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Monday, August 17, 2015

Charles Jarvis Woolson (1806-1869), Thomas Woolson's Son and Constance Fenimore Woolson's Father

Charles J. Woolson attracted a full biography in a commemorative local history of Cleveland, Ohio, so what follows is just that text, supplemented with scraps of additional or corrective primary source material that I have gathered, interpolated in pale green at appropriate points.

Charles Jarvis Woolson (1806-1869):

On the sixth of August, 1869, the citizens of Cleveland were surprised and pained at the announcement of the death, on the morning of that day, of Charles Jarvis Woolson, one of the most active and respected business men of the city. Few were aware of his illness, and even by those acquainted with the facts his death, up to within a very short time of the event, was wholly unexpected.

Mr. Woolson was born in Chester, Vermont, and received careful educational training, the family being in good circumstances. His father was engaged in various manufacturing enterprises, including cotton and wool fabrics, and the making of machine and hand cards. He was one of the very earliest manufacturers of cooking stoves in the country.

At the age of nineteen [1825?], Mr. Woolson went into business on his own account, choosing the newspaper profession instead of manufactures for his debut. His first venture was as editor and publisher of a newspaper in Grafton county, New Hampshire. [Dartmouth College library has a handbill he printed for the fire engine company in Claremont in 1827.] Two years later, he sold out and removed to Virginia, where he assumed charge of the Charlotteville Advocate. But the political and social atmosphere of the South was uncongenial to one born and bred in the free air of Vermont. He could neither feel nor affect to feel anything but abhorrence of the "institution," and so he soon terminated his connection with the press of Virginia, and returned to the land of churches, free schools and free speech. In 1830, he married Miss [Hannah Cooper] Pomeroy, of Cooperstown, New York [neice of James Fenimore], and removing to Keene, New Hampshire, engaged in mercantile business; but he who has once dabbled in journalism imbibes a taste which it is difficult afterwards to eradicate. Mr. Woolson was not at home in a mercantile store, and before long he purchased the New England Palladium, a Boston daily newspaper, and conducted it for two years, when he bade a final adieu to journalism as a profession, disposing of his property in the Palladium and removing to Claremont, New Hampshire, where he engaged with his father in the manufacture of stoves [c. 1833; the Woolson family chronology says they moved to Claremont in Oct. 1830, which it thought was when Charles joined his father in the stove business -- 6 daughters were born there, 1831-1840.  But this would not have provided the time for his other ventures.  Perhaps his wife and children stayed in Claremont while he ventured further afield; or maybe his wife just went back to Claremont for her many deliveries.]  Here he remained until 1840, when he removed to Cleveland [three of his daughters died of scarlet fever, 21 Mar.-3 Apr. 1840, aged 2-5 years, so this tragedy, as well as the search for a new opportunity, may have triggered the migration; they moved to Cleveland in Winter 1840, stopping at Cooperstown with his wife's family en route], taking with him the patterns and materials connected with the stove business, and commenced on his own account in a small way, his capital having been seriously crippled bythe financial convulsion of 1837.

[Cleveland was a good place to enter the stove business because the Great Lakes and the new Ohio canal system gave it excellent transportation links.  So the idea of exploiting its fine location and excellent raw material and fuel supplies in order to start manufacturing cheaper competitive goods on the spot must obviously have been attractive to him.  But the stove trade was much less crowded, and demand much greater, than in the maturing, near-stagnant markets of northern New England that Woolson left behind him.  Ohio's population grew by 62 percent in the 1830s -- New Hampshire's by just 6 percent.  Most stoves were imported from the East -- principally the cities of the Erie Canal corridor and the Hudson Valley, but including the Stanley Rotary from Vermont -- so Woolson met with competition from the same up-to-date stove models in Cleveland as he was familiar with from Claremont.  The 1837-38 Cleveland Directory only included two stove dealers, and stoves were the main business of just one of them.  But there were "four extensive foundries," (and another in Ohio City across the Cuyahoga river, p. 124), meaning that there would have been local skilled workers to recruit as well as the migrants Woolson relied on, though probably none specializing in stove-making.

