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Phyllis Minerva Ellin 


Historic Preservation 

Presented to the faculties of the University of Pennsylvania 
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of 




/ \ 

irj W. Moss, Ph.D., Supervisor 

David G. De ^"L&tiq, Ph.D. , Chai/r'man' 

fine arts 








Acknowledgements ii 

List of Illustrations iv 

Introduction 1 

Chapter One: A Cookstove Chronology, 1865-1920 5 

Section One: Domestic Technology 5 

Section Two: Mechanics of the Cookstove 9 

Chapter Two: The Stove as a Household Object 25 

Section One : The Coal Stove 25 

Section Two : The Gas Stove 34 

Section Three : The Electric Stove 41 

Chapter Three: The Stove in its Physical Context 48 

Section One : The Servant Question 48 

Section Two: Kitchen Design 53 

Section Three: The Kitchen in the House 62 

Chapter Four: Marketing the Cookstove 75 

Conclusion 85 

Illustrations 86 

Bibliography 98 



1. Coal stoves at the World's Columbian Exposition, 

1893 86 

2. Detroit Jewel Stove Works, 1903 86 

3. Coal stove, 1865 letterhead 87 

4 . Coal or wood stove, 1898 87 

5. Spear's gas burning cooking range, 1867 88 

6. Electric kitchen at World's Columbian Exposition, 

1893 88 

7. Oil stove with removeable lamp cylinders, 1884 .... 89 

8. Catharine E. Beecher's ideal coal stove, 1869 89 

9. Brick-set coal range with broiler and roaster at 

left, 1882 90 

10. Brick-set coal range with elevated double oven, 

1882 90 

11. Portable coal double-oven range, 1882 91 

12. Portable coal stove, 1893 91 

13. 1897 kitchen with coal and gas ranges 92 

14. Early gas stove 92 

15. Combination range with sectional view of boiler, 

1903 93 

16. Oil stove trade card 93 

17. Maria Parloa's model kitchen, 1886 94 

18. White tiled kitchen, 1902 94 

19. Dark tiled and vaulted kitchen, 1906 95 


20. Sample house plan with kitchen in rear corner, 

1886 \ t 95 

21. 19th-century tenement plans with progressively 
smaller kitchens 96 

22. Trade card, 1881 96 

23. Stove advertisement addressed to builders, 1890 ... 97 

24. Advertising lithographs suggested by manufacturer, 
1903 \ [ 97 


The cookstove is one of those mundane objects with an 
ostensibly humdrum history that too often has escaped his- 
torical analysis. Its major chroniclers are two groups with 
apparently little in common: social historians who concen- 
trate on women's history and those with a more personal, 
often nostalgic, interest in old stoves. The former are 
generally interested in technical evolution only as it in- 
fluenced women's thought and activity; the latter tend to 
focus on useful concrete details without integrating them 
more broadly into their historical and architectural back- 
ground. There are, of course, historians of technology and 
housing (notably Siegfried Giedion, Gwendolyn Wright, David 
P. Handlin, and Ruth Schwartz Cowan) who treat cookstoves 
more comprehensively but within the context of much larger 

The American cooking stove -- which is not to be con- 
fused with parlor stoves or other stoves intended primarily 
for heating — fills a unique role in linking technology and 
culture. This increasingly complex appliance was managed 
almost exclusively by women, traditionally not a technologi- 
cally-oriented segment of the population. More important, it 
filled a dual and interrelated role as both the hub of tradi- 
tional household operation and a cultural icon representing 

family stability and warmth. The household revolved about 
the stove, which in earlier years provided warmth and hot 
water for cleaning, as well as cooking meals. Modern re- 
searchers are not the first to seize upon the wider implica- 
tions of homey details. E.C. Gardner wrote in Homes and How 
to Make Them (1874), "From potato-washing to architectural 
design the distance is great, yet there are possible steps, 
and easy ones too, leading from one to the other." 1 Ruth 
Schwartz Cowan echoes this sentiment when explaining why 
technological changes associated with housework constitute a 
real "industrial revolution," one that is "no less destruc- 
tive of traditional habits than the change [for example] from 
manual to electric calculating." 2 

