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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Stove History Spreadsheets

(Showing the impact of the completion of the Erie Canal on trade to and from the West)

A lot of the material I've collected (and that underpins most of the Maps post) is organized in spreadsheet form -- or, if it's a flat-file database, easily could and should be -- so I have moved it into Google Sheets format and parked it here in public.  This also serves me as a useful index to my own materials, so it's not an entirely altruistic gesture.

[to be continued...]

Stove History Maps

The U.S. Stove Industry in 1874 

This is another of the things that used to be in my Stove History Stuff website. It's a chronologically-organized list of all of the many Google maps I've created to help me to see, make sense of, and communicate some of my research. I've often wished that I could do proper GIS work, but as I can't Google Maps allows me to produce a serviceable amateur version of something showing historical data in space as well as time.

[to be continued...]

Stove Advertisements, Pamphlets, and Catalogues: A Guide to Online Resources

[This started life on my old Stove History Stuff website, but I'm copying it here because this is more visible and I'm more likely to update it here too.]  

Stove merchants in the towns and cities along the north-east seaboard began to advertise the products they had for sale in local newspapers and other publications in the late 1810s and early 1820s.  Then in the 1830s and 1840s, as the industry grew and was reorganized by entrepreneurial firms that invented and designed, manufactured, and sold their own distinctive lines of stoves, makers began to produce a new kind of promotional literature -- illustrated pamphlets that explained their products' advantages over the competition and, sometimes, provided useful operating information for consumers new to stove use.

There does not appear to be any available online copy of what was probably the first of these pamphlets, Stanley & Co.'s Remarks and Directions for Using Stanley's Patented Cooking Stove (Baltimore, 1834 -- versions were also produced by the Stanley family's other sales outlets in New York and Philadelphia, and by their Cincinnati agent, Emor Whipple), or of Jordan L. Mott's Description and Design of Mott's Patented Articles, Secured by 27 Patents (New York, 1841), another of the oldest survivors.  However, I have made up for this deficiency by posting page images of this publication on Flickr (text begins here, and click right). 

But from then on, things get a lot better, and from the early 1850s through the 1940s there is a good, quite representative collection of the publications that developed from the early pamphlets: illustrated catalogues.  These became the principal medium for informing retail merchants, and later consumers too, about the wide variety of cooking and heating appliances that the typical stove manufacturer offered.  There were probably more than a hundred new catalogues produced every year during the industry's heyday from the 1860s until the First World War. Thousands survive in private collections, and hundreds in research libraries around the country -- Lawrence B. Romaine's classic A Guide to American Trade Catalogs 1744-1900 (New York, 1960), Chapter 54, pp. 355-66, includes several hundred entries, and major research collections (notably the National Museum of American History's, the American Antiquarian Society's, the Hagley Museum and Library's, and the Winterthur Museum's) have grown apace since then.  For the center of the U.S. stove industry from the 1830s to the 1880s -- the New York Capital District -- the best holdings, understandably, are those in the Rensselaer County Historical Society, Albany Institute of Art, and New York State Library. 

In the following list, there is an over-representation of Canadian firms after the mid-1880s, because Canadian research libraries have cooperated more with the Internet Archive in supplying material than any of the major US repositories.  But this does not really matter, given that most of them were simply copying or licensing the products and even the brand names of major U.S. firms, so they provide almost equally good evidence of the industry's overall development.

Prehistory: Before the Stove Industry (and the Catalogue)

  • Todhunter, Inc., Grates, Franklins, and Fire Frames (New York, 1930).  A fascinating collection of reproductions of products most of which had become obsolete by the 1830s (andirons, grates, and Franklin stoves), demonstrating that, a century later, they had become must-haves for the upmarket domestic retro interior.  This is probably the nearest we could get to an 1820s catalogue, if such a thing had existed at the time.  All that it lacks is cooking stoves, illustrating the fact that what Todhunter was selling were decorative but also occasionally functional items for the upper-middle-class urban and suburban living room, to consumers who probably relied on central heating for serious comfort.  Similar items were available from The H.W. Covert Co. [Specialties for the Fireplace], The Covert System: Fireplace and Flue Construction (New York: The Company, 1923), and from other makers too (e.g. vintage Franklins came back into the product range of mainstream stove makers in the 1900s).

  • Leaving aside the two Benjamins, Franklin and Thomson (Count Rumford), the first American stove inventor who turned to pamphleteering on his appliances' behalf was Daniel Pettibone, the "father" of the warm-air heating furnace, at least in the United States, and first effective heater of Congress (see this blog post).  Pettibone's two publications, Description of the Improvements of the Rarifying Air-Stove (Philadelphia: The Author, 1810), and Pettibone's Economy of Fuel (Philadelphia: A. Dickinson, for author, 1812), are only available to readers with a personal or institutional subscription to Newsbank, or access to a library with the microform edition of Early American Imprints.  But most of their text and, a key feature missing in the pamphlets, their many supporting illustrations, are contained in his manuscript patents -- 947X (1808) and its monster offspring, 1731X (1812), provided for free by the US Patent & Trademarks Office. 

