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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Nation of Stoves, Chapter 6 -- Completing the Range

This is where I ran out of steam.  By the time I had finished Chapter 5, I had advanced my story almost to mid-century, but Chapters 3 through 5 had all been pretty heavy-duty business and technological history, and I had rather lost sight of the focus on buyers and consumers and the cultural conversations about economy, comfort, and convenience that had also characterized Chapters 1 and 2. What had begun with the ambition to be an (almost) all-embracing industrial history had narrowed down, and it had also taken up so much space that I knew that, if the remaining chapters were as long, I would end up with a manuscript like my last one -- for Bloodless Victories in the late 1990s, which topped out at 250,000 words and ended up at 180,000, still too big to achieve the sales and make the impact of my first book, a mere 100,000+.  I didn't want a manuscript that was unpublishable without major surgery and, in Bloodless Victories' case, a subsidy to cover some production costs too, and that still ended up destined for a few hundred institutional sales, if I could persuade a university press to take it on at all.  I only explored publication with one good press, and they said no.  I didn't try any others, because I didn't know when I would get the thing into decent shape.

One way that I had tried to make the business-&-technology history throughout the first five chapters into a more interesting narrative, as well as to explore the contributions of important and representative individual inventors and entrepreneurs, was by using lots of biographical material in order to organize the chapters and at the same time inject some of the human interest that I was in danger of squeezing out.  My research had brought me into contact with a lot of fascinating and forgotten early nineteenth century lives and thoughts, and I wanted to share them with any readers.  I decided that I would rely on the same approach in my attempt to wrap up my account of the development of the industry and its products in this chapter, and then in the seventh I would change my focus and look once again at the buyers and users I had neglected for too long.

So this chapter was organized around a handful of individuals who helped round out the range of products offering mid-century consumers a full array of cooking and heating appliances appropriate to almost all circumstances.  The transformation of the stove into the "first universal consumer durable," at least across the American North, depended on the development of this broad spectrum of products that satisfied most of the cooking and heating needs of households large and small, rich and poor, urban and rural, and living in regions that remained firewood-dependent as well as those that were adopting anthracite as their fuel of choice.

I started out with looking at three key figures in the development of the standard large-oven cooking stove -- the industry's most important product, and every household's must-have appliance.
  • P.P. Stewart and the Ideal Cooking Stove -- Stewart had an extraordinary life, intersecting with the larger history of American reformism at many points between the 1820s and 1860s, and alongside of his evangelical devotion to the improvement of society he managed to develop what was generally accepted as the best as well as one of the biggest-selling cooking stoves.  I probably gave him too much attention here, but it was hard to resist.
  • Darius Buck and the "Invention" of the Large-Oven Cooking Stove -- This section was a bit like my account of Rathbone, Mott, and the development of the stove foundry, i.e. a somewhat debunking exploration of what invention and innovation actually meant in a mid-nineteenth-century context.  It's not at all clear what Buck invented (most of it depended on the appropriation of the design ideas of dead predecessors and live competitors), but he managed to patent key features of the design of the large-oven stove and to turn that intellectual property into a worthwhile commodity, thanks to the federal courts.  He also managed to lay the foundations of one of the midwest's earliest and, in due course, biggest stove manufacturing concerns, Buck's Stove & Range Co. of St. Louis.  So the study of his career also turned into a way of looking at the geographical extension of the new stove industry, organized around integrated stove foundries, into new territory, with the result that by mid-century stoves were being made and bought right across the emerging "industrial belt" and its rural hinterland, all the way from the Atlantic seaboard as far as the Mississippi Valley.
  • Giles Filley, "Inventor" of America's Favorite Cook Stove -- Buck's and Filley's careers were intertwined with one another.  Both were migrant Yankees who helped the stove industry, and the stove consumption habit, to extend very rapidly from New England, the Middle Atlantic states, and parts of the Old Midwest -- their limits by the end of the 1830s -- to embrace all of the rest of the free states and even some of the slave-holding Border over the next couple of decades.  In writing about Filley I also managed to squeeze in an account of the slightly older but otherwise very similar Hudson Bridge -- Bridge, Buck, and Filley were the founders in the 1830s-1840s of the firms that would remain the "Big Three" of the St. Louis stove industry for the next couple of generations.

    But this is where I ran into a problem.  In order to write a definitive account of the legal battles between Buck and Filley about how big an obstacle Buck's patents were to Filley's ability to make and sell his own improved large-oven stove, the Charter Oak, I decided that I needed an archival research trip, certainly to Washington for the US Patent Office records, and maybe as far as Missouri for federal court records too.  And I didn't really want to, couldn't see the point of spending so much time and money adding ever more detail to a story that was already far too long.  So I set the thing to one side, with holes in the road that I couldn't cross.

What would the rest of the chapter have contained?  At least three more sections on significant inventors and the things they invented, or at least improved -- the Reverend Isaac Orr and his sheet-iron, "airtight" heating stove (I used this blog post to put together some working notes); Gardner Chilson of Boston, leading designer and maker of hot-air furnaces (who got the same treatment);  and Dennis Littlefield, who claimed to have perfected the base-burner.  Littlefield's life and work remains largely unwritten, except by himself (The Morning Glory: Origin of the Base-Burning Stove, and its Mode of Operation Clearly Defined, by One Who Has Made Them A Study for Fifteen Years, Albany, 1868 and reissues, with slight modifications, in 1869 and 1870 and thereafter).  This is no longer quite true: there is a brief biography of him in Timothy Starr's Great Inventors of New York's Capital District (The History Press, 2010), which also includes entries for Eliphalet Nott, the Rathbones, and P.P. Stewart, with all of which I could pick a few nits, but it's broadly reliable.

None of these three left any manuscript records (I had MSS for Buck, Bridge, and Filley, some printed letters and a detailed memoir by his widow for Stewart), but all of them had spent a lot of time in the Patent Office and the federal courts, defending their claims.  So I knew that I couldn't finish writing about them without that trip to the US National Archives either, which led me to conclude that I might as well not start, except in the less demanding forms of the blog posts I have written about the first two, with Littlefield still to follow.
So what you get here is just a part of a chapter, and an unfinished part at that -- still in need of some crucial research that may or may not get done.

Links to online content:
  • The full text of the Chapter itself
  • The Bibliography -- this is new, and currently pretty rough, but it lists all of the sources, primary and secondary, cited in the text, and provides web links to copies, if available.  In due course I might integrate these into the text, but that's a long-term, rainy-day project.  In the meantime, this will serve.

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A Nation of Stoves, Chapter 5 -- The Rise of the Stove Foundry, c. 1830-1845

If I thought that the previous chapter, on "The Anthracite Revolution," was pretty hard-core stuff, well, what about this one?

On the one hand, I really enjoyed the research, thinking, and writing that lay underneath it.  I managed, in a way that at least convinced me, to revise a century and a half's received wisdom about the transformation of the stove industry's location, organization, and technology -- even its industrial architecture, though I did not develop that aspect of the story here.  What was particularly satisfying about this was that I had received this particular bit of wisdom myself, and relayed it once again to unsuspecting listeners and readers, as recently as 2007-2008, in "Inventing the U.S. Stove Industry" and the Hagley Seminar paper that preceded it.