It is also probable that Woolson moved to Cleveland for family reasons: his younger sister, Stella, married one of his wife's younger brothers, Fenimore Cooper Pomeroy (1818-1870), in Cleveland on 28 November 1840, so it is even possible that Charles and his wife went there in time for the wedding.  A cousin, Thomas Fuller Pomeroy (b. 1816), a recent (1836) Union College graduate and therefore a former student of the Reverend Dr Eliphalet Nott, anthracite heating-stove pioneer, had already set up in Cleveland as a stove dealer and founder in 1837, a business he pursued until 1851 before retraining as a homeopathic doctor.  The relationship between the two men and their firms -- competitors, collaborators? -- is impossible to rediscover, but at the least Pomeroy must have provided Woolson with information and an example to follow; possibly quite a lot more.

Woolson built his foundry in 1841, and was ready for the Fall/Winter sales season of that year: 

Advertisement, Cleveland Herald, 3 Jan. 1842 -- "Stove Foundry. The subscribers have recently established a Foundry in this city, exclusively for the manufacture of Stoves, Hollow Ware, &c. Their workmen have been selected from the best Eastern Foundries, and they are now manufacturing stoves of a quality that is unsurpassed for beauty and durability. Their Cooking Stove is // confidently recommended as superior to any thing in the market, having many important advantages over other kinds of cooking stoves, as they are prepared to prove by the certificates of many persons of the best character and judgment.

They also manufacture a convenient and cheap Cooking Stove, for small families, together with a great variety of Parlor & Plate Stoves, for coal and wood, open and closed, from the plainest to the most showy style of finish. Cooking Furnaces, Hollow Ware, Stove Furniture, Pipe, &c., of the best material and workmanship; all of which will be sold at Low Prices, at wholesale or retail at their store in Franklin Buildings, opposite Geo. Worthington, Water street. C. J. Woolson & Co. (2)

Advertisement, Cleveland Herald, 1 Nov. 1842 -- "C. J. Woolson & Co. have on hand a choice and extensive variety of Stoves, of various kinds, which they will sell for Cash. The assortment consists of Cooking Stoves, Parlor, Plate, Franklin & Cylinder Stoves. Also a new article of Cast Iron Air Tight Stoves. All these wares are of their own manufacture, and will be warranted to stand heat the first season. Purchasers at Wholesale or Retail will find their Goods cheaper than can be obtained in the State of equal quality." (The advertisement was accompanied by a sketch of a stove.)

An interesting question, unfortunately unanswerable, is whether Woolson's broad product range in 1842 indicates that in Claremont, by 1840, he had in fact been making and selling the same wide variety of stove types, not just or mainly his father's old cooking stove and more recent parlor stove; or perhaps that he had learned from his fate in competition with newer stoves about the need to equip himself to supply all of the different needs of consumers, rather than attempting to rely on a single leading product which it was difficult to keep competitive in a crowded, rapidly changing marketplace. 

Mr. Woolson had, in 1845, succeeded in getting his business into a flourishing condition, when, through the defalcation of a trusted partner, he was very nearly ruined. But he did not stop his works one day on account of this disaster. [Woolson started out as a sole trader.  In January 1845 he announced that he had entered into partnership with a George Q. Pomeroy, who soon turned out to be a fraudster, but was trusted because he was another of Woolson's wife's younger brothers, George Quartus -- a family scandal not to be admitted in public (and George an 1835 Columbia graduate, too!  The shame!).  A new  partnership with W. Klemm began in September 1845, but by 1848 Klemm had been replaced by Hitchcock, a partnership that lasted until death (source: Local press; Directories).Collecting together his scattered resources, he set to work all the harder, and as the Fall of the year approached, had succeeded in accumulating a fine stock of wares for the Fall trade, which he had stored in a warehouse at the rear of his factory, but which he neglected to insure. A fire broke out, and the building, with its contents, was completely destroyed, resolving thevaluable stoves into a heap of old iron. Even this did not stop the works. With his characteristic energy, Mr. Woolson had the ground cleared and set to work with redoubled zeal, making new stoves out of the old iron, and succeeded in doing a tolerable business that winter, in spite of his accumulation of disasters.

[The fire was actually in the following year-- "Fire in Cleveland," Carroll Free Press [Carrollton] 7 Aug. 1846, p. 2: destruction of two warehouses, with losses totalling $15,000, in one of which "was stored a large lot of beautiful castings belonging to Woolson, Klemm & Co., which were damaged to the extent of from one to two thousand dollars, and on which there was no insurance."  Evidence for his swift recovery is this advertisement by one of his dealers: "Stoves! Stoves!!," Portage Sentinel [Ravenna] 18 Nov. 1846, p. 3, i.e. at the start of the peak season for stove sales -- C. Prentiss announces that he has Woolson's Air Tight, Western Empire, Yankee Notion, and Premium Cooking Stoves, Cast Iron Air Tight, Franklin Stoves for wood or coal, and Lined Plate Stoves in stock, all from Wood & Klem's Furnace, "handsomely fitted up with copper and iron furniture and sold at Cleveland prices, adding transportation."]

