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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Rise of the New York Stove Trade, c. 1800-1855

This is a companion piece to my earlier "Looking for the Fougerays," about the Philadelphia stove trade, and also "(Some of) The First Stove Advertisements in America," which included three of the most important stove inventors, dealers, and makers active in New York City between the 1810s and the 1840s (William James, Charles Postley, and James Wilson), though its main focus was on their first decade in business.  All of these are spinoffs from questions I addressed first in a paper at the Hagley in 2007, published in 2008, and then worked on some more in my book manuscript, especially Chapter 2

What I have decided to do here is to use basically the same methodology as I did in "Looking for the Fougerays," tracking members of the stove trade through successive editions of city directories at regular intervals.  The principal difference is that New York City doesn't seem to be as well served with online versions of its annual directories as Philadelphia is, thanks to that city's GeoHistory site.  But, because of Google Books and, even more, the Internet Archive, it was possible to do an initial survey with a ten-year interval (1815-1855) -- twice as long as I used for the Philadelphia survey, but good enough; to halve the interval during the period of most dramatic change, c. 1835-1855; and even to reduce the gaps further, to just one or two years, from the late 1830s onwards.  Though the extra effort produced diminishing returns, the maximum granularity was inevitably the only way to reveal some changes in business structure.

The 1800s

There were stove users in early nineteenth-century New York City (then simply the southern tip of Manhattan) -- enough for the City to provide against the risks they caused in its 1808 fire-prevention code -- but probably not very many.  If Manhattan residents had wanted to buy a stove at that time, where would they have got them? They would have had to rely on unspecialized merchants and artisans -- hardware stores, ironmongers, blacksmiths, sheet-metal workers -- capable of meeting the occasional order through their Philadelphia contacts, or of fabricating something serviceable.  There was only one specialized stove business recorded in Longworth's 1808 City Directory -- Joseph Poudrell, patent stove maker, of 91 Cherry St., who did indeed take out a US Patent in that year (Number 844X, for an Economical Stove or Furnace).  But there were also the Youle brothers -- George, recorded as a plumber and pewterer, of 298 Water St. (making everything from water pipe to lead shot -- see Gayle, Look, and Waite, Metals in America's Historic Buildings, p. 8), and John, proprietor of an Air-Furnace for iron casting at Corlear's Hook -- one of four such establishments in the city -- with a store at 212 Water St.  (Longworth 1808, pp. 60, 246).  Both of them had been in the same businesses, at the same addresses, since at least 1794.

The Youles specialized in a particular kind of stove for a distinct market: iron "cabouses" (the spelling varied, but eventually settled down as caboose) to be used on shipboard, where an unenclosed fire would be an even greater risk, and an efficient means of cooking and heating water for the crew and passengers, sometimes quite a large number of people, was essential.  The market for cabooses therefore developed earlier than that for cooking stoves to be used on shore, where their advantages over open fireplaces were not so clear at the time and the extra cost was more of a disincentive.  Cabooses became even more useful in the 1800s, as they were adapted to use the waste heat otherwise just going up the chimney to distil drinking water from seawater.  John had taken out the first New York City stove patent, in 1795 (No. 96X), for the Construction of a Cabouse; George followed with a cabouse patent of his own (No. 675X) and a related "Stove apparatus for cooking and distilling" (No. 690X) in 1806, a Caboose Cooking Stove (No. 742X) in 1807, another Caboose in 1809 (No. 1112X), and a "Moveable Kitchen" (No. 2160X) in 1814.  All of these patents were lost in the great fire at the US Patent Office in 1836, but those with the distillation feature were probably not unlike the one surviving caboose patent from this period in appearance and arrangement, as they had to perform the same functions and satisfy the same customer requirements.

J. Truman (Philadelphia), Portable Kitchen or Stove-Caboose, US Patent No. 1622 (1811).  The key features are not just the oven f and cooking holes with hinged covers d, but the boiler h i g and receiver k for distilling fresh water from salt. There was a J. Trueman, tinplate worker, living in Philadelphia in that year -- Census Directory, p. 328.  (For more on cabooses, see the next blog entry).

John Youle had leased the Speedwell Furnace in the New Jersey Pine Barrens by 1798 to provide himself with a supply of iron, and later the Stafford Forge too; George had his stove patterns cast and "cambosses" made  at the Martha and Weymouth Furnaces nearby [Pierce, Family Empire, pp. 220, 130, 94; Pierce, Iron in the Pines, pp. 89, 106 -- this map for locations].  Having their business premises so close to the East River therefore meant that the ships bringing raw materials and castings from their suppliers, and the ships of their customers too, were both near at hand.  This was useful and necessary, given the weight of metal, fuel, and flux that John's air furnace and George's lead business consumed, and of the galley stoves that they made or assembled.  

The Youles stayed in their narrow but evidently profitable niche for decades, and their caboose brand outlived them both, as successor firms continued to make and sell it. [Williams, New York Annual Register 1836, p. 519.]  Around them a much more diverse community of stove makers and dealers, supplying a much larger market on shore, began to grow.

The 1810s 

This was the decade during which the population of New York City for the first time exceeded that of Philadelphia and its immediate suburbs.  In 1815 the city had around 100-110,000 people, a figure that increased by about a half in the next ten years.  [For population figures, see here.] 

The 1812 and 1813 editions of Longworth's Directory contained no mentions of stoves or stove makers at all.  The Youles were still there, but not identified as caboose makers; Poudrell had disappeared; and the only sign of change away from dependence on the old-fashioned open fire was a single, solitary grate maker, Birdsall & Heafield, on Broadway.  Wood fuel was increasingly costly in New York City, and some consumers were turning to bituminous coal, shipped from Virginia or (in normal, peaceful times) from Britain, instead.  Coal needs to be burnt on a grate, so that the fuel does not get clogged up with its ashes and clinkers, while wood burns happily on a bed of its own ash, or logs can simply be raised on andirons. So the development of specialized grate makers is a good indicator of the increasing use of coal, and also of growing concern about burning fuel more efficiently, because installing a grate went along with reducing the size of the fireplace and redesigning it according to Count Rumford's principles. 

Change accelerated during the War of 1812 and immediately afterwards, for interdependent reasons: war-induced or -exacerbated fuel shortages and a succession of savage winters made New York consumers even more responsive to the appeal of new ways of burning fuel more efficiently, for cooking and for heating; and the interruptions to trade during and preceding the War persuaded a number of Philadelphia merchants to shift their capital and their entrepreneurial energies out of commerce and into manufacturing for the domestic market.  The price of iron castings was exceptionally high during the war itself, so investment in buying, reopening, refurbishing, and extending charcoal-fueled iron furnaces in south-east Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, and even building entirely new ones, seemed to be an attractive option.  (For more detail on this, see Chapter 3 of my A Nation of Stoves.)  

These changes on the demand and the supply side for cast-iron products, particularly stoves, meant that by the latter half of the decade New York customers wanting to buy a new stove had far more options available than they had had just a few years earlier.  The city's laws kept up with the resulting changes in consumer behavior, specifying in 1817 that licensed chimney-sweeps' fees for a flue including a Franklin stove (the only type identified, so probably the one in common use) or a coal grate should be raised by between 33 and 100 percent above those for a standard fireplace, depending on the length of chimney above them, in recognition of the increased amount of work that they entailed.

In the beginning New York City did not have the facilities for making many of its own stove castings, but this did not matter, because it was ideally located to import them, as the Youles already had for years.  The 1815 edition of Longworth's Register included a Marine Directory listing the home ports of all of the coastal vessels that were "constant traders" to New York -- ferries, steamboats, scheduled packet services, and "market boats" engaged in shuttle trips to and from the city, all of them docking at specific places on the Lower Manhattan waterfront.  Longworth's list only captured about half of vessels trading with New York -- "irregular coasters" were left out -- but even so it provides a good way of seeing how well connected New York City was with its hinterland.