On the other, who cared less about answers to the questions I asked about who was responsible for the innovations that underlay the rise of a distinct stove manufacturing industry, separate from old and newer charcoal iron furnaces, or when, where, and why these innovations occurred?  I had the sense of working in a vacuum, asking questions whose significance I alone seemed to understand, or care about, and to which nobody really wanted answers.  Even when I explained things to people, their eyes glazed over.

But I remain happy with this work.  My conclusions are the product of luck, persistence, and close reading.  Luck was crucial -- that, among the few major stove furnaces some of whose records survived, one was David Wood's at Millville, New Jersey; that Wood was a prolific correspondent; and that two of his big customers in the 1830s were Joel Rathbone in Albany and Jordan Mott in New York, the two men credited, near the time and since, with having built and run the first stove foundries. Rathbone and Mott have not been as considerate as Wood in leaving a paper-trail about their work, but having evidence from just one side of a business relationship certainly beats having none.  Secondly, one good set of records about a successor to Rathbone's firm, a partnership involving his nephew John, does survive -- account books for a single complete year, 1845, and a part of 1846.  For all of their limitations, they allow us to look inside the operations of a large, early stove foundry in Albany, the transformed industry's new center.  Thirdly, two other, much less successful stove industry pioneers, Charles Postley of New York and Henry Stanley of Poultney, Vermont, who also experimented with and contributed to its reshaping in the late 1820s and 1830s, have left records they would much rather not have -- of their bankruptcies in the early 1840s.  These, too, preserved in federal archives ever since, enable us to understand their businesses better than we could have otherwise.  Finally, there is even some correspondence from the 1830s relating to another small but successful Vermont stove furnace, the Conant family's in Brandon, helping us to understand the dynamics of the industry and its competitive and marketing practices in this crucial transitional decade.

So what does it matter if I have ended up answering a question that nobody else could be bothered to ask, about an industry and a time that nobody finds very interesting?  I can be bothered, I still find it interesting, and regardless of the small size and unimportance of my quarry, I found the process of hunting it enjoyable.  It kept me busy and thinking for quite a while in 2010-2011.

  • Introduction -- quite a long one, by my standards, explaining the problems inherent in the dis-integrated, very decentralized production system of the stove-furnace-based industry through the mid 1830s, a time when its market was growing rapidly in volume and geographical extent.
  • 5.1 Integration: Backward, to the Source of Castings Supply, and Forward, to the Market -- discussion of forgotten industry pioneers, who also integrated castings production, stove manufacturing, and distribution and marketing, within a single firm and even on a single site.  The Conants of Brandon, Vermont, and Thomas Woolson of Claremont, New Hampshire; Samuel Wilkeson of Buffalo, New York, and Madison County, Ohio; Charles Postley of New York City and Juniata, Pennsylvania; Henry Stanley of Poultney, Vermont.
  • 5.2 Making Stoves at a Foundry rather than at a Furnace -- John Hall of Williamsport, Pennsylvania; the New York State furnace and foundry industry of the late 1820s/early 1830s, developing the capacity for large-scale integrated production; the same in Massachusetts. Theme: even before the (supposedly) specialized stove foundry emerged in the mid- to late-1830s, the preconditions for its rapid emergence were there.  It was just a matter of time, and the development of favorable circumstances for further innovation in industrial organization.
  • 5.3 The Birth of the Stove Foundry -- A Contested Parenthood -- This is where I get to grips with the received wisdom, and with untangling the roles, behavior, and motivation of Joel Rathbone in Albany and Jordan Mott in New York.  What I explain is how, during the Panic of 1837 and its aftermath, organizational innovation (making stoves in specialized foundries where they were also finished and even assembled, and from which they were sold -- i.e. thoroughly integrated operations, the prototypes for all of the hundreds of firms making up the industry by mid-century) became a logical, available business strategy for Rathbone, Mott, and many others to implement.  This section is both a biography-based narrative of innovation, and also a somewhat revisionist explanatory account that pays more attention to context rather than individual agency.
  • 5.4 The Onward March of the Stove Foundry -- What was novel and important about the new form of business organization?  How did it actually operate?  Why was it so superior? Why and how did the idea diffuse so rapidly -- to William Resor in Cincinnati, Ohio; Sherman Jewett in Buffalo, New York; Hudson Bridge of St. Louis, Missouri; other, lesser "early adopters" of the new organizational form, many of which acquired "first-mover advantages" and became the emerging industry's leading regional or national firms.  Records of John Rathbone's first Albany foundry for 1845 show us how an early integrated operation worked -- the economies it could achieve, the specialization towards which it eventually worked but that wasn't there from the beginning.  Walter Hunt and the Kingdom of Matthias are also prayed in aid of an explanation.
Links to online content:

  • The full text of the Chapter 
  • The Bibliography -- this is new, and currently pretty rough, but it lists all of the sources, primary and secondary, cited in the text, and provides web links to copies, if available.  In due course I might integrate these into the text, but that's a long-term, rainy-day project.  In the meantime, this will serve.

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A Nation of Stoves, Chapter 4 -- The Coming of Anthracite, c. 1820-1840

Another scintillating chapter title, but at least what you see is what you get.  This territory has now been covered, in their own different ways, both by Sean Adams [Home Fires: How Americans Kept Warm in the Nineteenth Century, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014, esp. Ch. 2, "How Mineral Heat Came to American Cities"] and Christopher Jones [Routes of Power: Energy and Modern America, Harvard University Press, 2014, esp. Chapters 1-2], but I think there's still room for my take on things alongside them, because of my particular focus.

  • Introduction -- longer than usual, because the structure of the book is becoming more complex and thematic.
  • 4.1 Origins -- where the overlap with and dependence on the existing secondary literature is closest.
  • 4.2 Marcus Bull, Benjamin Silliman, and the Anthracite Campaign -- familiarizing new and potential consumers with anthracite and its benefits.
  • 4.3 Developing the Anthracite Cooing Stove : Philadelphia, c. 1824-1832 -- the other part of winning over consumers, i.e. giving them a choice of serviceable, affordable appliances in which to burn the new fuel; the work of the Franklin Institute and of local inventors, notably Powell Stackhouse, whose surviving business records I have also read.
  • 4.4 The Anthracite Market Spreads -- to New York City and State.
  • 4.5 Eliphalet Nott and the Anthracite Heating Stove -- episode #2 in the history of an inventor and his inventions.
  • 4.6 Jordan Mott and the New York City Market -- 
  • 4.7 Stoves and Anthracite in New England -- a detailed analysis of the extension of the (industrial) market for anthracite fuel, and the response of local inventors to the opportunities it presented.
There is no conclusion, and the chapter is a bit scrappy overall.  I was happy with the quality and adequacy of the research that went into it, and certainly thought and think that it has a necessary place in the larger scheme of the work.  But it's neither an easy nor a lively read, and when I finished it (leaving a few loose ends) my heart was sinking.  Any ambition I might have had to write the sort of book that ordinary members of the public (or at least, extraordinary ones -- stove buffs, early Americana enthusiasts) might wish to buy and read seemed to be being defeated by my ingrained habits of research and style of thinking and writing.  And yet the result was not the sort of ideas-rich scholarship that might impress a few professional peers.  It was narrative, descriptive, reconstructing the past but not engaging with the bees flying around in today's academics bonnets.