  • "Postley's Patent Cooking Stove," The American Magazine 1:9 (Feb. 1816): 326-7, the first surviving 'advertorial' of which I can find an online copy.

  • James Gleason's Improved Patent Steam Kitchen and Steam Kitchen Stoves advertisement, Paxton's Philadelphia Annual Advertiser, bound with John A. Paxton, The Philadelphia Directory and Register, for 1819 (Philadelphia: Paxton, 1819), illustrating a stove type that never really took off, except for commercial and institutional users.  Gleason remained in the business for at least the next quarter-century.  Advertisements like this in city directories and similar publications are much better sources than newspapers for good illustrations of stoves throughout the pre-pamphlet or -catalogue era, because their page size, layout, and the presses they were printed on were all much more suitable for the inclusion of fairly large, good quality engravings.  There was very little multi-column display advertising for stoves or anything else in newspapers before the 1840s, and even after that it was uncommon, and the printing blocks used were small and capable of showing little detail.

  • "James & Cornell's Stove Factories" ad. (1823) in Edmund M. Blunt, The American Coast Pilot (New York: Author, 1822),  unpaginated back matter, another early surviving display advertisement, for William James's patent cooking stove, which enjoyed a much broader market than Gleason's.

  • James Wilson's and Charles Postley's advertisements (1826) in Joseph Blunt, The Merchant's and Shipmaster's Assistant (New-York: Edmund M. Blunt, 1822), unpaginated back matter, for two of the other major New York manufacturers and wholesale/retail dealers of the 1820s, illustrating products like those Todhunter was selling over a century later.

  • The Rev. Dr. Eliphalet Nott, president of Union College and one of the principal inventors and early manufacturers of the anthracite-burning stove, left no promotional pamphlet, but a detailed description of his stove's functions and operation survives in an illustrated letter he wrote to James C. Loudon, printed in Loudon's  An Encyclop√¶dia of Cottage, Farm, and Villa Architecture and Furniture (London, England:  Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, & Longmans, 1839), pp. 1030-32.  Nott's concern to get publicity and an endorsement from Loudon was entirely rational -- his stoves were manufactured and sold in England too, and Loudon's guides to domestic architecture circulated widely in the U.S. and influenced middle-class taste.

  • The designer of a rival parlor-heating product, Prof. Denison Olmsted of Yale, also wrote his own piece of product promotion:  "Observations on the Use of Anthracite Coal," American Almanac and Repository of Useful Knowledge for the Year 1837 (Boston: Charles Bowen, 1837), pp. 61-9. Olmsted stoves also sold in England.

Pamphlets and Catalogues

Production of pamphlets, generally describing individual products or small, related groups of products, and then catalogues was probably a response to changes in the structure of the industry and its markets in and after the 1840s: the development of what were, for the time, relatively large, integrated firms controlling every stage of their product's manufacture, from design and manufacturing through wholesale (and some retail) distribution; a concomitant growth in the scale of production and the size of firms' product lines; increased competition between them, most of it non-price, i.e. based on patent-protected features and designs, all of which needed to be presented and explained to retail merchants and consumers; and, crucially, a change in the relationship and means of communication between manufacturers and their immediate customers.  Up until the mid-1840s manufacturers expected local merchants -- wholesalers, jobbers, and individual retailers -- to make personal visits to their "warerooms" at their factories or in the downtown stove districts of major cities (Philadelphia, New York, and Boston all had identifiable stove trade clusters by the 1820s).  Products could be displayed and demonstrated, and bargains struck.  What happened in the 1840s, partly because of an increase in the geographical scale of the market (Albany and Troy producers, for example, were selling stoves in San Francisco from almost the start of the Gold Rush), was that direct, personal connections between manufacturers and retailers, except as mediated through the postal service, became increasingly impossible.  What supplemented it or took its place was the hiring of traveling salesmen.  Stove salesmen could not carry samples on their selling trips of hundreds or even thousands of miles across the American interior, even after the spread of the railroad network.  What they could carry, though, was catalogues, whose primary intended readership was the retail businessmen on whom consumer sales depended.  Stove makers also began to use catalogues and other print and non-print advertising and marketing materials to support their retail customers' local sales efforts.  For all of this, see my “Inventing the U.S. Stove Industry, c. 1815-1875: Making and Selling the First Universal Consumer Durable,” Business History Review 82:4 (Winter 2008): 701-733 [Winner, Henrietta M. Larson Article Award, 2008], free version here.




  • Vose & Co., Book of Stoves (Albany, 1853).  Reprinted by the Early American Industries Association in 1983 and widely available in libraries.  Samuel Vose was one of the New York Capital District's principal stove designers.