Regular shipping services, 1815: RED = 20-40 vessels; BLUE = 10-19; GREEN = 5-9; YELLOW = 1-4.  Each division represents about a quarter of the total (861 vessels).  For the full map, including more remote destinations, from Portland, Maine down as far as Savannah, Georgia, see original data is in a spreadsheet at

There are no surprises in this map, except perhaps to see the New Jersey harbors serving the iron furnace region quite so well represented among the ports with the greatest numbers of vessels engaged in regular trade with the city.  Using them, the furnace operators sought out a wider market in the unexpectedly tough trading conditions that they experienced with the return of peace.  The coastal highway from the lower Jersey shore, and the packet services from Philadelphia, remained the way in which most of the growing demand for stoves would be satisfied for the next twenty years.  New York City stove traders were therefore ideally placed both with respect to the main concentration of specialized stove-casting suppliers that then existed, and also with regard to developing markets beyond the city itself.  Some of them rapidly turned into wholesalers, feeding an increasing demand for stoves in lower New England through Long Island Sound and in the interior via the Hudson River.

The 1820s

The 1815 edition of Longworth only listed one stove maker in the city: George Brown, "stove and sheet [presumably sheet-iron?] manufactory," at 183 Water St., as well as the grate makers on Broadway and the Youles who had been there before the war too.  I cannot locate another edition until 1823, which is annoying, as the big changes all began early in the missing period -- the arrival in the city, or the entry into the stove trade, of the three important inventor-maker-dealers identified in my "Stove Advertisements" piece, William James, Charles Postley, and James Wilson, all of whom remained active for the next thirty years, and all of whom joined Brown and the Youles on Water Street (James eventually became an iron-founder, but other family members succeeded to his stove business at No. 295, just opposite George Youle's).  Of the three of them, only Postley was present in the 1815 Directory, but still identified by his old trade (cooper) rather than the new one that he was in the process of entering.  Wilson had joined him in the trade by 1818/1821, James not later than 1822 -- probably in both cases several years earlier, but those are the dates on the first published and unpublished records that I have.  Two of them showed up in 1823, but curiously not Wilson, even though he was probably the biggest player at the time, and in business at 206 Water Street not later than 1821.

By 1825, the city had grown to about 150-160,000 people, and had acquired numerous specialized stove and grate makers and sellers.  It had also developed a stronger heavy-industrial base, on which it would build in the late 1830s to become a significant center for manufacturing stoves in its own right rather than just assembling, distributing, and selling, as well as inventing and designing, stoves that were actually made (i.e. cast) elsewhere, at the traditional furnace sites.  

All of these places of business are marked in the following map, which shows: in RED, the stove makers and dealers. All of those describing themselves as stove manufacturers were clustered along a few blocks of Water Street, convenient for the ships bringing them their castings from the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware furnaces, and also for the onward trade up the Hudson and along the New England coast.  The largest of these manufacturers, James Wilson, was buying at least 500 tons of castings a year (the entire output of the furnace he leased at Millville in New Jersey) by the early 1820s, and minimizing the cost and difficulty of unloading and transshipping that weight of surprisingly fragile castings obviously made sense.  Those that were probably principally retailers were scattered across Lower Manhattan, as were the grate makers, marked in GREEN, while the solitary stove foundry (indicated in bright blue) was on the north-east fringe of the built-up area, together with other furnaces and foundries, marked in DARK BLUE.

There is a clear logic to this pattern: stove retailers and artisan grate makers needed to be on shopping streets frequented by their customers; stove manufacturers and wholesalers clustered together to service the caboose market, to facilitate the buying trips of their uptown and out-of-town buyers, and also to minimize the length of the wagon trips between their warehouses and the waterfront.  Finally, the furnaces and foundries were almost all located on what was then the edge of the city, because they needed quite a large amount of space for materials storage, they caused a great deal of pollution and fire risk, and they also benefited from being close to the Hudson or East River waterfronts as all of their heavy raw materials and fuel arrived by ship (though this seems to have been a less important consideration than the other two, suggesting that wagon freight along the city's streets was adequate for their purposes, and not prohibitively costly).

For names, descriptions, and key, see original map foundries are marked with a dark blue square, ten "founders" by a star. It is impossible to be 100% certain, but I have assumed that a "founder" whose sole address was his home (i.e. he was not listed first by his business address, then a home address) was probably not a business principal but instead a key supervisory or managerial employee (the job title was the same). In general, founders lived near to foundries.  Nine "moulders" (not specified as brass or type molders) and two pattern makers were also listed, members of the important foundry crafts, and indicated by a pale blue dot.  In general, artisans lived in the same neighborhoods as the founders, i.e. within walking distance of the foundries where they worked.

Edwin Williams, ed., New-York as it is in 1833, p. 197 -- can be blown up to make street and quay names and numbers legible.  Even better is the very similar 1836 J.H. Colton map in the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection   
(Williams describes, pp. 12-13, the lower Manhattan neighborhood where the wholesale stove trade concentrated: "Pearl-street, between Broadway and the East
River, is over a mile in length, and its course is nearly in the form of a crescent, containing numerous spacious warehouses, and is the principal seat of the dry goods and hardware business. Front and Water streets, between Pearl-street and the East River, are occupied principally by the wholesale grocers, commission merchants, and mechanics connected with the shipping business.")

To summarize the changes between 1815 and 1825:

(1) Iron casting capacity:

New York in 1815 had just four air furnaces, including Youle's -- the Columbian, Industry, and Union Furnaces -- and the Allaire, Phoenix, and McQueen foundries. By 1825 only two furnaces remained -- the La Fayette (below) and Wyckoff's.  But by then there were also 14 foundries, the name increasingly signifying a different kind of establishment using the new melting technology of the steam-powered cupola furnace, which would become standard iron-casting equipment for the rest of the nineteenth century.  By 1828, the nine of them included in the McLane Report of 1833 were already using 1,400 tons of anthracite, only available in the New York market for a couple of years, vs. 1,100 tons of bituminous coal, 600 tons of that at just one furnace, and less than 300 cords of wood, i.e. most of them must already have converted from the air furnace to the cupola by then, as the former was better suited to wood and bituminous, the latter to anthracite.  

New York's emerging iron foundry industry had a capacity of well over 2,000 tons of castings a year -- 18 percent of the state total -- and the huge New York-financed and controlled West Point Foundry Association at Cold Spring on the Hudson, set up in the late 'teens, added almost as much again, most of it probably destined for the New York market, and including stoves "cast from the Cupola" as early as 1821.  (Henry Kemble, "West Point Foundery and Boring Mill," 1 June 1821, broadside, Hagley Museum and Library.)

From Longworth's Directory, 1825 -- an air furnace, with a tall, narrow chimney to create a natural updraft, and no separate boiler chimney for a steam engine to "blow" a cupola.

One of the new foundries, Henry Worrall's at 22-24 Elm Street, using 50 tons of pig iron in 1828 and ten times that amount in 1830, listed "Backs and Jambs for Fireplaces" among its products -- new or replacement parts for iron fireplaces that had probably also been adapted for burning coal, and standard items in stove-dealers' inventory. Modifying a traditional fireplace in this way was one step on the road towards introducing a stove as well, or instead.  New York city iron foundries do not seem to have done much stove casting at this stage (though probably more replacement-parts manufacture) -- that business was still quite specialized and carried on back at the rural furnaces -- but there was no insuperable reason for them not to enter it, once the balance of costs and benefits shifted further in favor of making stoves in foundries nearer their markets. 