I'll have to re-read this, edit it, make sure I've taken full account of Sean's and Chris's work now that it's published.  But it's still more or less worth sharing now, even in its present state, with anybody who may be interested, if such a person exists.

Links to online content:
  • The full text of the Chapter 
  • The Bibliography -- this is new, and currently pretty rough, but it lists all of the sources, primary and secondary, cited in the text, and provides web links to copies, if available.  In due course I might integrate these into the text, but that's a long-term, rainy-day project.  In the meantime, this will serve.

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

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

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

Links to online content:
  • The full text of the Chapter
  • The Bibliography -- this is new, and currently pretty rough, but it lists all of the sources, primary and secondary, cited in the text, and provides web links to copies, if available.  In due course I might integrate these into the text, but that's a long-term, rainy-day project.  In the meantime, this will serve.

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A Nation of Stoves, Chapter 2 -- The Winning of the North East, c. 1815-1825

This is basically just a continuation of Chapter 1 -- many of the same themes, so a bit of a danger of plonking repetition and a sense of a very pedestrian plod through the decades, but some development and in any event too much material to have been able or willing to squeeze the two together.

Another one-paragraph Introduction, and then:

  • 2.1. New York Joins the Stove Region -- the first and most important extension of the market area, but could equally well have been in Ch. 1 as its focus is mostly 1790s-1810s 
  • 2.2 Warmth and Worship -- again, picking up a theme from Ch. 1, but exploring it in more depth: the heating of churches and meeting houses as evidence for changes in northern Americans' habits and expectations about comfort, and as something getting them familiar with the idea of stove heating.  See this blog post for the single most interesting source I came about that illuminated this process.
  • 2.3 Stoves and the State -- the protection of stoves by state law from seizure for debt as evidence of their growing importance.
  • 2.4 The Public Stove -- stoves in schools and colleges, prisons, hospitals, asylums, and workhouses; the Reverend Dr Eliphalet Nott, president of Union College and stove pioneer, introduced.  See this recent blog post for pictures of stoves in other public places in the early nineteenth century.
  • 2.5 Into the Mainstream of Northern Culture -- quantitative (not much) and qualitative (nice -- poems, stories, speeches) evidence about the increasing acceptance of stoves, a quiet argument against Patricia Brewer's emphasis on cultural ambivalence (or even hostility) towards the new technology.
  • 2.6 Inventing the Cooking Stove -- the 9- and 10-plate, and then the work of three Hudson Valley inventors and makers (Charles Postley, William James, Christopher Hoxie) in the late 'teens / early 'twenties.  See this blog post about some of them and their competitors.
  • 2.7 Opening the Channels of Trade -- the growth of a stove distribution network, from Philadelphia to New York, Boston, and other seaboard towns and cities.  See this blog post for Philadelphia, and soon this one too, for New York.  This section amplifies points I made in my "Conquering Winter" and "Inventing the U.S. Stove Industry" articles, but with a lot more evidence than I had when I wrote them.  John Conant and the beginning of large-scale stove-making in the New England back country (Brandon, VT).  The Philadelphia region as the continuing center of stove production and trade through the early 1830s. 
  • Appendix: Cooking and Heating Appliances -- The Second Quarter-Century of Stove Invention. A detailed tabulation of where, when, and to some extent from whom the growing number of stove patents came.  This stuff, like the similar but much smaller section in Chapter 1, comes from my database of stove patents, 1790-, one of my key research tools. 


  • The full text of the Chapter.
  • The Bibliography -- this is new, and currently pretty rough, but it lists all of the sources, primary and secondary, cited in the text, and provides web links to copies, if available.  In due course I might integrate these into the text, but that's a long-term, rainy-day project.  In the meantime, this will serve.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Nation of Stoves, Chapter 1 -- Origins: From Benjamin Franklin to the War of 1812

I began the reading that led to this because, despite my respect for the late Patricia Brewer's From Fireplace to Cookstove: Technology and the Domestic Ideal in America (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2000), I was unimpressed by the adequacy of the secondary literature that was available for me to rely on as I attempted to put together what I originally thought of as just a brief historical introduction, after which I would get stuck into my post-Civil-War business-&-technology history of the stove industry.

What led me astray was Google Books and other online source depositories, where I found a wealth of (to me) fascinating material, and the possibility of developing a continuous narrative that would deal with my own and anybody else's unsatisfied desire to know what happened.  The past is much more interesting to me than the way it is often thought and written about, and getting back in touch with contemporary voices and historical actors much the most rewarding aspect of doing historical work. So I followed the line of maximum self-indulgence, read as much as I could find, and stitched it together into what follows.

The structure is simple:

  • a one-paragraph Introduction, making it clear that this chapter will be relying five of Rudyard Kipling's Six Honest Serving Men (What, When, How, Where, Who) more than the sixth and most important, Why?
  • 1.1 Franklin's and Other Stoves [## words] -- a systematic account of the plate stoves of the Middle Colonies, to be read alongside my recent blog posts on 5, 6, 9 and 10-plates and Franklins
  • 1.2 Stove Use Spreads (a very uninspired section title) [## words] -- the extension of the area where stoves were used during the Revolutionary and very early National period, among the elite.
  • 1.3 Philadelphia: America's [Stove] Capital [## words] -- despite that, it's mostly still a story about Philadelphia and its region, and this section discusses why (comfort, convenience, economy) Philadelphians were becoming quite so attached to their slowly improving stoves.
  • 1.4 Stoves Make Progress (another very uninspired section title) [## words] -- significant improvements in techniques of manufacture (flask molding) and in the products themselves: adaptation for cooking (the boiler hole), the first American kitchen ranges. 
  • 1.5 The Stove Region Grows, and Invention Begins to Thrive [## words] -- takeup of stoves in New England and New York, particularly in heating churches; recognition of stove ownership and its significance in state law; the patent record (who is inventing what, where; Oliver Evans, Samuel Dickey, and particularly Daniel Pettibone, significant inventors). 
  • 1.6 War, Crisis, and Change (another...) [## words] -- on the way in which the War of 1812 encouraged investment by Philadelphia entrepreneurs in increasing the scale of stove manufacturing in the region's iron furnaces, and the processes of diffusion of consumption and production across the American North were also accelerated.
  • Appendix: A Parallel Evolution [## words] -- Canada, or more properly Nouvelle France/British North America, had its own separate history of stove production and use, about which I had known and read nothing and which fascinated me when I came across it, so I decided to summarize it here.  There's an excellent book about it, Marcel Moussette's Le Chauffage Domestique au Canada: des origines à l'industrialisation (Montréal: Presses Université Laval, 1983), but my emphasis was a bit different, as well as my coverage being much thinner.
  • the whole Chapter, or 
  • just the Appendix.
  • the Bibliography -- this is new, and currently pretty rough, but it lists all of the sources, primary and secondary, cited in the text, and provides web links to copies, if available.  In due course I might integrate these into the text, but that's a long-term, rainy-day project.  In the meantime, this will serve. 
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A Nation of Stoves: Introduction

This doesn't really exist yet -- a couple of different beginnings, neither worth sharing.  But there's a bit from a draft of a later chapter that does say something relevant here: an explanation, of a kind, for the title I have chosen.  The book is about the processes by which America (or at least the northern states) turned into a "nation of stoves" between the late eighteenth and the mid-nineteenth centuries -- a history of products, makers, and users.  Contemporary Americans and foreign observers soon became aware that the new technology of heating and cooking, and the way that Americans employed and enjoyed it, was quite distinctive -- a part of an emerging national lifestyle.  That's what the title is meant to sum up.  This section of text begins with a bit of forgettable fictional prose; it might end with another piece of almost equally forgettable verse, Eugene Field's patriotic "Stoves and Sunshine":

Prate, ye who will, of so-called charms you find across the sea-- 
The land of stoves and sunshine is good enough for me! 
I've done the grand for fourteen months in every foreign clime, 
And I've learned a heap of learning, but I've shivered all the time; 
And the biggest bit of wisdom I've acquired--as I can see-- 
Is that which teaches that this land's the land of lands for me. 

