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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Nation of Stoves, Chapter 3 -- Feeding the Northern Market: The Blast Furnace Era, c. 1815-1837

This chapter marks a change of direction in my work, and the first major contribution to it of non-printed primary source materials.  As I have already written, I got into reading and writing about the early American stove industry the wrong way round -- I did loads of research, including in the few surviving company archives, that kicked off in the 1850s, was richest for the later nineteenth century, and then dried up, with the industry, in the early twentieth century.  When I wrote my "Inventing the U.S. Stove Industry" article, though, I was beginning to become aware that what came before then was interesting, important, and also somewhat researchable.  This was mostly because I had started to read the surviving correspondence and other papers of two important Philadelphia-based stove makers, David C. Wood and Samuel G. Wright, both of them active between the 1810s and the 1840s.  The results showed up a bit in "Inventing," but the records, particularly Wood's, were so rich and abundant that they deflected me from my intended tracks, taking months to read and think about.  At the end of that process I knew that I had a book (or something) with a different shape -- the mature industry of the mid- to late nineteenth century would have to wait before it got my attention again, the early period of accelerating growth and transformation would be more than enough for me to cope with between one set of covers.

  • 3.1 Into the Iron Business -- Wright and Wood, Philadelphia merchants, shift their capital and entrepreneurial energies into stove manufacturing in the 1810s-early 1820s.
  • 3.2 Making Stoves the Hard Way -- a detailed study of business organization and methods of manufacture in the charcoal-fueled Philadelphia-region blast furnaces where most stoves were made before the late 1830s.
  • 3.3 Selling Stoves -- the organization of trade through the dealers of New York and the other seaboard cities.
The chapter ends with the crisis of this industry in the late 1830s -- partly a result of the Panic of 1837, but also because of its inherent limitations and the rise of new competitors taking advantage of new technologies to relocate and reorganize production.


Links to online content:
  • The full text of the Chapter
  • 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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