Worrall's Foundry, c. 1846 -- from Doggett's Directory, opp. p. 450. 

(2) The development of a local and regional stove distribution system:

While i
n 1815 there had been just one stove dealer in New York City (plus the Youles), by 1825 he was still in business and had been joined by eight others. There were now five more grate-makers too, the increases over the past decade supporting and accompanying the city's slow transition from wood to coal fuel. These two change processes -- from fireplace to stove, and from vegetable to mineral fuel -- would soon link up and accelerate, with the introduction of the first substantial deliveries of Pennsylvania anthracite, and the invention of new kinds of stove as the best ways of burning it.  (See this post for a nice contemporary account of consumer resistance to cooking with coal or anthracite as fuel, and in front of grates or on stoves.)

Samuel Hollyer, “Bowery Theatre, New York City, 1826,” engraved c. 1903, -- Hollyer often worked from older images. This picture shows the pavement in front of a store, with a stack of stovepipes and a row of five stoves lined up for sale: two curious round objects with three boiling holes, perhaps the artist's way of depicting “Old Philadelphia”-style oval ten-plates, two cylindrical heating stoves topped with decorative urns, and one that is probably another small cooking stove, being inspected by a couple or demonstrated to a lady customer by the storekeeper.  As the 1845 map below makes clear, the Bowery became a major stove-retailing street, but it wasn't yet at the date when Hollyer set his picture.  

The 1830s

The city's population growth rate accelerated -- from about 50 percent between 1815-1825, to about 60 percent in the next ten years -- and it housed about quarter of a million people by 1835.  The number of specialized businesses producing and selling stoves, ranges, furnaces, and grates increased even more rapidly, understandable given that in their role as wholesalers some of them served a market territory now stretching as far as the Gulf Coast and up the Mississippi River and, via the Erie Canal, into the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes.  This was in addition to the older, maturing markets accessible via the Hudson valley and New England's coastal ports and navigable rivers, which they still commanded.

There were now so many firms in the related but largely separate business areas (grate and fender manufacture, iron foundries) included in the 1825 map that I will confine myself to mapping the stove trade alone at this point -- and leave the raw data on other industry sectors in the spreadsheet, merely summarizing it here. Grate and fender makers and sellers now numbered about 45 individuals and firms; iron foundries about 17, two of them specializing in stoves (there were certainly more foundries than that, but they operated as departments of machinery works and were not listed separately).  And there were also about 35 stove, range (indicated by a red star), and furnace manufacturers (indicated by a red diamond) -- the latter two small subdivisions of the trade indicating that it had experienced not just growth but also internal differentiation, as a market began to develop for the more costly and sophisticated forms of cooking and heating equipment.

For the original map, see
(select the correct, i.e. second, layer to view).

Whilst the stove trade had grown, it had also become more concentrated.  About half of the firms, and all of the most important wholesalers, were located along a short stretch of Water Street.  In 1825, this had been a very diversified commercial area: the four stove firms' neighbors (either side and opposite) had been a fur store, several merchants, a saddler, and a shipmaster, as well as George Youle.  Over the next couple of decades the number and density of stove firms on the the three blocks between Fulton Slip and Dover Street would increase -- to 17 in 1835, 19 in 1840, and 26 in 1845, with 5 more just round the corner (in the larger properties on the west side of Beekman Street where it crossed Water) -- and they would stamp their character upon it, creating a distinct business community that lasted until the end of the century.  [See 'Jeems,' "Odd Castings," The Metal Worker 5:23 (3 June 1876): 5, on the personnel and slang of the district thirty years later -- e.g. Water Street was "The Swamp," Beekman Street "Murray Hill."]

It wasn't just that stove makers and sellers were increasingly likely to be one another's next-door neighbors, but also that other businesses locating nearby turned these few blocks into an increasingly compelling destination for consumers and retailers looking to buy metal wares.  In 1835, for example, the same exercise carried out above for 1825 -- looking for stove businesses' neighbors either side and across the street -- still produced a picture of diversity (a boot & shoe shop, a fur store, a grocer, a hatter's, a porterhouse, an upholsterer, and a couple of merchants, one of whom was in fact engaged in the stove business too), but also of complementary enterprises (tinsmiths and coppersmiths, who fabricated stove pipes and cooking utensils; a brass-founder; a hardware and an iron store; and the city offices of the Howell Works, a big New Jersey iron furnace and machinery foundry).

The New York City Stove District -- Three Blocks of Water Street between Fulton and Dover, and the west side of Beekman between Water and Pearl. Source: John F. Harrison, Map of New York Extending Northward to Fiftieth Street (New York: M. Dripps, 1852), David Rumsey Historical Map Collection -- the first to show lot boundaries.

There do not seem to be many surviving display advertisements from 1830s New York's stove makers and dealers, but there is in fact plenty of evidence about what they made, some of it in the records of the US Patent Office, some of it in the periodical press.  

After the Great Fire at the US Patent Office in 1836, thirteen of the New York City stove patents dating from 1830-1835 were of enough value to their owners that they had them restored, so that records remain.  Four of them belonged to Jordan L. Mott, still a grocer with a business at 110 South St. in 1835, but starting up in trade as a maker of anthracite heating stoves at 248 Water at the same time; one to James Wilson; one to Bennington Gill, a hardware dealer of 206 Water St. who was actually the New York partner in an Albany stove business, Gill & French, and probably acted as its agent in the city for the trade in castings from the Jersey furnaces and also for finished stoves brought back downriver; one to Levi Disbrow, a Bleecker Street range maker; one to Joseph Jennings, a moulder; and another to a member of a family of tinsmiths on Fulton.  The other two belonged to a renowned mechanic and prolific inventor,  Walter Hunt, and to a man whose involvement with stove invention -- Carrington Wilson, Jr., a "Leghorn Hat Bleacher" and son of a milliner, with no obvious connection to the metal trades at the time, though he eventually became a stove merchant -- is more mysterious. Among the thirteen patents left unrestored, there were two more of Disbrow's and one of Carrington Wilson's, but also two from a furnace-maker and a moulder included on the map and/or in the spreadsheet.  The others either cannot be traced in the directory or have no metal trades connection.

This evidence is quite significant: the stove trade itself, and related businesses and crafts, was the source of most invention, and certainly of all that was commercially important.  These were not mere "paper patents": when we see and read them, we are looking at the record of attempts to solve practical problems and produce saleable goods.  [See Appendix for list of New York stove patents, and links to surviving documents.

All of this inventive and entrepreneurial activity had a context, and an important part of that was provided by a new organization, the American Institute, modelled on Philadelphia's Franklin Institute, which brought together artisans, mechanics, and others interested in the progress of manufacturing activity.  The Institute held regular annual fairs at which stove makers and others displayed their wares to thousands of members of the interested public, and competed for peer-awarded prizes which were important endorsements of the value and quality of their products.  Many of the names that figure in the map and the spreadsheet -- the Water Street stove makers, the Broadway range builders -- crop up over and over again in American Institute membership lists and reports on its annual exhibitions. So if we want to know who they were, what they were making, and what contemporaries considered to be their best products, we can go to the published accounts -- e.g. "American Institute at New York," Niles' Register 30 Oct. 1830, pp. 162-5 and "Seventh Annual Fair of the  American Institute, Held at Niblo's Gardens, October, 1834," Mechanics' Magazine, and Register of Inventions and Improvements 4:4 (25 Oct. 1834): 241-52, with illustrations; Journal of the American Institute 1 (1836), subscribers' lists.