Now, I am of opinion that a person should get some 
Warmth in this present life of ours, not all in that to come; 
So when Boreas blows his blast, through country and through town, 
Or when upon the muddy streets the stifling fog rolls down, 
Go, guzzle in a pub, or plod some bleak malarious grove, 
But let me toast my shrunken shanks beside some Yankee stove. 

[and so on, and on, for another five verses.]

Printed in The Hardware Reporter in 1891, and widely circulated by the Michigan Stove Company -- see The Hardware Reporter 26 (1896): 19.

* * * 

“This Land of Stoves”

"What shall be my first act of homage," enquired Gerard: -- "shall I ring for coffee, and stir the fire?"

"Yes; its blaze will be quite delightful, this chill autumnal morning: -- the sparkle of a fire is one of the luxuries of autumn.  I am glad I live in merry England, where we can see the blaze, and feel the glow: -- to live in a land of stoves to me would be a serious privation."

"A serious privation, would it?" said Mr. Mortimer, smiling.

"Oh, quite an affliction !" exclaimed Helen.

Mary Jane Mackenzie's character Helen Seymour, in her forgettable work of fiction Private Life (1829), expressed the very conventional and enduring British preference for an open fire, but by the time her American readers came across it (the novel was sold in New York, Albany, and Philadelphia) that preference was already eroding fast among them.  America was indeed becoming the “land of stoves” that English visitors would continue to attack and bemoan for most of the rest of the century.  Thirteen years later the same phrase cropped up again, this time in the work of Solon Robinson, a Connecticut-born and -raised Indiana farmer and agricultural journalist, writing approvingly about Orr's Air-Tight, “the chef d'ouvre [sic] in the art of stove-making in this land of stoves,” and the liberation from wood-chopping that its renowned fuel economy promised.[1]  And eight years after that Dr. J.A. Kennicott, writing from Grove, Illinois to the celebrated architect and horticulturist Andrew Jackson Downing of Newburgh, New York, apostle of (middle-class) taste, used it again, to describe his deeply rural neighborhood, eighty miles south of Champaign, sixty south-west of Terre Haute, and far from the nearest significant town.  Kennicott, like Downing, loathed the new technology of home heating that had become universal across the northern states in less than a generation, even in the middle of nowhere: “we have as many patterns as can be found in the Patent Office.  I hate the whole breed of them, though, doubtless ... they are useful, and perhaps necessary in cooking.”  He yearned for the good old days: “I have a strange hankering for the old 'trammel' and hooks [kitchen fireplace fittings].  And I ... have liberally indemnified myself for the introduction of stoves elsewhere, by building a real old-fashioned, capacious, family fire-place in my original 'log cabin,' which I love like an old friend.”  Dr. Kennicott retired into his “embalmed” piece of the recent past in search of solace:

in this primitive sittingroom, with a rousing fire of dry hickory logs, there is much comfort; and with the free air constantly sifting through the 'chinking,' there is more than comfort; there is pure food for the lungs, and plenty of it; and there is health, and almost entire exemption from 'colds,' and 'croups,' and 'quinzies,' and 'all the long catalogue of ills' that infant 'flesh is heir to,' in the air-tight rooms, heated by 'air-tight stoves' of our city residences.[2]

As we saw from Charles Briggs's 1825 address to the Society of Middlesex Husbandmen and Manufacturers in Chapter 2, Americans had responded to the new technology of cooking and heating with a mixture of enthusiasm and nostalgia for what Solon Robinson called the “good old-fashioned Christian fire-places” almost from the start of the 'stove revolution.'  By the 1840s and 1850s middle-class periodicals, particularly Downing's, were full of criticisms of the mechanical comfort of stove and furnace heating, the vitiated internal atmosphere said to result, and the alleged tastelesness of stove-cooked food.  All of this commentary is culturally interesting, and its causes and significance will be explored later in this chapter, but its volume and its overwhelming negativity should not blind us to one great fact: it does not represent effective resistance to the triumph of the new domestic technology as much as it demonstrates how swiftly and throroughly Americans across the northern states became dependent upon it.  It was evidence for the speed and extent of change in consumer habits and everyday experience, producing a critical reaction within parts of the middle class but scarcely seeming to affect most stove buyers' and users' behavior.[3]

    Mary J. Mackenzie, Private Life; or, Varieties of Character and Opinion: A Story (New-York: J. & J. Harper, 1829), Vol. 2, pp. 52-3.
[1]    S.R., “Orr's Air-Tight Stove,” The Farmers' Cabinet, and American Herd-Book 7:5 (15 Dec. 1842): 153.  Robinson was at best ambivalent about stoves – see e.g. "Warming Houses with 'Hot Air' and Stoves," The Prairie Farmer 7:3 (March 1847): 85 -- they were “'one of the inventions of the devil for destroying human life,'” but he acknowledged that he lived “in a heathen land, where stoves are worshipped, and to avoid 'burning my own fingers' I must bow my knees to the national idol.”  Thirteen years later he seems to have become reconciled to modernity, building stoves into his recommendations for American households -- How To Live: Saving and Wasting, or Domestic Economy Illustrated by the Life of Two Families of Opposite Character, Habits, and Practices, in a Pleasant Tale of Real Life, Full of Useful Lessons in Housekeeping, and Hints How to Live, How to Have, How to Gain, and How to be Happy; Including the Story of a Dime a Day (New York: Fowler & Wells, 1860), esp. pp. 37-8, 97, 256, 292, 298-9.
[2]    Kennicott, "Rough Notes on Horticulture, from the West," The Horticulturist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste 4:10 (April 1850): 450-53 at p. 452.  For Downing, see David Schuyler, Apostle of Taste: Andrew Jackson Downing, 1815-1852 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1996) and below, pp. ##.
[3]    Briggs, A Discourse Delivered at Concord, October the Fifth, 1825; Robinson, "Warming Houses with 'Hot Air' and Stoves," p. 85.

A Nation of Stoves

In the preface to his recent book [Home Fires: How Americans Kept Warm in the Nineteenth Century, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014] my old research colleague at the Hagley, Sean Patrick Adams, was kind enough to say that my "work on nineteenth-century stoves promises to be the definitive work on the subject" (p. ix).  Sean was being optimistic as well as generous: this work has been under way since 2004; parts of it have been aired at seminars and conferences since 2005; and sections of it have seen the light of day in print since 2007.  But it is not yet a book, and I don't know when or whether it ever will be.

