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Monday, April 1, 2013

A Chilly February in Troy, NY, 1855

A reader of and contributor to The Knickerbocker explains why inhabitants of the northern United States were so enthusiastic about the technology of comfort.  'Paul Martindale' reports on how a bitter winter has exposed the inadequacy of his old Nott stove, state of the art when it was first introduced more than twenty years earlier, and seems to express regret or dissatisfaction about his decision to respond to the advice of Andrew Jackson Downing and others, and return to using an open fire.

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'Paul Martindale,' "Thermometer Twenty-Three Degrees Below Nothing," The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine, 45:3 (March 1855): 320, http://books.google.com/books?id=9McGAQAAIAAJ.

[Troy Carpet-Mills, 27 Feb 1855]

DEAR KNICK: 

I thaw my ink to say / The weather's on a spree: / Thermometers have burst their bulbs, / Quicksilver's 'duty free.'

Business is dead -- all liquids are / Solidified stagnation; / And e'en the Hudson River can't / Go on in liquidation.

The water-fall's no more a fall, / So winterish is the weather; / And all the drops are dropping up / In frozen mist together.

My wheels have wheeled into line, / As one vast solid column; / And all my works are bound at last / In one stupendous volume.

The race-way's run its final race, / The waste-weir's now no waste wear: / While in my flume the anchor-ice / Is anchored everywhere.

My colors now are colorless -- / My dyeing all is dead: / And though I'm bothered with the blues, / My nose is very red.

My boiler's quit of all its boils, / The fireman's nose is frozen: / And my hot-water pails have kicked / The bucket by the dozen.

My old NOTT's stove is not a stove, / It's just a ventilator; / And my new grate has proved to be / A great refrigerator.

The watchman's fires all 'end in smoke'; / Even daylight is ice-bound: / For the shadow of the chimney-stack / Is frozen to the ground.

'Tis thus obtuse, we 're left, dear Knick, / Opaque, dull, lifeless, stolid: / No breath of life -- no genial warmth --  / In fact, I'm frozen solid!

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