Understanding and exploring the nature of these proprietary, sometimes quite small, and often short-lived stove businesses is difficult.  None of them, apart from James Wilson, a few of whose papers are in the New-York Historical Society's collections, have left any records of their own.  But several show up in the correspondence of two Philadelphia-based stove furnace operators, David Cooper Wood (Millville, New Jersey) and Samuel Gardiner Wright (Millsboro, Delaware), who were their suppliers.  And some of the leading New York stove makers and sellers -- Charles Postley, James Wilson and his successor Charles Clussman, and Myron Stanley -- have inadvertently left quite revealing records behind them: their bankruptcy files in the US National Archives.

The big impression left by the Wood and Wright papers is of the riskiness of the stove trade.  The biggest risk was of not getting paid.  The expansion of the market through the twenty years after the end of the War of 1812 depended on long credits extended to furnace operators by their suppliers, and by furnace operators to their wholesale customers.  Wholesalers in turn gave long credits to their scattered jobbing and retail customers, and retailers could only pay up when they in turn got paid -- which, in an overwhelmingly agricultural society, meant "after the harvest, with luck; and otherwise, after the next one."  Sometimes wholesalers miscalculated, and then the whole complex, fragile edifice collapsed. When Spencer Stafford, the first large-scale wholesaler in Albany, ran into a liquidity crisis in spring 1826, which he blamed on the winter freeze-up of the new Erie Canal, and his customers' consequent inability to move and sell anything and thus pay him, he was owed $206,000, and owed $181,000 to his suppliers, including Wright -- $145 million and $127 million in 2013 dollars, using the nominal GDP per capita method of calculation.

The federal bankruptcy files confirm this impression.  The US internal payments system, never very robust even in the era of the Second Bank of the United States, became still more fragile after the bank's charter was ended by President Andrew Jackson, and the stove trade, depending on increasingly long chains of interstate credits and payments, was particularly vulnerable to its recurrent breakdowns.  The US economy in the 1830s also experienced a cycle of boom and bust which both stimulated the stove trade's growth and also left it very exposed when the bottom fell out of the market in 1837.  Leading figures in the New York stove trade were casualties of these successive crises.  James Wilson went down first, in 1834, with $57,510 of liabilities; his successor in business, Charles Clussman, with (and behind the shelter of) whom Wilson returned to work, went broke in 1839, owing $74,000; and Charles Postley failed in 1836 owing $33,000, made an arrangement with his creditors and returned to the market, then went properly bankrupt again in 1842, owing $52,000 (including most of 1836's unpaid debts).  These sums were large at the time, and, by the nominal GDP method, can be thought of as comparable to $37 million, $39 million, and $18 rising to $31 million in 2013 dollars.

These figures give us some sense of the scale of these Water Street stove traders' operations.  The detailed reports of their debts  (available in spreadsheet form) also show the dense networks of local and long-distance business relationships in which they were embedded.  It would be easier to list the small number of states in which these major players in the nation's most important wholesaling center did not have business connections than those where they did: Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont, and Wisconsin -- i.e. most of New England, all of the Middle Atlantic States, most of the Old North West (East North Central) and South Atlantic states,  and the most rapidly developing states of the new Cotton South.

Some of the individual details in these reports, which are mostly just lists of debts, are revealing.  Wilson's bankruptcy schedule included an inventory of his household goods.  By 1841, after Clussman's failure, this aged merchant, thirty years in trade, and at one time prosperous, was very reduced in circumstances. His and his wife's clothing was not even "sufficient for their necessary and comfortable use" -- "two suits of raiment" for him, three "full changes" for her. Charles Postley, who at one stage had owned a blast furnace and its vast estate in Pennsylvania, had no household furniture not burdened by a mortgage that he could not pay.  Clussman lost his status as an independent businessman, and resumed his previous life, as a clerk.

The most interesting of these cases was that of Myron Stanley & Co.  Stanley was the New York representative of a family business based in Poultney, Vermont, where his brother Henry, inventor of the famous revolving-top cooking stove, a market leader in the late 1830s, had a foundry, supplied with pig iron from his own furnace in nearby Fort Ann, New York State.  Other Stanley brothers ran factories and warehouses in Troy, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, where the Vermont castings were finished, assembled, and sold.  Castings were freighted to Whitehall in New York and shipped from there by the Champlain Canal to Troy, then down the Hudson to Manhattan, which was the center of the firm's distribution network. When the firm became insolvent in 1842,  with debts of $82,000 ($49 million in 2013$), its Water Street  quarters contained inventory and equipment  (including a steam engine to drive the machinery used in stove-plate finishing and assembly, and several hoists, probably for moving heavy goods up from the street  to the multi-storey warehouse) valued at almost $8,000.  (See this spreadsheet.)  

The sense this asset list conveys of how crowded the premises must have been, with an office, a display and sales room, workshops, and storage for raw materials, as well as 370 stoves (about 40-50 tons), 850 items of tinware, and 6,600 miscellaneous items (mostly cast-iron cooking utensils), helps us begin to visualize something of what these Water Street stove businesses were like as physical spaces.  They were places of work and trade; few of their owners lived above the shop, and fewer with each passing decade.  There would have been no room, and in any case a building containing the heat, noise, and smell of a small steam engine and its boiler, a blacksmith's forge, a machine shop, a metal-polishing department, and a tinshop, would not have been a very agreeable place of habitation. There do not appear to be any early illustrations of these stove business comparable to those in the "Philadelphia on Stone" collection, e.g. "Foering & Thudium's Cheap Stove Ware-house" or "Piper & Andrews, Warm Air Furnace Manufactory," 1846 -- storage in the basement or at the rear, ware room or shop on the ground floor, work rooms upstairs).  But the 1852 lot map tells us that, though the properties were quite deep, they had narrow street frontages and no rear access, so all goods, customers, and workmen would have had to come in through the same front door or, in the case of heavy items, via the hoists to the upper floors.  By 1852, most of the lots were also very fully built up, with little light and air between them and their neighbors.

There is one final feature of the Water Street stove makers and dealers of the mid-1830s that is worth commenting on before closing this section.  Though John Youle had leased a blast furnace in New Jersey and owned an air furnace in the city between 1798 and at least 1815, and James Wilson had also leased a Jersey furnace (Millville) in the early 1820s, and William James and his partner had had branches in Troy and Boston by the same time, the usual business model in the 1820s and 1830s was much simpler.  Stove merchants bought their castings from a furnace, had them shipped to New York (this was part of the furnaces' service, and included within their price), and then finished and assembled them for sale in the city or transshipped them to merchants elsewhere.  But by the mid-1830s we can begin to see signs of change, with more firms that were multi-site and also active in the earliest stage of production, castings manufacture, themselves. 

Howard Nott & Co. was the New York sales depot of the Nott brothers' Union Furnace, Albany, where some of the anthracite heating stoves designed by their famous father, the Reverend Dr Eliphalet Nott, president of Union College, Schenectady, were made.  Bennington Gill was also the city wholesaler and retailer for an upstate firm, Gill & French of Albany.  Charles Postley had bought an iron furnace, the Juniata, in central Pennsylvania, to provide his castings supply.  Myron Stanley, as we have seen, was the New York representative of a more complicated integrated business, with its own furnace, foundry, and four manufacturing and sales outlets, all of them tied together by canal, river, and coastal transport. There were also a couple of local firms (Robert Harvey and Abraham Knight) describing themselves as "Stove Founders."  These enterprises, apart perhaps from Postley's, pointed towards a future in which the structure of the stove trade would change profoundly, as its old dependence on getting its castings from the rural iron furnaces of south-east Pennsylvania and south-west New Jersey would soon end.