I began the writing of draft chapters in, I think, the summer of 2008, and carried on with it, off and on, for the next four years.  I blended writing with further research, and the cranking out of seminar papers that turned into articles with steady progress on The Book.  I was always happy to be distracted by a new find.  Major primary source collections -- the records of Samuel G. Wright and David C. Wood, Philadelphia-based stove manufacturers of the 1810s-1840s; of Powell Stackhouse, Philadelphia pattern-maker in the 1830s and early 1840s; bankruptcy proceedings involving most of the leading New York stove makers and dealers of the 1830s; account books of John F. Rathbone, a pioneer Albany stove founder of the 1840s -- drew me far away from my original intentions.  They reinforced the effect of digitized printed primary and secondary sources, particularly rich for the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century, and transformed a project that I originally expected to be focused on the period between the Civil War and World War One, when the stove industry reached maturity, experienced stagnation, and began its decline.  The antebellum years turned from what I expected to be a brief prologue to the real action into the main subject of my work.

So what happened next?  Redefining the boundaries of a project as one becomes familiar with available source material is quite normal, and while it may have slowed my progress, it didn't stop it.  But a couple of years ago I sort of ran out of steam.  There were many reasons for this, some of the most important quite personal, but I think the more fundamental problems were intellectual.  I lost confidence in the publishability of the work that I was producing: it was too descriptive, too narrative in approach, too merely chronological in organization.  It wouldn't cut much ice with my fellow academics (the critical reception of the seminar paper that turned into my last published article was a clear warning of this), because it wasn't dealing with Big Questions, and yet it was far too heavy and detailed to appeal to a different possible readership, old-stove fans and enthusiasts for early Americana. So why continue with it?  When I stopped writing, I was also increasingly unsure about how I would finish Chapter Six, and how I would then proceed to wrap up the entire book in a Chapter Seven that I knew I needed, but whose shape I could not see in advance.

I also ran out of motivation -- not, by any means, out of interest in the subject, or readiness to undertake further research and writing about it; just out of any sense of urgency about finishing the manuscript of another book, and then trying to place it with a publisher and negotiate it through the approval and review process.  By the summer of 2012 I had decided to retire, and I began to slow down and disengage from an academic career that had occupied my entire adult life.  All of the pragmatic reasons for busying myself with research leading to publication in a respectable academic form -- journal articles or books -- disappeared, and I no longer have to do anything more along those lines, ever again.  Research has become just a hobby, and I have become free to invest my energies in types of writing (in particular, blog posts) that satisfy my desire to write with some kind of end result in mind, and not to worry about publishing them in any conventional sense.  This blog brings me into contact with people who know something about the subjects that interest me, and who seem to be ready to take an interest in what I write, and to help me with it.  That's enough for me.

I've now reached a point where I have decided to share my chapter drafts as freely as I share anything else on this blog or via my research website.  I have put a lot of work into them; it's a pity if nobody who wants to know something about the history of the American stove, its users, and the industry that supplied them, can get hold of them easily.  Maybe this is a mistake -- maybe I will get back to the manuscript, and finish Chapters Six and Seven, and then try to publish the whole thing, only to find that I've weakened my arguments for the book by releasing so much of it too soon, and in this way. Well, if this begins to seem at all likely, I can always take this stuff down again almost as easily as I put it up... knowing, of course, that in the wonderful world of the Internet, nothing is ever really and truly deleted.  Tant pis, such is life, seems to me right now that this is a small risk worth taking.

I will link each draft chapter to a separate posting, which will contain a brief synopsis of the chapter's contents.  That way, I will at least be able to track page-views of the individual postings, though not of course how many (or how few) views of the chapters themselves may result.

One warning: when these document files (created in Open Office, but in Word 97-2003 format) open in Google Docs, funny things seem to happen to the formatting of some of the illustrations -- pictures hide their captions.  You can probably get around this, if it bothers you, by downloading the file and opening with Word or Open Office directly.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Shaker Stoves in the Historic American Buildings Survey Archive (upd. 24 June 2014)

HABS, like the Index of American Design, was one of the great projects to document American material culture launched during the New Deal.  Their timing was fortunate, for them and for us: artists and photographers and (in HABS's case) architects arrived at Shaker villages in time to record them in a lived-in, or at least not-quite-abandoned, condition.

The HABS archives online at the Library of Congress are easy to search -- I looked for Shaker Stove / Oven / Kitchen /Room in compiling this selection.  But there are almost too many hits, and the pictures, while eloquent in their own way, lack commentary and organization.  So I will provide both, trying not just to repeat what's in my Shaker Stoves essay, to which I refer any readers who come across this, as well the other two Shaker Stoves blog postings: the original Shaker (or "Shaker") Stoves and the recent Shaker Stoves on US Auction Sites.

HABS complements those earlier postings because its strengths lie in different areas than theirs -- stoves in situ rather than as de-contextualized art objects; and stoves other than the small room heaters that were the most numerous type of Shaker stoves, and that understandably dominate museum and private holdings.  But I'll start with a few pictures where the stove is the centre of attention, as it always is in the other couple of postings.  I include good-quality JPEG versions of the images, but the links will take you to the Library of Congress site, where you can also get very good TIFF versions.

This is a "super-heater" or "double-decker," a modification of the standard or smaller Shaker heating stove designed to increase its output by adding to the radiating surface area and transferring more heat out of the flue gases and into the room before they escaped up the chimney.  The stove has "worldly" cabriole legs rather than the more usual Shaker peg legs, probably because the Western Shakers got all of their casting done for them by commercial foundries.  It is evidently just set out for display purposes against a wall, and neither in use nor even capable of being used: it was in quite poor condition, probably after years of neglect, but if it had been fired up so close to a wooden floor and wainscotting, it would have been a big fire hazard.

Here's another version of the same design, sitting on a board to protect the linoleum floor, and with the flue exiting at the front of the upper chamber, not the back:

A nice picture of a very simple, quite wide and boxy stove. Something to note about this image is its date: by the 1960s, Hancock and other villages were becoming quite museumified, a process which involved more than just conservation of what was there, but editing out of objects that did not fit and conscious recreation of what experts thought of as the classic, uniform style of the ante-bellum Shaker "Golden Age." Photographs from the 1930s show a much messier and mixed-up style then still surviving from the last decades of villages' times as live, if shrinking, communities. By the 1960s, that reality had been replaced by what museums' creators thought of as a better as well as a truer version of the stripped-down Shaker style that they idealized.

This is a distinctive and quite early style of Hancock stove, its box fairly high relative to its lengthg and width, and with a five-sided rather than round front hearth, visible also below. This room is a set -- a display space for classic Shaker wooden furniture.

Whatever the caption may suggest, this is not a "typical" Shaker stove, it's actually a very interesting and early one -- basically an iron fireplace (a sort of "Franklin") rather than a stove, broader than it was deep and made to take a log widthways rather than lengthwise. It doesn't have a proper door, but rather a wrought-iron top-hinged "blower" to speed the ignition of kindling. Most of the time, this stove would have burned with the blower propped open, and a nice clear view of the fire. The shape is significant, too: a truncated pyramid on top of the plain trapezoid that became the Shaker norm -- another indication of this stove's early date. The (short) legs are wrougght iron with penny feet, common on other early Shaker stoves.


