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Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Philadelphia Stove Trade at Mid-Century: Manufactories & Stores

In the 1845 city directory (see this spreadsheet) there were about 90 individuals and partnerships active in the stove business.  42 of them described themselves as stove manufacturers, and 27 as stove makers; 14 simply listed what they made and/or sold ("stoves" or "cooking stoves"); 3 were recorded as pattern makers, just 2 as stove stores, plus one solitary stove dealer.  These men (and one woman, Anna Maria Lloyd) undoubtedly varied greatly among themselves in the size, scale, and character of the businesses they ran, including two substantial partnerships running their own foundries (Potts & Yocom and Warnick & Leibrandt).  The rest are best described as artisans and small merchants whose premises were part-workshop, part-store, and often part-home.  Beyond, but overlapping with, this business community were the ancillary trades and specialized skilled workers they supported, men who were prosperous and settled enough to figure in the Directory, but none of whom reported a place of residence separate from their place of work -- 23 stove finishers, a few of whom were also tinplate workers or pattern makers, and even a couple of stove moulders.  In between the new stove foundries and the smaller retail stores and neighborhood artisans were the c. 30 proprietors and firms, almost all of whom described themselves as manufacturers too, and about half of whom did not live above their stores and workshops, who had been described in an 1844 business directory as doing a wholesale trade.  All of these groups were represented in Rease's engravings.

Joseph Feinour and Son Stove Store and Joseph Feinour's Tin, Copper Brass and Iron Ware-House. 213-215 South Front Street, August 1846 -- zoomable image.

Joseph Feinour & Son described themselves as Tin & Iron Plate Workers in the 1840 city directory, as stove wholesalers in 1844, and as stove finishers and tin & iron plate workers in 1845.  What we can see here is a business that had probably changed little through these few years.  The property on the left housed the firm's heavy goods -- mostly stoves; that on the right all of the lighter metal manufactures for the kitchen and the rest of the household.  The workman on the extreme left of the scene is blacking a small two-boiler box stove.  Next to him is a James "Saddlebags" stove, a design patented in 1815 and the first new style cooking stove to be manufactured and sold on a large scale and across the whole of the American North.  To its right is a step stove, a style invented in the early 1830s and, like the James, popular in small towns and among farmers, where wood was still the dominant fuel.  Next to that is something new and urban: a water heater for the bathroom, with a small anthracite-burning firebox.  On the front steps are three more anthracite-burning cooking stoves, their ovens above the fire (see e.g. this prize-winning example, patented by Powell Stackhouse in 1831).  The object in front of the steps is hard to identify -- a small stove with a tin-box oven on its top plate?  Then we get to two classic "Old Philadelphia"-style 9-plate cooking and heating stoves, principal products of charcoal iron furnaces like Hopewell.   On the steps into the tinware shop is a heating stove, partly cast iron, partly wrought, its large upper box and two wrought-iron tubes at the back designed to maximize the amount of heat it radiated into the room.  This seems to be a version of the "Washington Stove, or Combined Radiator and Warm Air Diffuser" that Joseph Feinour Jr. had patented in 1841 (Patent 2301).  On the far right a store clerk is assisting a woman customer with her purchase of a furnace -- a small, simple open firebox that poorer city households used for their heating and cooking -- and on the far right, at the front of the pavement, we can see a slightly more elaborate furnace.  Furnaces did not need stove pipes -- they were placed on a hearth and vented directly into the chimney.

I think we can be quite confident that Rease has reflected quite accurately the kind and variety of generally quite traditional designs of stoves that the Feinours and most of their competitors offered to the public in the mid-1840s.  Apart from the Washington Stove and the Bath Heater, there are none of the modern, "improved," and increasingly elaborately designed stoves that were already pouring out of the foundries of New York City, the New York Capital District, and other emerging stove manufacturing centers.  This points to something interesting that the 1861 Leibrandt & McDowell catalogue confirms: Philadelphia was the first large stove market in the United States, and the earliest to mature, but the habits and tastes of many of its consumers, and therefore many of the products its entrepreneurs manufactured and sold, were quite conservative.

Foering & Thudium's Cheap Stove Warehouse, 87 North Second Street, December 1846 -- zoomable image.