The 1840s

The city's population growth rate accelerated slightly, to about 60 percent 1835-1845, despite the Panic of 1837 and the economic weakness of the following years, so that by the mid-1840s Manhattan housed about 400,000 people.  The stove trade experienced even more growth, but also quite profound change.

There was little continuity: James, Postley, and Wilson were still there, after between twenty and thirty years and, in Postley and Wilson's cases, three business failures, from which they had emerged in partnership with other family members; so too was Jordan Mott, a new entrant to the trade in 1835.  There were also six other stove, range, and furnace manufacturers and/or dealers scattered around the city who had been in business for at least ten years. Otherwise, the business population was entirely new.  (There was a bit more continuity, of a kind: though only three Water Street addresses were occupied by the same individuals and firms in 1845 as in 1835, seven more still harbored stove businesses, but under different ownership and management.  This made sense, given the internal spatial arrangements, workrooms, and fixed equipment required for stove enterprises.)

There were now three furnace makers [red stars on the following map]; eight kitchen range makers [red squares]; ## furnace makers [red stars]; at least three stove founders [blue markers], and one specialist stove pattern maker as well as a general pattern maker advertising his ability to make stove patterns [green]; and fourty-four makers and/or sellers of stoves [red markers].  They were heavily concentrated in the well-established Water Street stove district, but there was also an emerging cluster of stove retailers along the Bowery, following the customers as the city spread up Manhattan, while range makers and other retailers were still scattered around residential districts, the range makers, catering to upmarket customers, all on or near Broadway. 

For the original map, including labels for individual markers, see (third layer) or (top layer).

The New York City Stove District, 1845:
Water & Beekman Streets, between Fulton & Dover and Water & Pearl

Frazier, Chadwick, & CarmanStoves206207StovesWaring, Geo. B.
Gilbert, John T. & James WilsonStoves208209StovesFisk, Almond
Trowbridge, Frederick H.Olmstead's Stoves210211Merchant [1844]
Agent212213Com. Mer. [Tibbets -- actually a Troy stove maker]
214215Copper [1844]
Beekman Street
Capfronts108109StovesLevi Turrell
Biscuit baker [1844]110111StovesWhitney & Delamontanya
112113Iron [1844]
114115StovesThompson & Munsell
116117StovesBrown, John
118119StovesMorgan, David
Water Street, resumed
Liddle, JohnStoves220221
Math. Instruments222223
226227Musician [1844]
Residence, Pub. House230231StovesFinch, R.R. & Co.
Residence, Tinware232233StovesUtter & Co., Samuel
233½StovesMcPherson & Guest
Clussman, Charles L.Clerk [ex-Stoves]234235StovesQuimby, Geo. & Co.
Hatter236237StovesWood, Loftis
Thorp, David B.Stoves238239StovesSpelman, Saml. R.

240241[Stove] FounderPostley, Chas.
Shepard & Co.Nott's Stove Warehouse242243[Stove] FounderAbendroth, Wm Jr
Plumber [1844]244245Iron [1844]
Seymour & WilliamsStoves246247
248249Lead pipe
Hickok, Wm. & Co.Stoves -- Dealers in Atwood's Empire Cooking Stoves250251StovesBoardman, Wm.
Vanever, OliverStoves252Peck Slip
Lamotte, John H.Stoves254253[Stove] FoundersRollhaus & Abendroth
Hardware [1844]258257Tailor
Peck Slip259Barber
Somerville, A. & M.Stoves260261Stevedore
Oilclothing262263StovesVanever, Oliver
Mott, Jordan L.Ironfounder [Stoves]264265FounderForce, Cornelius B. & Ephraim
Plumber266267Clothing [1844]
Grocer268269Boarding Ho.
Grocer272273Rendezvous, Tammany Hall
Foundry [Farrel]274275Grocer [1844]
Bootmaker [1844]276277Porterhouse [1844]
Dover Street
Coppersmith294295Stove factoryJames, John W.

Though the directory and the map do not make this clear, the structure of the business was quite different from what it had been a scant ten years earlier. 

There is some evidence there.  For example, while almost all recorded firms in 1825 and 1835 had been single proprietorships or two-man (usually family) partnerships, by 1845 several had developed into firms large enough to involve as principals three or four men with different surnames, some of them operating from more than one site in the city and/or beyond its boundaries.

The maturing of the stove business  is also evident in the number of firms including their product or brand name in their entry -- the Gilhoolys, who were "Manufacturers of Holmes' Patent Kitchen Range,"  Frederick Trowbridge selling "Olmstead's Stoves," a celebrated anthracite parlor heater designed by a Professor at Yale, "Nott's Stove Warehouse," no longer owned and operated by Notts, but by Shepard & Co., and William Hickok and Co., "Dealers in Atwood's Empire Cooking Stoves" -- produced by Atwood, Cole & Crane of Troy and, according to them, "used in all sections of the Country" since about 1841, and having given "in all instances ... universal satisfaction in all its departments.  For economy and utility it is superior to any Stove that has yet been offered to the public." 

The Hagley and Winterthur libraries' trade catalogue collections both hold copies of this rare early example.

That I am able to quote from a promotional handbook published by the company in 1846 explains why it was worth William Hickok's while advertising at all opportunities, even in the city directory, that he had the Atwood agency in New York City: the company had built a reputation for its patent-protected products, and Hickok wanted to piggyback on it.  In the mid-1830s only two city firms, Nott's and Stanley's, had much name recognition, and in both cases the product was inextricably linked with the family that produced and sold it.  Only one other quasi-brand existed, for Youle's cabooses, still being manufactured and sold by successor firms.  By the mid-1840s  there were more of these personal brands, and also products that could stand up in the market for themselves and be promoted and sold by other firms in a merely contractual relationship with their inventors and/or makers.

The third big change was the death of the Mid-Atlantic stove furnace business.  By 1845 it had been replaced as a source of supply for the New York market by either (1) home-grown stove foundries, or (2) out-of-town, usually upriver, companies. 

As we have seen, there was at least one New York stove foundry in 1825, and another by 1835, but neither has left any paper-trail even in the public press (as far as I can tell), so I assume that they were neither large nor very significant.  But Jordan Mott, a prosperous South Street grocer who entered the stove trade in 1835, was different.  He is usually (and wrongly) credited with having established the first stove foundry in America, whereas in fact his wasn't even the first on Water Street.  Abraham Knight, at No. 242 in 1835, just two doors down from Mott at No. 248, had been in the same business, though at a different address, for at least ten years by then.  But Mott's decision to start casting some of his own stove plate, probably in 1837-1838, in a backyard foundry initially capable of making just  half a ton every other day, was significant in a way that Knight's wasn't, because Mott built a large business and an even larger reputation on it. His success seems to have been an inspiration to other stove makers upriver as far as Albany and Troy, along the Erie  Canal corridor to Utica and Buffalo, and even as far west as Cincinnati and St. Louis, to do the same.  (For much more on this, see A Nation of Stoves, Chapter 5, as well as my two blog posts about Mott,  on his anthracite stoves and his farmers' boilers.)   

Water Street was not a good location for a growing foundry -- the lots were not big enough; there was little raw material storage space; shifting tons of sand, anthracite, limestone, and pig iron in through the shop's front door cannot have been easy; and the cupola furnace must have been problematic to his neighbors. (The fact that Knight called himself a founder, as did Charles Postley by 1835, does not necessarily mean that their foundries were on Water Street -- Postley's was two hundred miles away in central Pennsylvania; Knight's had been one and a half miles away in 1825, on the fringe of the growing city, and it is possible that it still was; his Water Street premises, like Postley's and the other firms identified as "Founders" on the 1845 map, would therefore have been for finishing and selling castings made elsewhere.) 