What is interesting about this image by William Winter, one of the earliest and most important of the photographers who recorded Shaker material culture and architecture, is that the stove, sitting on its metal stove-board, is almost the only object about whose place in this room one can be confident. The other bits of wooden furniture have just been brought together for the picture. Winter did plenty of this sort of set-dressing, at first rather naively, as in this picture, but increasingly self-consciously, with the intent of enhancing or even creating a sense of "the" classic Shaker aesthetic of the kind that one can see in its mature form in Jack Boucher's Hancock images from the early 1960s.

What is interesting about this Boucher image, from one of the three smaller communities in Massachusetts rather than the larger, longer-lived, and much more photographed and visited Hancock, is the type of stove: an early, transitional truncated-pyramid-on-trapezoid shape, with very worldly cast-iron cabriole legs. Harvard, like the western settlements, did not have its own foundry, so presumably had this made for them. Similar stoves were found in Hancock, Enfield, New Hampshire, and probably elsewhere too -- for illustrations, see the other two Shaker Stoves posts, and Fig. #12, below. This room is not as stripped-down and dressed up as in Boucher's pictures of Hancock, probably because Harvard's properties remain in private ownership.

The significance of this image is that it is of a late-model stove, manufactured to Shaker designs but years after they had given up making their own stoves. This stove is a plain six-plate box with cabriole legs rather like the ones in the previous image. The distinctively Shaker aspect of its design, apart from its relative plainness, is the hinged flap in the top plate of the stove, half-concealed by the ash-shovel. This was used for putting in fuel, including awkward chunks of wood that would not fit easily through the door. The sliding hatch in the front hearth was used to control the draught. This style of stove probably originated in Canterbury, New Hampshire, some time between 1840 and 1870. It displaced the older trapezoid stoves from Canterbury so completely that when the village was turned into a museum in the 1990s, after the last eldress died, the museum director, Scott Swank, had to buy "classic" Shaker stoves from antique shops in order to be able to decorate some rooms in the early C19th style that visitors would expect to encounter. Canterbury Shakers had got rid of the classic Shaker stoves they had made for themselves, because they thought these new ones, which they had made for them at a nearby commercial foundry, worked much better. Perhaps the best picture of one of these stoves that I have seen -- and possibly of a larger model -- is from Canterbury itself, and on Flickr.

This picture, even more than Baldwin's, Fig. #8 above, shows how Shakers actually lived and heated (some of) the private rooms in their dwelling houses by the late nineteenth century -- in a style blending Shaker-made heirloom furniture with commercial goods reflecting a partial acceptance of Victorian taste, and a greater emphasis on comfort. The stove in the middle of the room is a "Rosedale," manufactured by the firm of John S. & Merritt Peckham of Utica, NY from at least the mid-1880s. Watervliet, the oldest Shaker settlement, had never had its own foundry, but had once used stoves and other appliances made to Shaker designs and specifications.

Fig. #10: J.S. & M. Peckham, Utica, NY, "Rosedale" Trade Card, n.d. -- and, for the specifications, the back of the card.

Fig. #11: William F. Winter, Jr., Photographer, SISTER'S ROOM -- Shaker South Family Dwelling House (second), New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY, 1920's HABS NY,11-NELEB.V,17--7

We can see some of the same changes in William Winter's slightly earlier photo of a sister's room at New Lebanon, the second and much larger Shaker village in New York State. As with Winter's other photographs, we cannot be confident that the three items of wooden furniture lined up in a row have not just been brought into the room to decorate it. But we can trust the wallpaper, the oilcloth or linoleum on the floor, and the picture on the wall, as well as the stove -- made to a design more than a century old, and still serviceable, though this does not mean that the stove itself was anything like that ancient. They remained in production, essentially unchanged, for decades. (Q: Was the iron-doored receptacle behind the stove, which had dirtied the wallpaper above it, for the storage of firewood or for the disposal of ashes? Probably the latter, I think, though I have read both explanations for its purpose.)

Finally, one of the most arresting images testifying to Shakers' acceptance of new domestic technologies in the interests of greater comfort, convenience, and economy, comes from the North Family at New Lebanon, who had installed steam heating in their dwelling house as early as the 1860s:

Fig. #11a: N. E. Baldwin, Photographer, RADIATOR AND STOVE -- Shaker North Family Dwelling House (second), New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY, December 1939,  HABS NY,11-NELEB.V,28--10

Here, as in other late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Shaker interiors, the old and the new, the home-made and the bought, lived amicably enough side by side.

* * *

As I wrote in the introduction, the real strength of the HABS collection is not its images of classic (and not-so-classic) Shaker stoves in the smaller, more private living spaces in Shaker dwelling houses, it's the number of pictures of much less familiar, but also very important, Shaker stove types, in the more public or communal rooms in dwelling houses and elsewhere in Shaker villages.

Here, for example, is a picture of one of the Brethren's [work] Shops at Hancock, with a centrally located Enfield-style stove.

Fig. #12: Jack E. Boucher, EAST PORTION OF FIRST FLOOR, SHOWING HEATING STOVE - - Shaker Church Family Brethren's Shop, Hancock, Berkshire County, MA, June 1962.  HABS MASS,2-HANC,1--8.

Shaker work and workplaces were very gender-segregated, and there seem to be far more images of the women's spaces than of the men's. Cooking, washing, ironing, mending and making clothes -- these, as well as cleaning, and indeed bringing up children (though not biologically their own), were the principal women's occupations in Shaker families just as much as in other 19th-century households, and they all had their distinctive communal work sites, with appropriate styles of stove to supply either space or process heat.

This is a picture with, though not of, the same super-heater shown in close-up in Figure #2, above.  It shows the stove's context -- in the alcove of a sewing room where the South Family's Sisters at first made, and later mostly just repaired, the community's clothing and other textile goods.  The stove is not just to warm the work space, whose size explains the need for a super-heater rather than just one of the smaller heating stoves appropriate to a "retiring room."  It is also a tool for the Shaker tailoresses -- used to heat flat irons for pressing clothes.  There is another nice Flickr photo of a sewing room at Hancock that shows a single-decker stove with a recess in its top, also used for heating irons.

A family of up to a hundred Shakers produced an awful lot of washing and ironing, so it is understandable that Shaker laundries were built on a large scale, and had their own distinctive types of stove.  (Distinctive, but not unique -- laundry and ironing stoves were regular features in commercial stove makers' catalogues too.)

The best picture I have seen of one of the Shakers' powered laundries -- a technology they had developed in the mid-nineteenth century -- is also one of the oldest in the HABS collection.  The only "stove" visible in this case is an enormous conical water-heater.  Note that, even in 1930, it was still wood-fueled.

Fig. #14: William F. Winter, Jr., Photographer, LAUNDRY ROOM, Shaker Church Family Sisters' Workshop, New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY May 1930. HABS NY,11-NELEB.V,11--3

Winter also took pictures of the New Lebanon Church Family's ironing room when it was still in use:

Fig. #15: William F. Winter, Jr., Photographer. IRONING ROOM, Shaker Church Family Sisters' Workshop, New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY, 1920s. HABS NY,11-NELEB.V,11--4.