I have written elsewhere about Foering & Thudium's path into the stove business, so won't repeat that here.  What is worth remarking on here is: 

(a) the layout of the building -- described as a "warehouse," and with a wagon entrance to the back of the lot for deliveries, but with a workshop upstairs as well as the large stove store downstairs.  

(b) The stoves on the front of the pavement are a small pyramidal cast-iron heating stove, more likely for a workshop or store than for a domestic setting; another furnace, like Feinour's; and another part-cast, part-wrought heating stove, again like Feinour's.  These were all well-established, generic (unpatented) products, in keeping with F&T's claim to be a Cheap Stove store.

(c) Behind them, on the store's steps, we can see a much fancier  pyramidal heating stove -- the base cast iron, the cylinder wrought.  This is sufficiently decorated to have been suitable for placing in a large parlor, which is what the salesman in the hat and waistcoat is probably trying to get his well-dressed female customer to believe.  It's a type of heating stove that would soon (in the 1850s) begin to be displaced by the much grander and more powerful base burner.  

(d) On the right-hand step an African American man is blacking an "Old Philadelphia" 9-plate stove, while at the upper windows white craftsmen are assembling a couple of heating stoves -- in the right-hand window we can see one completed, a fashionable columnar type of the kind pouring out of Albany and Troy.  This is a quite realistic depiction of the division of labor: almost the only roles for African Americans in stove manufacture, then and for a long time to come, were as the lowest of unskilled workers.

Charles Gilbert's Stove Manufactory, 249 North Second Street, December 1846 -- zoomable image.

Charles Gilbert described himself as a "stove finisher" in the 1840 Directory, but by 1845 he had advanced to become a manufacturer, and to be able to afford to live in a house away from his place of work, so that all of 249 North Second Street, in the heart of the stove making and selling district, could be dedicated to his business.

What is interesting about this image is partly that Gilbert's signage is bilingual -- Ofen Fabrik/Stove Manufactory.  Is this because he was Pennsylvania German, or perhaps Moravian, himself, or because enough of his customers were for it to be worth his while getting his sign-writer to use fraktur?  Otherwise, there is nothing very different  about Gilbert's shop or its products from Feinour's and F&T's -- the same array of James, box, 9-plate, furnace, and heating stoves on the pavement, all of the standard goods, and shiny new cast-&-wrought heating stoves on display in the upper (workroom) windows.  

Except for this: what tells us that Gilbert's does not aspire to be a Cheap Stove Ware-House like F&T's?  Look closely at the dress of his customers, and in particular at the statues on the plinths either side of the front entrance.  These are "dumb stoves," grand iron boxes with hollow statues on top of them, made to be placed in upper-storey rooms and hallways and heated with air from a furnace on the ground floor or, more likely, in the basement.  To have a furnace at all, and to have enough ceiling height upstairs to accommodate dumb stoves like these, you needed to be a rich household or even a public institution or place of resort.  They were the recent work of Alonzo Blanchard of Albany -- covered by his invention patent 2355 (1841), reissued in 1843 to clarify his claims, and design patents 8 (1843) for his George Washington, with his Martha on the right.  (She does not seem to be Blanchard's Design Patent 66 [1846], also for a female figure.)  Gilbert was selling, and using to advertise his status as an upmarket supplier, some of the finest, most up-to-date, and costly designs available. 

He only took out one patent himself -- but what a design!  He and his collaborator W.G. Hallman described it as "a parlor-stove of a common form, but of a new and tasteful pattern."  

Fig. 1 is one of the four flues, a clear imitation of the first ever stove design patent, Ezra Ripley of Troy's "Stove Column," Design Patent 5 (1843), whose validity expired, conveniently for Gilbert, in 1850.  Fig. 2 is the top plate -- only enough of the design is drawn in detail; what is left blank would have been filled in with symmetrical repetition. 

Fig. 3 is the bottom (hearth) plate, Fig. 7 the side base-plate. 

Fig. 4 is the front plate and doors (with mica panels), Fig. 5 the side plate,
Fig. 6. the front base-plate with ash-pit door.

Despite the reuse of Ezra Ripley's cast dolphin flues, Gilbert's "Dolphin Radiator" was not really a late example of the columnar heating stove, a type which had thrived in the Albany-Troy area in the late early 1830s and early 1840s.  Compare it with the finest of these, and the first to use Ripley's flues, Elias Johnson, Gilbert Geer, & David B. Cox's "Four-Column Parlor Stove" (Troy, c. 1844): 

62 H x 34 W x 22 D, Albany Institute of History & Art, Accession number 1980.36 --  see the Google Cultural Institute's superb version.