Mott's success soon outgrew his backyard experiment, and like other foundrymen before him he sought a location with plenty of cheap land, few bothersome neighbors, and good transport -- at first at Irvington-on-Hudson, twenty-eight miles away, and then in a new industrial district, Morrisania, in a suburb now called Mott Haven, nine miles north on the new railway or an easy boat trip, just across the Harlem River in the South Bronx.  By 1843 he could claim in his catalogue that all of his stoves were “cast and finished at the proprietor’s works, under his own superintendence.” Their quality had improved “probably more than in any other article of manufacture,” and they were “made from the first quality of pig iron, of sufficient weight and thickness to ensure durability, mounted and put together with the utmost care…. They cannot fail to work well.” 

By 1845, most of the other large stove makers were evidently organizing themselves like Mott -- with a retail and wholesale saleroom, warehouse, and workshop on Water Street, and their foundry somewhere more suitable.  Stephen Cox, partner in George Quimby & Co. at no. 235, ran a foundry in his own name on Henry Street a mile away.  Shepard & Co. at no. 242 also provided office space for the Novelty Iron Works (Stillman, Allen & Co.) at the foot of 12th Street on the East River four miles north, a big engineering foundry that Eliphalet Nott had established in 1833 but of which he had had to cede apparent control to his superintendent, Thomas Stillman, when he ran into a liquidity crisis in 1839.  It would have been possible for the Novelty to have carried on producing the castings for Nott stoves alongside its other much heavier and more complex products even when it and the company making and selling them had seemingly passed into other hands.  (In fact, the wily Nott still owned the Novelty, but had sheltered his assets from his creditors behind Stillman, his straw man.  This, at least, is his biographer Codman Hislop's version -- Eliphalet Nott, Wesleyan U.P., 1971, pp. 356, 452, 477, 596.  When the works passed to its new management, its tangible assets were "largely stove and engine castings." -- p. 375)   

The Novelty Works, c. 1841 -- cf. the picture of the La Fayette Furnace just sixteen years earlier (above), for change in the New York foundry business.

In other cases the distance from Water Street to a firm's foundry was even greater than Mott's nine miles, and the Water Street establishment was the local face of an out-of-town firm.  The Abendroths and their partner Philip Rollhaus, for example, had their homes and foundry at Port Chester, on the Connecticut border of Westchester County, thirty miles away but just a cheap, quick, and easy steamboat trip.  Their warerooms were on Water Street, and they also had a retail store on the Bowery.  All three major Peekskill stove foundries -- what became the Union, People's, and National Stove Works -- similarly established sales outlets in the city themselves, or went into partnership with existing wholesalers for the same purpose.  Reuben R. Finch, a stove maker since 1830, and his firm's city representative (and son-in-law) Uriah Hill Jr. kept their homes and had their foundry fifty miles north up the Hudson but no less accessible than Port Chester. Samuel Utter & Co., an established Water Street dealer, went into partnership with Thomas Southard, who opened his foundry in Peekskill in 1841 and, like Finch, continued to live there.  Washington Whitney and James Delamontanya took over a new foundry close to Finch's in 1844, with Delamontanya moving to Beekman Street to act as the firm's city sales representative.  (For all of these, see Thomas Scharf's History of Westchester County, 1886, pp. 402-3.)  

By the late 1840s they were joined on Water Street by representatives of Poughkeepsie, Albany, Troy, Schenectady, and Waterford stove foundries, all of whom could also see the obvious advantages, even the competitive necessity, of establishing a presence in the country's biggest stove market.  New York offered, as it had for decades, both the largest concentration of stove consumers in the country, and also unparalleled transportation (still mostly shipping) links with markets as far afield as the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the Mississippi valley, and even the West Coast (after the Gold Rush, California rapidly developed an enormous appetite for stoves, hardly any of which were made locally).

1875 Stereograph of the National Stove Works, formerly Whitney & Delamontanya's. Note the piles of scrap and flasks (wooden molding boxes) in the storage yards in the foreground, helping to explain the advantage of a large out-of-town site.

As for the other more strictly New York-based firms that either lacked a foundry of their own or had no organic business relationship with one, by the mid-1840s they had a mature local foundry sector on which to depend for their castings or, like William Hickok, they could simply import whole stoves by cheap downriver freight from the emerging center of the American stove business, the Capital District 150 miles north up the Hudson, whose growing firms supplied new and established wholesalers as well as establishing their own Water Street sales outlets.

* * * 

It is therefore possible to argue that by the 1840s the New York stove trade had matured, in that almost all of the features that continued to characterize it until the end of the century, and even many of the firms and individuals who remained active in it for decades, were already present.  For example, Uriah Hill Jr only died in 1914, and was still a vocal member of the National Association of Stove Manufacturers until 1906; Union Stove Works, the company he helped build, was still in business until at least 1929.  William P. Abendroth only bowed out in 1893, and his company was still active in 1922.  Munsell & Thompson, Southard Robertson & Co., Jordan Mott's Iron Works, and other lesser players already present in the 1840s or even late 1830s were also pillars of the New York and national stove trade for decades afterwards.

The 1850s 

{from here on this is a work-in-progress that may not progress very far or very fast -- a collection of scraps, really, notes towards saying something about the mature mid-century New York stove business that may be extended, but don't at the moment seem very likely to cohere.}

Manhattan sustained its rapid rate of population growth, 60 percent, for the third successive decade, and had about 700,000 people by the mid-1850s.  Changes within the stove trade were not qualitatively as great as in the previous ten years. In keeping with my conclusion about the beginnings of its maturation by the early 1840s, what we see instead is very significant growth (from 62 to 154 separate businesses), but consolidation more than further transformation -- an impressive extension of the retail network throughout the spreading city, and significant specialization (from 8 to 12 kitchen-range makers; from 3 to 25 furnace makers; and from 1 to 7 caboose makers) but no fundamental alteration in the underlying pattern, with the major wholesalers still concentrated in and around Water Street, where most of them would long remain. 

The growth in density and coverage of the retail network is probably the most striking change.  Examination of the 1845 map makes it look as if most new consumers in Manhattan's mushrooming neighborhoods, spreading northwards fast, must have been an increasingly and inconveniently long way from the places where they could buy their stoves, ranges, and hot-air furnaces.  But there is a vital category of enterprises almost missing from this story so far: the tinsmiths, running small artisan workshops and retail stores where they made and sold kitchen and household utensils and, crucially, stoves, which they also installed and serviced.  Tinsmiths and other similar artisans and shopkeepers (braziers, coppersmiths, crockery dealers, furniture and hardware stores) still provided many of the last links in the distribution chain from the furnaces and foundries, through the manufacturers and wholesalers, to individual consumers, as they had for decades.

The 1852 business directory, for example, counted 231 tinsmiths in the city as against just 88 "stove and range warehouses."  In fact, the two categories overlapped: 26 enterprises figured in both lists.  What happened between the mid-1840s and mid-1850s was not just that the number of specialized stove, range, and furnace manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers increased.  Almost as interesting is how this happened.  One of the most important ways was simply that a growing number of tinsmiths, hardware dealers, etc., for whom stoves had been just a part of their business in previous years, responded to the increase in consumer demand by focusing on meeting it.  

As a result, the apparent growth in the number of stove businesses over the next few years -- to 103 by the time of the 1856 survey, of which just 9 also described themselves as tinsmiths -- was, to an extent, illusory.  What had happened, as well as the establishment of new stove enterprises, was a change in the classification of a significant number of tinsmiths and others, who had carried on in the same trades throughout but were now listed as stove sellers because the balance of their activities had changed.  These and an unknowable number of the 205 firms that were still principally in the tin business, but for whom stoves were an important sideline, provided New York City with a retail distribution network penetrating into most neighborhoods.     