Notice the drying lines, to make use of the warm atmosphere, and the box-like sheet-metal cover on top of the small heating stove on the right of this picture. It was probably designed to speed up the heating of irons underneath it; for larger jobs, the huge conical stove in the background would serve. Winter was sufficiently interested in this apparent prototype for a Project Mercury space capsule that he took two pictures of it, one with its doors closed (showing their elegant wrought-iron latches) and the other with them open, to show the racks of irons inside.

Fig. #16: William F. Winter, Jr., Photographer, IRONING STOVE IN LAUNDRY ROOM, Shaker Church Family Sisters' Workshop, New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY, Summer 1931.  HABS NY,11-NELEB.V,11--10

Fig. #17: William F. Winter, Jr., Photographer, IRONING STOVE IN LAUNDRY ROOM, Shaker Church Family Sisters' Workshop, New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY, Summer 1931. HABS NY,11-NELEB.V,11--9

Thirty years later Jack Boucher made his own set of images of nearby Hancock's very similar installation: 

Fig. #14: Jack E. Boucher, FIRST FLOOR, WEST END SHOWING FLATIRON HEATING STOVE -- Shaker Church Family Washhouse & Machine Shop, Hancock, Berkshire County, MA, June 1962. HABS MASS,2-HANC,14--13.

We can see a brick-set copper or iron wash boiler against the wall, with a conical ironing stove (a sheet metal enclosure around a firepot) and a double-decker waiting to be refitted into the room -- for the room as now restored, see this 2006 photo on Flickr. Boucher was sufficiently interested in the ironing stove that he also took a detail view, apparently before restoration began:

Fig. #15: Jack E. Boucher, FLATIRON HEATING STOVE -- Shaker Church Family Washhouse & Machine Shop, Hancock, Berkshire County, MA, June 1962. HABS MASS,2-HANC,14--14.

This was perhaps the most impressive type of ironing stove, but not the only one. Two more were recorded from the same building in the 1930s:

Fig. #16: William F. Winter, Jr., Photographer, IRONING STOVE -- Shaker Church Family Washhouse & Machine Shop, Hancock, Berkshire County, MA, 1931. HABS MASS,2-HANC,14--15.

Fig. #17: N. E. Baldwin, Photographer, CAST IRON STOVE -- Shaker Church Family Washhouse & Machine Shop, Hancock, Berkshire County, MA, December 28, 1939. HABS MASS,2-HANC,14--17. There is another good picture of one of these stoves -- William F. Winter, Jr., Photographer, IRONING ROOM -- Shaker South Family Washhouse, New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY, Summer 1930.  HABS NY,11-NELEB.V,20--9

A stove very like this one figures as a measured example in Ejner Handberg's Shop Drawings of Shaker Iron and Tinware (Stockbridge, MA: Berkshire Traveller Press, 1976), pp. 28-9, from which we find that it was 14" wide and 31" long (excluding the front hearth), standing 10.25" off the floor, and capable of heating irons on the slightly recessed top as well as along both sides. Many irons were needed for a big job of ironing, because they needed to be put back to heat up again quite frequently.

Fig. #18: N. E. Baldwin, Photographer, BRICK STOVE FOR HEATING FLATIRONS -- Shaker Church Family Washhouse & Machine Shop, Hancock, Berkshire County, MA, December 28, 1939. HABS MASS,2-HANC,14--16

* * *

Even more important than the laundry and ironing room in Shaker domestic economy was the kitchen. Here, too, we find large and quite distinctive stoves.  Perhaps the oldest is in one of the rare survivors from the first (1790s) generation of purpose-built Shaker dwelling houses:

It is not possible to tell very much about this oven from the above image -- for example, how much of the original installation had survived? -- and the accompanying measured drawing is no help, but it looks as if it is a massive brick-built structure whose only ironwork is the door.  A family with an oven like this would probably still have had to do most of its cooking in a conventional open-hearth fireplace.

By the time that Shakers were building their much larger second-generation dwelling houses, in the 1800s-1810s and after, they had gone beyond open-fire cookery and adopted versions of the most advanced installations for large-scale catering seen in the United States at that time -- notably "Rumford kitchens," with fixed iron boilers, ovens, and cooking hearths.  The best surviving example of these -- at least, the most frequently photographed -- is at Hancock, and dates from 1830.  When it was completed its designer, Elder William F. Deming, described its boilers proudly as "on a plan of my own invention, which proves to be the best ever see."  There were also "two excellent ovens made on an improved plan which will bake four different settings at one heating," i.e. enough for the day's two main meals for the Family's hundred members.

The boilers can be seen quite plainly, either side of the main central stack of ovens, together with a circular "pie oven" in the end facing the camera. These appliances all had their own separate fires, so they could be used independently of one another, but they shared the same chimney stack.  The massive brick chimney is reinforced against heat expansion and cracking with iron straps and bolts. In the background can be seen a big, later (from its plain style, probably early C20th) anthracite-fired kitchen range, which complemented and had probably largely replaced the original installation by Hancock's final decades, as its population declined.

The kitchen in Hancock's Brick Dwelling House has gone through several restorations during its subsequent life as a key attraction of a popular museum, traced in the following images:

Fig. #21: Jack E. Boucher, LARGE BAKE OVEN, BASEMENT FLOOR, SOUTH ROOM (OVEN HAS FOUR HEATS FROM CENTRAL FIRE) -- Shaker Church Family Main Dwelling House, Hancock, Berkshire County, MA, June 1962. HABS MASS,2-HANC,4--15. The arch kettles in the left-hand alcove of the brick chimney, and against the wall on the right-hand edge of the picture, have been removed. Boucher is probably wrong about the "four heats," given that there were separate fires.

As we can see, the smaller boiler had been removed from the left-hand alcove to make room for a dough-kneading trough.  Pearson's picture shows another large boiler on the right-hand side, concealed in Baldwin's and Boucher's images.  The way they vent into the common chimney is clear in this third image. Pearson also took a different view of the restored kitchen, showing how the early 1900s range had been removed and replaced by a smaller, older wood-fired cooking stove which must have been thought more appropriate to the period being recreated:

Moving forward to today, Hancock's original kitchen, with its numerous "arch kettles" for boiling water and heating food, seems to have been entirely restored, with even the early C19th kitchen stove removed:

Fig. #24: Angela ("Moonfever0"), IMG_4834, 29 June 2010, Hancock Shaker Village.  The cooking stove in place by 1970, has been replaced by another arch kettle, also visible in Pearson's image, Fig. #23.

Fig. #25: Angela ("Moonfever0"), IMG_4836, 29 June 2010, Hancock Shaker Village.  This small boiler and cooking hob is just visible behind the end wall in Pearson's image, Fig. #23.

No other Shaker kitchen seems to be as well documented as William Deming's Hancock masterpiece, but good images of key pieces of equipment at other villages are also available, so that we can see local variations as well as a common technological style.

