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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Nation of Stoves, Chapter 1 -- Origins: From Benjamin Franklin to the War of 1812

I began the reading that led to this because, despite my respect for the late Patricia Brewer's From Fireplace to Cookstove: Technology and the Domestic Ideal in America (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2000), I was unimpressed by the adequacy of the secondary literature that was available for me to rely on as I attempted to put together what I originally thought of as just a brief historical introduction, after which I would get stuck into my post-Civil-War business-&-technology history of the stove industry.

What led me astray was Google Books and other online source depositories, where I found a wealth of (to me) fascinating material, and the possibility of developing a continuous narrative that would deal with my own and anybody else's unsatisfied desire to know what happened.  The past is much more interesting to me than the way it is often thought and written about, and getting back in touch with contemporary voices and historical actors much the most rewarding aspect of doing historical work. So I followed the line of maximum self-indulgence, read as much as I could find, and stitched it together into what follows.

The structure is simple:

  • a one-paragraph Introduction, making it clear that this chapter will be relying five of Rudyard Kipling's Six Honest Serving Men (What, When, How, Where, Who) more than the sixth and most important, Why?
  • 1.1 Franklin's and Other Stoves [## words] -- a systematic account of the plate stoves of the Middle Colonies, to be read alongside my recent blog posts on 5, 6, 9 and 10-plates and Franklins
  • 1.2 Stove Use Spreads (a very uninspired section title) [## words] -- the extension of the area where stoves were used during the Revolutionary and very early National period, among the elite.
  • 1.3 Philadelphia: America's [Stove] Capital [## words] -- despite that, it's mostly still a story about Philadelphia and its region, and this section discusses why (comfort, convenience, economy) Philadelphians were becoming quite so attached to their slowly improving stoves.
  • 1.4 Stoves Make Progress (another very uninspired section title) [## words] -- significant improvements in techniques of manufacture (flask molding) and in the products themselves: adaptation for cooking (the boiler hole), the first American kitchen ranges. 
  • 1.5 The Stove Region Grows, and Invention Begins to Thrive [## words] -- takeup of stoves in New England and New York, particularly in heating churches; recognition of stove ownership and its significance in state law; the patent record (who is inventing what, where; Oliver Evans, Samuel Dickey, and particularly Daniel Pettibone, significant inventors). 
  • 1.6 War, Crisis, and Change (another...) [## words] -- on the way in which the War of 1812 encouraged investment by Philadelphia entrepreneurs in increasing the scale of stove manufacturing in the region's iron furnaces, and the processes of diffusion of consumption and production across the American North were also accelerated.
  • Appendix: A Parallel Evolution [## words] -- Canada, or more properly Nouvelle France/British North America, had its own separate history of stove production and use, about which I had known and read nothing and which fascinated me when I came across it, so I decided to summarize it here.  There's an excellent book about it, Marcel Moussette's Le Chauffage Domestique au Canada: des origines à l'industrialisation (Montréal: Presses Université Laval, 1983), but my emphasis was a bit different, as well as my coverage being much thinner.
Links:
  • the whole Chapter, or 
  • just the Appendix.
  • the Bibliography -- this is new, and currently pretty rough, but it lists all of the sources, primary and secondary, cited in the text, and provides web links to copies, if available.  In due course I might integrate these into the text, but that's a long-term, rainy-day project.  In the meantime, this will serve. 
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