{Must decide whether to use the 1856 business directory count or the (larger) individual address directory for the same year.}

(a) The Mid-50s Map.  The following version was compiled from the 1856 edition of Wilson's Business Directory of New York City, supplemented by the 1856 edition of Trow's Directory, which enables the user to trace individuals as well as businesses, and to classify firms more precisely.  In the following map, RED markers signify stove makers and sellers -- round for single-location businesses, stars for those with two or three sites.  YELLOW squares indicate the kitchen-range businesses, and ORANGE diamonds the furnace makers.  Finally, GREEN dots mark the caboose makers.
 for original map (layer 2).

What one can see is in fact pretty obvious -- Water Street was still the site of most of the stove wholesalers, though a few had moved to Broadway, probably because the extension of railroad and horse-drawn street railway service made it easier to bring heavy goods further from the waterfront.  There were now stove retailers strung out along all of the major retail corridors, Broadway, the Bowery, Grand and E. Houston streets, and Greenwich Avenue, extending up into midtown, so that no potential customer was more than a few blocks from a specialized supplier.  The distance to a retail outlet was much less if one could identify and include all of the furniture, hardware, and second-hand stores, as well as the tinsmiths and other artisans, from whom equipment could also be bought, and who were among the wholesalers' customers.  Range and furnace makers were also following their middle-class clients uptown, but sticking to the principal shopping streets rather than spreading into most neighborhoods like the general stove traders, from whom ranges and in some cases furnaces could also be bought.  Finally, the handful of caboose makers remained on Water and South Streets, handy for their maritime customers, where the pioneering New York City stove makers, all of whom had had an important seagoing market, had first established themselves forty and more years earlier.

Looking behind the map at the spreadsheet, a few more evidences of change, and the consolidation of earlier changes, stand out.  For example, there is the increasing specialization within the trade.  Among the furnace makers, some were even beginning to focus on what were called at the time "hot-water furnaces," but would soon be referred to as central-heating boilers, as this newest and most costly form of space heating for public and commercial buildings, upper-middle-class mansions and middle-class apartment blocks became more common.  Among the kitchen-range builders, some, like the French immigrants Elie Moneuse and Louis Duparquet, who started as tinsmiths making high-quality copper cooking utensils, were beginning to specialize even further in large-scale equipment for hotels, restaurants, and other mass caterers.

(b) Display advertisements showing the relationship of wholesalers to their out-of-town suppliers and foundries:

The 1854-5 Directory has a nice advertising section with six pages of stove makers and wholesalers, beginning at Appendix p. 28, and including Reuben R. Finch & Sons' Union Stove Works and Thomas Southard's People's Stove Works, both of Peekskill.  

Note that the Union Stove Works wasn't just a stove foundry -- like many of its contemporaries and competitors it still maintained a wide product range; but the cooking stove was the most important item, so almost always had pride of place in stove makers' advertisements.

Hedenberg, still listed as a tinsmith in 1848 but a stove manufacturer since at least 1850, was a specialist in heating stoves, furnaces, and kitchen ranges -- more expensive products, for a narrower, wealthier market.  This segment of the industry was growing fast in the 1850s: between the 1848 and 1856 directories, the number of individuals and firms in the furnace business increased by about three times.

There was also a large demand in New York City for elaborate parlor grates, which supported its own growing number of suppliers, listed in the spreadhseet but not analysed here because there was rather little crossover between the grate and stove businesses, perhaps because they depended on different manufacturing processes.  Southard's advertisement illustrates the other common style used by stove firms, if they didn't follow Finch and just show their new-model cooking stove: to depict the stove foundry itself, emphasizing to customers the size and modernity of the works, and its ability to meet their needs.

The best illustration, bringing together high-quality versions of both versions of the standard stove ad, the smoking foundry and the cooking stove (in this case, one clearly named to appeal to the New York market) is from John R. Chapin's The Historical Picture Gallery: Scenes and Incidents of American History (Boston: D. Bigelow & Co., 1856), vol. 5, which has a number of excellent stove company advertisements including, at p. 22, this one:

Spuyten Duyvil, for those who do not know their Manhattan geography, is at the extreme northern tip of the island, thirteen miles from the offices and show room on Broadway which the 1856 map shows as the premises of John Liddle, presumably their New York agent or representative.  He entered the stove business from tinsmithing in 1843, and by 1852 called his firm, then on Water Street, the "Troy Stove Warehouse," already emphasizing his dependence on out-of-town suppliers who had come to be associated with value, quality, variety, and innovation.  

(c) A nice quotation emphasizing that the stove trade's market had matured to the point that its products were no longer considered to be new or interesting. 

"Going to the Fair. The American Institute at the Crystal Palace," New York Times 1 Oct. 1856, p. 1:

"In the northeast section of the Palace we came upon a dismal moor of stoves -- cook-stoves, parlor stoves, heaters, furnaces, ranges, Franklins & air-tights of every style, capacity and pretension.  This display attracts some attention from housekeepers, of whom we never yet knew one who was satisfied with the stove or range that is in her own kitchen.  Cooking stoves and ranges always promise more than they perform, and though inventive skill is daily improving these machines, we predict that the day is not far distant when they will all be cast aside and every housekeeper will cook his meats and heat his house by Gas!

We were charmed by a gas cooking stove which we found in operation in the Fair. We appreciated its cleanliness and its economy.  No more coal or kindlings to buy -- no more ashes to cart away -- no more dirt, nor soot, nor dust.  The kitchen is transformed into a parlor, and the cook into a fine lady."

In fact, solid-fuel appliances remained important for years, and continued both to improve and to be displayed at the American Institute's and others' annual fairs -- see e.g. "The Close of the Fair at the Crystal Palace," NYT 7 Nov. 1857, p. 2:

"At just this time of year, City house-keepers naturally went first into the quarter where the large assortment of ranges, furnaces, and stoves is set out."  But the journalist again expressed his dissatisfaction with the products available -- furnaces were "a gas-leaking, incendiary, fuel-wasting nuisance," and filthy into the bargain, discoloring brownstone houses' fronts.

Stoves etc. were a key ingredient in these and similar shows (not least the Philadelphia, Chicago, and St. Louis expositions) right down until the early twentieth century.  In New York's American Institute fairs, they were included within the "Department of the Dwelling," showcasing heating and cooking appliances, "lamps, kitchen-ware, carpets, furniture, doors, window-sash, etc." -- everything for mass-produced mid-Victorian comfort and convenience. ["American Industry.  The Coming Exhibition of the American Institute -- A Grand Display Anticipated -- Preparations of the Managers -- The Improved Empire Rink Opens for the Reception of Goods," NYT 19 August 1870, p. 6.]

Next Steps:

(i) Filling in (some of) the gaps.  I have no obvious way of filling some of the gaps in coverage of change processes, because the relevant directories do not seem to have been digitized, which is why I settled initially for a 10-year interval. However, for the 1830s and 1840s it was easy to halve it, as I could get directories for 1840 and, though of a different character (just a classified business directory), 1850 too.  Though this addition information, all in the spreadsheet now, only seemed to confirm the above account rather than to alter it in any significant respects, it was hard to resist the temptation to go further.  G
iven the rate of turnover of businesses and entrepreneurs, the maximum of granularity was obviously the only fully satisfactory way of tracing their appearances, disappearances, and other movements.  For example, year-by-year scrutiny demonstrates that William James's sons seem to have quit the stove trade and left Water Street, in 1846, but that a decade later they returned to the business, as furnace makers; Charles Postley made his last appearance, as a "late founder," in 1846; Myron Stanley, trading in iron, in 1844; and James Wilson, still as a stove dealer, in 1848 -- i.e. these founding or leading members of the Water Street business community all bowed out within a few years of one another.  