The main difference between Gilbert's stove and this style is that Gilbert's had a comparatively narrow, vertical firebox (Figs. 4 and 5 above) for burning anthracite rather than the wide horizontal firebox for burning wood of the typical Capital District columnar stove.  The firebox would have been flanked by the dolphin flues on each corner of the bottom plate, but as there is no drawing of the stove's internal arrangements it is not clear how those side flues would have been connected to the hearth plate (Fig. 3) sitting on the bottom plinth (Figs. 6 and 7) and the top box or "architrave," which is not shown, though the top plate is (Fig. 2).  

Really, Gilbert's stove was structurally and functionally similar to a typical Philadelphia "radiator" like Feinour's, though, like a Capital District columnar stove, it was almost all cast, rather than largely wrought (the top box probably was fabricated from sheet iron, under the very decorative cast top, which is why it does not appear in the design).  What is probably an earlier version of the same type, but mostly wrought, including the firebox, is visible in the zoomed online version of the Rease lithograph -- given pride of place in the window between the front doors of his shop.

Another 1840s image in the Library Company of Philadelphia collection provides an even better view of a four-column heating stove of the kind Gilbert was improving on, by making it all from castings:

James Lane's Stove Store. Number 218 North Third Street, December 1847 -- zoomable image.

Lane does not show up before the 1848 Directory.  In the 1845, '46, and '47 Directories these premises were occupied by a leather & hide dealer.  Rease's lithograph of his small stove store includes no interesting features -- it's basically just another version of the above, i.e. this is what ordinary Philadelphia stove stores looked like, and this is what they sold.  Lane had no patent designs to his credit, which is no surprise. 

Piper and Andrews, Warm Air Furnace Manufactory. Number 82 North Sixth Street, 1845 -- zoomable image

This is more interesting as well as less revealing, in that warm air furnaces and cooking ranges -- large, heavy, customized, built-in, and expensive -- had a much smaller market than stoves, and there were few specialist suppliers and installers in the city (just three of the c. 30 wholesalers for whom this was their principal business, and another seven who conducted it alongside the regular stove trade).  Ranges were also too large and heavy to be exhibited for sale on the pavement by day.  

Richard S.R. Andrews described himself as a wholesaler of Ranges, Furnaces &c in the 1844 business directory, and in the city directory for that year as a bricklayer -- significant, because the assembly and installation of either appliance involved collaboration between masons and metal workers.  In the 1845 directory his designation had changed to Stove & Furnace Manuf.  His partner Henry A. Piper described himself, more simply, as being in the Stoves business.  The signage on the front of their manufactory is more informative about the range of goods and services they provided than the city directories were.  Their smaller, portable items for sale are arranged within the shop.  Out front, almost all one can see are standard lengths of stove and warm-air pipes.

* * * 

Towards the end of the next decade, and even after the rise of the city's new stove foundries, this sector of the stove trade was much the same in size and composition.  Edwin Freedley summed it up in his pioneering Philadelphia and Its Manufactures (1859):
In addition to the establishments devoted, either entirely or in part, to the production of Stoves, there are about fifty Stove-makers who get their castings from founders, and finish them in their own shops.  As some Cooking Stoves have sheet-iron ovens, and many Parlor and Office Stoves are chiefly composed of Russia Sheet Iron, the value of the castings, in some instances, is increased from two to three times. About nineteen establishments, besides the above, are engaged in the manufacture of Hot-air Furnaces, (or Heaters,) and Cooking Ranges. They usually originate or purchase the patterns, and get the castings executed at the regular foundries. The varieties made, embrace the most complete, convenient, and economical, as well as a fac-simile of the article so long used in New York; and the Summer Range or Gas Oven, which originated here, and is said to be unknown elsewhere. The above establishments furnish employment to at least six hundred metal workers, and consume a large amount of Russia, English, and American Sheet Iron, besides Tin-plate, Fire-brick, &c., &c. Ornamental Iron Parlor Grates, for which we have long been dependent upon New York, are now made here of great elegance, and in various styles.


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