus prevents the fret radiation of heat from within ; but when there is a brisk circulation of air outside, the heat, as it passes through the iron surface, is instantly carried off, and is circulated in the room; thus allowing the free radiation of more. Atmospheric air should always be excluded from the interior of a stove,except so much as is requisite to produce the required quantity of heat; by admitting too much air, a rapid current is produced within, and the emanating beat is driven into the chimney before it has time to radiate through the iron plate. In most of the stoves now in use, more than two-thirds of the heat, which might otherwise be useful, is totally lost."

We feel pleasure in informing our friends, that "Orr's Air-Tight Stoves" may be obtained of Mr. W. W. Hughes, 147 south Front street, Philadelphia.—Ed.

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J. Dennis, “Orr's Air-tight Stove,” 6:8 (15 Mar. 1842). 

p. 254 Mr. Editor,—Having so strongly recommended the air-tight stove, I thought you would like to be informed that a terrible explosion has taken place in one of them at Nantucket, which demolished the chimney, and threw the bricks and stove all out into the middle of the room. Now I should be glad to know if you still approve of them? for in this neighbourhood there is considerable alarm felt on the subject, and I rather congratulate myself on delaying the purchase of one—which I had intended from your recommendation—until I hear farther about it. Pray enlighten us, and oblige your subscriber.

J. Dennis.

Hearing an account of the explosion, we made it our business to call on the agent for the sale of the air-tight stove, who informed us he had written to Mr. Abbot, and had received a most satisfactory answer to his inquiries, which, having since appeared in print, we copy, for the information of those who have already purchased or intend to purchase a stove, that, in our estimation, still continues unrivalled. A moment's reflection will convince any one, that the explosion must have taken place in the chimney and not in the stove, which, weighing a few pounds only, and very easily removed from its position by a single finger, could not have formed a resistance sufficient to throw out brick-work, iron mantel-bar and wood-work, scattering all over the room; but the writer explains all.—

"Explosion from an air-tight stove.—As the explosion which occurred from an air-tight stove in the house of the subscriber a few days ago, has excited some interest, I send you, for publication in your paper, if you judge it expedient, the following statement of the facts in the case.

The stove was a large one, called the fourteen dollar size. It was set by bricking up the fire-place, and no ventilator was made. At ten o'clock, the evening before the explosion, there being then a glowing fire in the stove, I put in an armful of green walnut wood, and closed entirely both the register and the damper. When I arose the next morning about 6 o'clock, I opened the door of the stove, and could see but little fire, though the wood seemed to be converted almost to charcoal. I left open the door and the damper perhaps three minutes, when the Wood became in a light blaze, and the stove in some parts red hot. The funnel, where it entered into the brick-work, had, by repeated contractions and expansions, become loose, leaving quite a crack around the funnel through which I could plainly see the flame from the stove entering the chimney. I then shut the door of the stove, and opened the register, leaving the damper still open. Observing, perhaps in a minute, that the fire was much checked, I again took hold of the door, and had opened it about half an inch, when, with a loud report, truly a fearful explosion took place, not in the stove, but in the fire-place behind it! The brick-work was thrown out clear; the iron mantel-bar torn out, and the wood-work around the mantel greatly shattered. The stove was driven two or three feet into the room, and much indented by the bricks which were thrown against it. The bricks and mortar were scattered all over the room. The explosion was unquestionably caused by gas—probably carburetted hydrogen, generated in the stove, and collected behind the brick-work in the fire-place. This gas, when mingled with certain proportions of atmospheric air, possesses great explosive power. If there had been a ventilator in the brick-work near the hearth, the collection of this gas, and the consequent explosion would probably have been prevented. I have now had my stove replaced in its former position, with a ventilator. I cannot reject a friend I value so highly, for a single misdemeanor.

"John S.C. Abbot." Nantucket, Jan. 15,1842. [Mer. Journal].

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James Pedder, "Orr's Air-Tight Stove," The Farmers' Cabinet, and American Herd-book 7:5
(15 Dec. 1842): 153,

We endorse with pleasure and satisfaction our account of Orr's air-tight stove. It has never deceived or disappointed us, but still continues, after a year's experience, to be the greatest comfort and the cheapest luxury in our household establishment. In every instance have our calculations been verified, and often indeed have we been led to observe that our estimate of its value has been below its merits. We commenced the present season with another of these stoves, and have now two in constant operation, with reason to repeat, that we expect to save about the cost of the stove in fuel during the year. There is still another convenience to be added to those enumerated by our former correspondent, J.C.M. at page 173, vol. VI., to which we refer our readers; and which we experienced the value of during a time of sickness, when the stove, carefully closed, with the fire in it, was removed to an upper apartment by a single individual, and placed in its proper position in two minutes; and in less than a minute after, was blazing away, without the labour, noise and filth of lighting, or the loss of heat consequent on a first kindling.

It must be remembered, they are designed for the consumption of wood only; the desideratum being, to be able to ignite and extinguish the fire suddenly, which could not be effected if coal were used. If on closing entirely the stove at night, it be found in the morning that the fire has been completely extinguished, it can be re-kindled by burning a piece of paper on the remaining charcoal, and the heat will be found instantly to penetrate the sides and top of the stove without further trouble.

It gives us pleasure to be able to furnish an engraving of the air-tight stove for the satisfaction of our correspondent; and to inform, they are now made of very superior material and workmanship, by W.W. Hughes, agent to the patentee, No. 45 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, at the prices of 7, 8, 10 and 11 dollars, according to size and enibellishments. The seven dollar stove is large enough for the chamber; while that at ten dollars, is suitable for a large parlour, or for two rooms, communicating by folding doors. When the stove is removed at the end of the winter season, it should be well cleaned inside, and receive a coat of linseed oil inside and out, which will effectually protect it from the effects of the atmosphere.

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S.R. [Solon Robinson], "Orr's Air-Tight Stove," The Farmers' Cabinet, and American Herd-Book 7:5 (15 Dec. 1842): 153,

A Constant reader of the Cabinet, who has had some experience and much exercise in the way of stove dealing, wishes to know if the editor is ready to endorse the account which appears over his signature at page 174, in vol. VI., highly commendatory of Orr's air-tight stove; or has an additional year added to, or diminished his confidence in its qualifications there specified? If he still continues to consider it the chef d'ouvre (sic) in the art of stove-making in this land of stoves, he would oblige one who is again afloat, or rather aground, seeking for the best stove for chamber or parlour purpose after repeated disappointment, if he would so declare. Any thing relating to this inquiry, in the way of explanation, recommendation or even condemnation, would oblige many readers of the Cabinet, amongst whom a stove, found to embrace the qualifications described as above, would be a great desideratum, particularly in the facility with which a fire may be kept in the bettermost room of an evening, to enable the owner to give a casual visiter (sic) a warm reception, and as quickly to extinguish it, when no longer requisite. The writer has at present three wood stoves in operation, which together, keep one man pretty busy in sawing and splitting wood for their supply; but if the editor's account is to be relied upon, he would calculate that one half the labour and expense might be saved. The people in this part of the country have not yet had an opportunity of seeing the airtight stove, nor would they have known of it, perhaps, but through the pages of the Cabinet. In the event of its still continuing to be approved, would it be too much to ask if a drawing of it could be furnished, with directions for its use, and any observations that might be thought interesting to persons at a distance from the place of manufactory.

If all is, as has been represented, a great many stoves would find, in this part of the country a ready sale. An early attention to the subject would oblige, as the weather just now admits of no delay. 

S.R. 30th of Nov., 1842.