I have decided to settle, for the moment at least, on a compromise approach to gap-filling: chasing up all of the stove, grate, and furnace makers in all the directories I can find, but only aiming for exhaustive coverage of other categories of related trades and businesses at the ten- or five-year intervals.  The job is now done for the 1823, 1826-7, 1834, 1836, 1839, 1842-4, 1846-8, 1854, and 1856 address directories, as well as the 1852 business directory.  I have also begun to track firms backwards and forwards, i.e. if a name shows up as a stove trader in 1848, what if anything was he doing in 1846?  (The most common, and predictable, but not uninteresting answer: tinsmith.)  

The most interesting finding, especially from the late 1840s, is the arrival of more and more representatives of out-of-town firms, from as far away as Baltimore and Hartford, but mostly from the Hudson Valley cities of Peekskill, Poughkeepsie, Albany, Troy, Schenectady, and Waterford, which became New York City's main stove castings suppliers.  Getting down to the individual entries for the men associated with these firms, and tracking their movement from hotels and boarding houses to New York residential addresses, or the fact that they retained their upriver homes and were, presumably, frequent commuters on the fast steamboats, was the only way of pinning down this fundamental reshaping of the New York wholesale stove trade. 

The exit of the old firms most closely associated with the traditional sources of castings supply from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and their replacement by home-grown manufacturers and out-of-towners, helps explain Jordan Mott's proud boast in 1851 that "When I commenced the stove business I was looked upon by dealers of that day, as an interloper, I was so called, but few of them would commune with or deal with me; for the past 7 years I have been the oldest wholesale manufacturer in the city." ["Letter to J.R. Smith," Transactions of the American Institute of the City of New-York, for the Year 1851 (Albany: Charles Van Benthuysen, 1852), pp. 139-146 at p. 145].  The following year, emphasizing his success and endurance, he described his firm in Wilson's Business Directory as "The Invincible Stove & Range Dépôt."  Perhaps not entirely "invincible" -- Mott's letter to Smith in 1851 was occasioned by the Institute's failure to award his products a prize in that year's Fair, for the first time in his nineteen years of exhibiting -- but he was correct to note that his business had outlived all of the major competitors he had faced when he opened his Water Street premises in 1835. 

(ii) Adding some "qualitative evidence," i.e. nice quotations and stories from a fascinating collection of correspondence that I found, read, and noted years ago, when I was near the beginning of this research.  They are the letters from Albert Lyman, confidential clerk and sometimes travelling salesman for the Troy, New York stove foundry of Marcus Lucius Filley, who became his junior partner in Filley & Lyman, a Water Street wholesaling business (the usual warehouse and salesroom, with a workshop for making tinware and assembling or repairing stoves) in 1869.  Filley's Green Island Stove Works has left the most abundant surviving records of all of the hundreds of firms that populated this industry between the 1830s and 1930s, though it was only an average-sized business (c. 1,000 tons/10,000 units of stoves, ranges, and furnaces a year by the early 1870s) rather than an industry giant.  

The purpose of opening a depot on Water Street was to help Filley & Co. compete in the booming but also tightening postwar market.  The Green Island Stove Works specialized in wood-fired cook stoves that sold particularly well in the emerging markets of the Lower South and California, so a New York warehouse was useful for supplying these distant customers as well as the city trade.  Despite the fact that Lyman was technically Filley's junior partner, their relationship remained one of employer and employee.  He and his successor as New York manager, Pearl Child (Filley's son Mark's father-in-law, who took over in 1874), sent hundreds of letters back to Troy in 1869-1884, sometimes several a day (and rarely missing a day), because the postal service constituted the essential link in the company's internal communication and control system.  (In other words, old Marcus, sole proprietor and unquestioned boss until he was well into his late 70s, demanded to be told about everything, and his subordinates always had to cover their backs -- very useful for the historian, though not perhaps so agreeable for them.)  They provide abundant detail about the everyday routines and business practices of a Water Street firm by the time of the trade's maturity.  

How far one can read them all back into the prewar period (e.g. the running of travelling salesmen's routes from New York for sales into New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania) is not altogether clear, but for most purposes the Lyman & Child/Filley correspondence is a wonderful resource.   Some of it is in the Special Collections Library at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Boxes 2-4), well organized and easy to use; the rest is in the New York State Library, where there are fifteen linear feet of Marcus L. Filley papers, barely organized at all (SC17735). The Child and Lyman letters are mostly in boxes 11, 12, and 16.

An alternative would be to put these into a separate post -- probably a better bet; this is already more than long enough.

(iii) Other possible projects with these data:

  • It would be possible to calculate turnover and persistence rates for stove (and other related) businesses at 10-year intervals, 1815-1855, or 5-year intervals, 1835-1855.  But I'm not sure that it would be very worthwhile, as there is no study I know of that would enable me to judge whether the results were significantly higher or lower than the numbers for New York businesses more generally; and if they were, I doubt that I could explain why anyway.
  • Another area where the data is suggestive but not conclusive is to look at the change in the ethnic composition of the business community, using surnames (and sometimes forenames too) as indicators.  But maybe it's not worth the effort, as the results seem to be too obvious: a very Anglo business community sees the arrival, first of all of the Irish, and then, in the 1840s and 1850s, and particularly via the tinsmith's trade, of increasing numbers of Germans (including several Jews).  This is just a reflection of the usual pattern of ethnic succession and increasing diversity in mid 19th-century New York.
  • There is plenty of room for improving the maps.  The free version of Google Maps only allows for three layers, which means that I can cover the entire period with two maps -- 1815/1825/1835 and 1835/1845/1855.  
  • But I could also use three different layers for one year -- for example, to present the stove, range, and furnace businesses (or any three other categories, e.g. for 1835 the stove, grate, and foundry trades) separately, allowing viewers to combine them at will. 
  • I'm very tempted to do the same kind of exercise for the foundry trade in its own right.  But maybe that's a temptation I should resist -- it's driven by the availability of the data and the mapping tool, rather than by any explanatory purpose.


  1. Hello Mr. Harris,
    I recently discovered your stove blog and have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It has helped me with research for a book I am writing about stove manufacturer Almond D. Fisk of 209 Water Street, NYC. The book is actually about his Metallic Burial Cases and the occupants, of which I have excavated. I am an archaeologist. Fisk’s time in the stove industry clearly prepared him to develop and perfect his airtight coffins, patented in 1848, which produced incredible natural mummies. I’ve looked through your links writings and found a lot of useful information. I was wondering if you could refer me to an article etc. that could describe how a basically a two-piece clamshell coffin was cast. I can’t post a photo but suggest goggling “Fisk Metallic Burial Case” for an example.

    If you are interested, I would be glad to share my research regarding Fisk ca. 1840-1850.

    Scott Warnasch
    New York City

  2. This stereopticon view of the National Stove Works Hudson River is not at Water St. in NYC. It is in Peekskill, NY east side of the Hudson, 40 miles north.

  3. Wow you have been busy with research .I live in Saint John ,New Brunswick ,Canada and I am renovating a house built 1878/79.The stove in the basement is from 230 water st New York.It also has a Boston address that eludes me.It is a beast of a stove and is coal fired .Is there anyway to find out more about this ?Thanks in advance John Millett email address

  4. I have a 200 year old house. At the bottom of a brick chimney inside the house is a small pie oven and marked WT James patent New York. Do you know what date this would be?

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