  • Treadwell & Perry. The Lowell Gas Burner: Patented by Mr. D.G. Littlefield -- Manufactured by Treadwell & Perry (Albany, NY, 1853), on Flickr.  The original base-burning stove, advertised on the title page as "THE ONLY APPARATUS EVER CONSTRUCTED, THAT WOULD COMPEL THE PERFECT COMBUSTION OF THE INFLAMMABLE GASSES OF ANTHRACITE COAL."  Littlefield's relations with T&P soon broke down, as he narrated repeatedly and at length over the next several decades.

  • Rathbone & Kennedy, Circular (Albany, 1854).  Rathbone was one of the oldest names and largest firms in the stove trade of the New York Capital District, which became the industry's principal manufacturing center by the 1840s. One of the oldest proper catalogues to have survived, demonstrating how pioneer stove founders had by the early 1850s developed the industry's full product line and marketing practices.

  • Newberry, Filley & Co., 1856 Green Island Foundry Catalogue (Troy, NY, 1856), on Flickr.  Lucius Newberry and Marcus Lucius Filley were Yankee cousins -- one a merchant in the Midwest, the other an attorney in Upstate New York -- who went into partnership in 1854 to buy and run an established stove foundry, Morrison & Manning, in Troy.  Theirs is the best-documented firm in the entire industry, with substantial archival holdings at the New York State Library in Albany and Rensselaer Polytechnic in Troy.

  • A.H. McArthur & Co., Stove Manufacturers. 1857 [Catalogue] (Albany, NY, 1857), on Flickr.  Unremarkable and probably fairly typical.





  • Schneider & Trenkamp Co., The. "Reliable" Cooking (Cleveland, Chicago, & San Francisco: The Company, ####).  -- S & T was a division of the American Stove Co., one of the industry's rare corporate mergers.  The 1910 ed. is also available via the Hathi Trust -- 'Reliable' Cooking"Reliable" was a good, reassuring trade name for a brand of oil stoves, given their tendency to explode.

  • Detroit Stove Works. Catalogue and Price List No. 67 of Jewel Stoves and Ranges (Detroit: The Company, 1900). Detroit was the largest stove manufacturing city by the 1900s, and the DSW was its biggest firm.  Some of its records, too, survive -- in the Burton Historical Collections at the Detroit Public Library.  Unfortunately, but probably for copyright reasons, this catalogue is missing its illustrations.

  • Prizer-Painter Stove & Heater Co., Heater Catalogue No. 4.  Henderson Thermo Water and Steam Heaters (Reading, PA, c. 1900).  Prizer-Painter was an offshoot of the Reading Stove Works, and occupied its new (Millmont) plant.  Cf. RSW's own c. 1904 heater catalogue, below.

  • Sill Stove Works. Sill Stove Works Makers of Sterling Stoves and Ranges (Rochester, NY: The Company, 1903).  Note Sill’s specialty, the “combination range” – a coal or wood and gas appliance in one.

  • Sears, Roebuck & Co. Stoves for 1904 (Chicago: The Company, 1904).  An interesting example of innovation in marketing -- Sears cut out the middleman (the retailer) and sold its own-brand goods, manufactured in what it said was its own huge foundry, direct to consumers nationwide.  The 1897 Catalogue, widely available as a reprint, demonstrates that, before Sears embarked on this venture, it bought its solid-fuel stoves from the Reading Stove Works and sold them under the maker's trademark and in direct competition with its supplier, pp. 133-41.  In fact, whatever the "evidence" of the factory picture on the back cover of the 1904 catalogue, the roofs and walls plastered with the Sears name, there was no Sears factory in Newark, Ohio, as such -- it had simply replaced the Reading firm with other suppliers, the Wehrle Stove Co., founded in 1883, in which it may have acquired a controlling interest.

  • Phillips & Clark Stove Co., Catalogue of Andes Stoves & Ranges (Geneva, NY, 1904).

  • Reading Stove Works, Hot Water & Steam Catalogue No. 3: Monarch, Imperial, and Vestal, Sunshine Heaters (Reading, PA, 1904).  Note how decorated their boiler-fronts still were -- a surviving Victorian aesthetic.

  • Schneider & Trenkamp Co., The. Reliable Gas Stoves & Ranges (Cleveland, Chicago, & San Francisco: The Company, 1905).

  • Abendroth Brothers, Catalogue [Number 38] of Stoves and Ranges for either Wood or Coal Suitable for All Parts of the World (Port Chester, NY, c. 1900-1905). The IA thinks this is c. 1880 because it includes 1876 and 1877 cook stoves, but the style of some of the goods (particularly the ranges) suggests a much later date.

  • Clark & Co., Henry N. Parlor, Cylinder, Laundry Stoves (Boston: The Company, 1908).

  • Clark & Co., Henry N. Range Catalogue (Boston, 1908).

  • Moore Co., D. Illustrated Catalogue and Price List No. 61, 1909-10 (Hamilton, ONT: D. Moore Co., 1909?).





Undated Advertising Ephemera