Fig. #26: N.E. Baldwin, Photographer, ARCH KETTLE IN KITCHEN -- Shaker South Family Dwelling House, Watervliet , Albany County, NY, November 1939, HABS NY,1-COL,14--5

Fig. #27: William F. Winter, Jr., Photographer, KITCHEN -- Shaker South Family Dwelling House, Watervliet, Albany County, NY, Late 1920's or 1930's, HABS NY,1-COL,14--4

The interesting thing (for me, at least) about these two pictures is how Baldwin's close-up omits the crucial context that Winter's earlier long shot reveals -- that the old wood-fired boiler, its right-hand unit converted into the heater for what looks like a sheet-iron warming oven placed on top of the hot plate, is dwarfed by the massive and ornate late-nineteenth-century anthracite range (a "Kitchener" by Magee & Co. of Boston) that had replaced it. Watervliet's range, like Hancock's in Fig. #20, would have been more versatile, less labor-intensive, and more convenient -- heating, for example, a big vertical cylinder full of water at the same time as enabling all cooking operations to be done on the same appliance.

Another image of a kitchen at New Lebanon shows a new appliance (in this case, a Devonshire No. 24 range by the Richardson & Boynton Co. of New York and Chicago) had been installed in such a way as to displace all but one of the old arch kettles and, probably, make the old round pie oven as unusable as it was redundant.

Fig. #28: William F. Winter, Jr., Photographer, KITCHEN -- Shaker South Family Dwelling House (second), New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY, Summer 1930. HABS NY,11-NELEB.V,17--11

Shakers had different sorts of kitchen -- as well as those in the basements of their large dwelling houses for feeding whole families, separate production kitchens where they cooked and canned the high-quality food products they sold to the public.

Fig. #29: N. E. Baldwin, Photographer, CANNING KITCHEN -- Shaker North Family, Dwelling House, New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY, November 1939. HABS NY,11-NELEB.V,24--11.  The bars on the front of the fire doors on two of the arch kettles are probably to protect cooks' legs from burns.

Fig. #30: N. E. Baldwin, Photographer, CANNING KITCHEN SINK -- Shaker North Family, Dwelling House, Shaker Road, New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY, November 1939. HABS NY,11-NELEB.V,24--12

One problem that Shakers had with large-scale food preparation in multi-storey dwelling houses was moving quantities of food between floors in an economical manner, and in a way that made sure that it didn't arrive cold.  One solution can be seen in the New Lebanon cannon kitchen -- a "dumb waiter," or simple but effective elevator, powered by hand-turning a wooden windlass.     

Fig. #31: N. E. Baldwin, Photographer, CANNING KITCHEN ELEVATOR -- Shaker North Family, Dwelling House, Shaker Road, New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY, December 1939. HABS NY,11-NELEB.V,24--13

Another solution is visible at Hancock: putting an old heating stove under a sheet-iron top to create a hot plate for keeping food warm between its arrival from the kitchen and its being served up in the next-door dining room:

Fig. #32: N. E. Baldwin, Photographer, STOVE, WOOD BOX, AND ENCLOSED SINK IN SERVING KITCHEN -- Shaker Church Family Main Dwelling House, Hancock, Berkshire County, MA, December 26, 1939. HABS MASS,2-HANC,4--17

Dining rooms were important communal spaces in Shaker dwelling houses, and also large enough to need their own heating solutions:

Fig. #33: Elmer R. Pearson, Photographer, DINING ROOM, SECOND FLOOR, LOOKING EAST -- Shaker Church Family Main Dwelling House, Hancock, Berkshire County, MA, 1970. HABS MASS,2-HANC,4--30

Perhaps Hancock had always looked as plain and simple as in Elmer Pearson's austere image, a portrait of polished old wooden furniture and floors and a couple of classic heating stoves.  Or perhaps this was a recreated version of the past, displacing the one that the last generations of Shakers had actually created for themselves by blending old and new technologies, Shaker-made and bought-in products.  As the following picture from nearby New Lebanon shows, the Shaker stoves and benches had disappeared from a room now needing to accommodate just a handful of elderly residents, but probably doing so more comfortably thanks to a size 16 "Windsor" model, anthracite-fueled base burner, with patent "Ventiducts," instead.  This stove probably dated from the turn of the century, like the ranges in Shaker kitchens, but these durable, ageing appliances were what the Shakers had come to depend on.

Fig. #34: William F. Winter, Jr., Photographer, DINING ROOM # 2 -- Shaker South Family Dwelling House (second), New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY, 1920's. HABS NY,11-NELEB.V,17--10. The stove is probably a Chicago Stove Works "Gold Coin"-brand Ventiduct Base Burner -- "The only Base Burner with Ventiduct Tubes correctly applied" so as to draw in cold air at floor level, heat it in the decorated iron jacket around the firepot, and expel it at the top, "thus heating the remote corners of the room by hot air circulation." It was, they claimed, "the only stove combining the advantages of a hot air furnace and a base burner." "SEE IT AND YOU WILL BUY IT." (Quotations from colored brochure, n.d., in the collections of the Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, NY, where Bussey & McLeod, founders of the firm that became the Chicago Stove Works, were based, and of which B. & M. continued as its Eastern Division until its closure in 1916.)

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Finally, one kind of communal space was the heart of every Shaker community -- the Meeting House; and every dwelling house had its meeting rooms, for the Family to get together for week-night worship and sociable "union meetings," and for Sunday worship too, in the depths of winter when the large Meeting House was impossible to warm.  All of these had stoves -- Meeting Houses were the first purpose-built Shaker structures, the oldest dating back to the early 1790s, and they were probably also the first to be stove-heated.  The HABS archive holds numerous surveys of meeting houses, but few of the accompanying pictures include stoves.  That of Sabbathday Lake, in Maine (built 1794, but with a mid- to late-nineteenth-century stove), is the best:

Fig. #35: Gerda Peterich, Photographer, MEETING ROOM, LEFT - Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community Meetinghouse, Cumberland County, ME,  June 1962.  HABS ME,3-SAB,1--4.  There is also a close-up of the rather crude double-decker stove, and a picture of the single-decker on the other side of the room --

Curiously, the best picture of a classic Shaker stove in a meeting house that I can find in the HABS archive is not in a Shaker community at all -- it's in the Flushing, New York, Quaker (Society of Friends) Meeting House.  Why and how this old Hancock-style stove ended up there, 150 miles from Hancock, is presently a mystery.

Fig. #36: Society of Friends Meetinghouse, Flushing, Queens County, NYHABS NY,41-FLUSH,1--20. shows the stoves in context.

Meeting Rooms in dwelling houses are rather better served in the HABS archive.  One of the best images is from Hancock:

Fig. #37: Jack E. Boucher, creator. LARGE ROOM (PROBABLY MEETING ROOM), NORTH END OF FIRST FLOOR - Shaker Church Family Main Dwelling House, Hancock, Berkshire County, MA, June 1962 .  HABS MASS,2-HANC,4--19.

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There are of course plenty of other good picture sources for Shaker villages and stoves online, notably via Flickr, but HABS's are very hard to beat -- for quality, systematic coverage, proper labelling, contextualization (with multiple images, measured drawings, and sometimes useful historical essays). HABS contains more stove images than I have thought it worthwhile including here -- I have given little attention to the western communities, for example -- but this is enough for now, and (I am sure) for most imaginable viewers who may stumble over this blog post, whether by accident or design.