When Mr. Woolson commenced business in Cleveland, it was but a lively village. His stove foundry, the first of importance in northern Ohio, when running to its full capacity, employed but ten hands, and its trade was limited to the immediate vicinity, and a few towns on the canal. But few of the farmers then used cooking stoves, the fire on the hearth serving for all purposes of cooking and warming. The works now employ about one hundred hands when running full, and the customers are found in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa. The firm was changed several years since to Woolson & Hitchcock, and subsequently to Woolson, Hitchcock & Carter. Death removed the senior and junior partners of the firm within a few months of each other.

Mr. Woolson's death was caused by erysipelas, brought on by debility; after an illness of two weeks the disease yielded to medical treatment, and he seemed to gain strength rapidly. On Saturday, the 31st of July, he joined a party of friends and drove in his buggy twenty miles into the country, believing that the fresh air would invigorate him as it had done many times before when his health gave way. But the old remedy failed, and, leaving his horse behind, Mr.Woolson took the cars and reached home in the evening very much exhausted. After lingering five days, typhoid symptoms appeared, and at eight o'clock Friday morning he died, unconscious, and without suffering, after a life of 63 years and one month.

Mr. Woolson possessed a very genial and sociable disposition, was highly intelligent and well informed, and in spite of an infirmity of deafness was a charming companion. His business qualifications are proven by the success of the establishment he founded, in spite of the succession of unforeseen and unavoidable disasters with which it had to contend. He was a man of very domestic habits, and these habits were mellowed and refined by many family losses that might have crushed one less hopeful, and less patient and uncomplaining. To his family he was entirely devoted, and all the affection of a loving household clustered around him with an intensity that made the blow of his sudden loss one peculiarly hard to be borne.

Mr. Woolson had long been connected with Grace Church (Episcopal), ofwhich he was senior warden, and very tender domestic ties, sundered by death some years since, made that church peculiarly dear to him.

[Cleveland Men of Progress, 1869, p. 555]

There is another, shorter bio in a hometown history, which adds a few details to the above:

Son of Thomas Woolson, was born at Chester, Vt., June 26, 1806, and came with his parents to Claremont about 1813. His mother was a member of the Peabody family, a direct descendant from Lieut. Francis Peabody, who came from St. Albans, England, in the ship Planter, to Massachusetts in 1635. Charles Jarvis Woolson attended the public schools and the academy kept by the Rev. Virgil H. Barber, at West Claremont. When old enough to do so he was engaged with his father in the stove and card making business. In 1830 he married Miss Hannah Pomroy, of Cooperstown, N.Y., a niece of the late James Fenimore Cooper, the novelist. One of their daughters was Miss Constance Fenimore Woolson, the famous novel writer and poetess. After the death of his father Charles Jarvis Woolson removed to Cleveland, Ohio, established an iron foundry and manufactured stoves, which he continued until his death, August 6, 1869. Mr. Woolson was a man of fine literary taste and attainments, an extensive reader, and at one time was  engaged in journalism, being part owner of the New England Palladium, published in Boston. For several years immediately preceding his death he was senior warden of Grace church, Cleveland.

Otis F.R. Waite, History of the Town of Claremont, New Hampshire, for a Period of One Hundred and Thirty Years from 1764 to 1894 (Manchester, NH: John  B. Clarke Co., 1895), pp. 499-500.

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Charles Jarvis Woolson's Stove Patent record.

N.B. The resolution of the images chosen to illustrate this section -- Woolson's more interesting designs, or those that the US Patent and Trademarks Office's online archive reproduces best -- may be better in the PDFs viewable online than in these JPEGs that I have taken from them.  I may redo the latter -- can get better results by dooing it in a different way.

1845 4184   126/1A  Stove, Cooking -- improving the heating of the bottoms of the ovens of conventional downdraft three-flued square cooking stoves (illustrated).  A far from unique "solution" to one of the common problems of the first generation of these stoves.  Witnessed by Thomas P. Jones, by then a patent agent.

1847 D135   D23/347 Stove -- the front plate of a Franklin stove; a fine illustration of an attractive, interesting design, with foliage, two antique heads in profile, and figures of a man smoking a pipe with a tumbler in his hand, and a woman taking snuff.  The hinges of the stove doors were in the form of a hand and forearm.  Probably designed for a comfortable parlor -- a "talking point" design.  Witnessed by H.G. Hitchcock, his partner.

1847 D136   D23/347 Stove -- the side plate for a box stove.  Foliage design, with a bearded man's head (possibly a profile of a recognizable mid-nineteenth century celebrity) in relief.  Witnesses as for D135; prepared by Thomas Jones's patent agency.  Note that not all of the decoration is sketched in -- just one corner of each of the borders; the Patent Office's inspectors would know that the design repeated.

1849 D218   D7/343  Stove -- the side plates of a cooking stove, an elegant, quite austere design, which may have been called The Phoenix -- "The fire door has the figure of a Bird rising from a fire," appropriate given Woolson's recent experience. As with D136, only one of the corner medallions on the firebox feed door, half of the oven door decoration, and a section of beading, are drawn in full.

1851 D418   D23/346 Stove -- a very elegant parlor stove with the same kind of door-hinge as in D135, a hand and forearm.  

1852 8814   126/194 Hinge, Stove-door, &c. -- an improved hinge allowing "the advantages of an open or of a closed stove ... while the beauty and convenience is in either case preserved."  Enabled doors to be swung right open and round the sides of the stove, or closed tight, at will, "whereby all the unsightly appearances usually seen of hinge, soot, ashes, &c., are effectually concealed from view." See also RE1468 (1863), below.

1860 D1348   D7/344  Stove door, Cooking -- For "The Despatch."  The drawing is a bit muddy, but interesting -- the side view of a stove, with a "tin kitchen" on the front heart, miscellaneous pots and kettles on the top plate, and a large water-boiler on an early warming closet at the back of the 4-boiler stove.

1860 D1349   D23/346 Stove-plate -- "Woolson's New Franklin," a very fine drawing of an attractive parlor stove for coal.

1862 34658   126/14  Stove, Cooking -- Redesign of the front door of a stove firebox to attach the sort of sheet-metal reflector oven for roasting on the hearth, of the kind shown in D1348.

1862 35483   126/144 Stove, Cooking -- a modification to the back of the firebox of a cooking stove, preserving and protecting the plate most liable to wear out first.

1862 D1581   D7/342  Cook Stove -- drawing shows all of the plates of a standard 4-boiler stove.

1863 38194   126/500 Grate -- for an open-fronted iron fireplace, probably designed to burn soft coal, and intended to "consume" (burn more efficiently) smoke and gases.

1863 38256   126/242 Stove ash-box -- designed to fit on the lower side door of a cooking-stove or range firebox, for ease of ash-removal.

1863 RE 1468           Hinge, Stove-door -- evidently the 1852 patent 8814 was sufficiently valuable to be worth reissuing before it expired, which gave him an opportunity to explain the nature of his improvement more fully and clearly.

1865 47890   126/15R Stove, Cooking -- another modification to the firebox of a cooking stove, building on his patents 35483 and 38194, and intended to protect from overheating the rear plate of the firebox and the top plate of the oven.

1867 60981   126/177 Grate -- a mechanically sophisticated cooking-stove firebox grate, which would both (a) "form an impervious fire-bed for the preservation of the fire when the stove is not in use," and (b) "dump the grate" into the ash-pit.  Both of these operations could be carried out with the aid of a single external handle.

1867 D2625   D23/347 Stove-door -- Gothic doors for the front of a Franklin or parlor stove, the "central or main portions" constructed of "a series of bars, with openings between, so arranged as to form an ornamental design and afford a pleasant view of the fire."

1868 D3080   D7/344  Stove door, Cook -- muddy reproduction of the drawing (a standard 4-boiler cook stove with a low warming closet at the rear, and a large water-boiler above that).  A medieval decorative theme -- a man in armor, a mailed head, a shield, a bird alighting.

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Conclusion: Charles Woolson's record of stove design and invention was evidently both longer and much more varied than his father's, embracing most of the main stove types (cooking, parlor, Franklin) and decorative designs as well as significant functional improvements.

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