The evolution of kitchen technology is particularly in- 
triguing, however, because of its slow rate of change. While 
acknowledging the extent of its influence, we must remember 
that it remains a most conservative and disorganized "indus- 
try". Thus any changes in tools and methods are spread over 
a long period, and their causes and effects often obscured by 
events and issues with only a peripheral relation. In the 
case of cooking stoves, no new development in fuel or machi- 
nery ever "swept" the market. A cook or housewife skilled in 
the eccentricities of her coal-burning cast-iron range would 
be hesitant to abandon it until she was sure she could cook 

as well with gas or electricity. Instead, different stoves 
came into use as new homes were built, as inventions were 
tested and proven, and as social changes introduced more 
housewives to practical housekeeping. 

A chronology of the cooking stove thus becomes a wide- 
ranging survey of factors that influenced its manufacture, 
purchase and use. These include social history, the develop- 
ment of advertising, and the history of residential architec- 
ture, as well as the history of the stove itself. To limit 
these expansive topics to a reasonable scope, I have concen- 
trated on the period from 1865 to 1920. This period is one 
of gradual but definitive change, beginning when the cast- 
iron stove is well established and ending before the decade 
of "the most drastic changes in patterns of housewold work." 
The first chapter introduces the technological history of the 
stove. The next explores its existence as a machine and 
object in the home. The third treats the cookstove in its 
physical context, including the question of who actually 
operated the stoves, the stove as an element in kitchen 
design, and the kitchen as an evolving element in changing 
residential architecture. The last chapter examines the 
evolving methods of marketing the cookstove in America, in- 
cluding strategies that both reflected and influenced the 
people who selected, bought and used stoves. 


1 E.C. Gardner, Homes, and How to Make Them (Boston: 
1874), p. 208. 

2 Ruth Schwartz Cowan, "The 'Industrial Revolution' in 
the Home: Household Technology and Social Change in the 20th 
Century. " Technology and Culture 17 (January 1976), p. 9. 

3 Ibid., p. 4. 

CHAPTER ONE: A Cookstove Chronology, 1865-1920 
Section 1: Domestic Technology 

The ability of a manufacturer to market successfully new 
and even radically different household appliances depends on 
the willingness of the average householder to welcome the new 
technology. Thus the general American attitude in the period 
1865-1920 toward technological change and domestic technology 
in particular colored and defined the history of the stove. 
Even the pride and enthusiasm with which Americans celebrated 
progress could not produce immediate changes in domestic 

The force of modernity prevailed in the long run. Stove 
manufacturers promoted the wonders of these products of the 
marvelous new machine age. The Keeley Stove Company of 
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was one of those that were proud to 
have their stoves exhibited at the World's Columbian Exposi- 
tion in Chicago in 1893. [Fig. 1] They said the name of their 
line, Columbian, was "in harmony with the spirit and tenor of 
the year in which our catalog is issued...."! Many stove 
manufacturers (who made parlor stoves and often furnaces as 
well) proudly pictured their factories in the pages of the 
trade catalogs they published. [Fig. 2] Descriptions of the 
plants boast of acreage, modern machinery, and efficiency. 

Those who were to buy and use the stoves had less 
reason to celebrate these technological advances, especially 
in the mid-19 th century. Home life for the family in 
general would alter little with the acquisition of a stove, 
however revolutionary, and only the middle class would be 
quick to take advantage of newer products. The poor had 
little money to spare for inessential gadgetry, and the 
wealthy had servants to bear the household drudgery; appeals 
of convenience held little allure for employers. 2 while 
there were always those such as Catharine Beecher, who at 
mid-century encouraged women to be active and shoulder re- 
sponsibility for their own households* organization and 
work, a more widespread change took place in the last decade 
or so of the century. The quicker and more mechanized pace 
of life made Beecher's ideas of efficiency the root of new 
progressive movements, including "domestic science" or 
"domestic engineering." Efficiency and modernity became the 
hallmarks of the kitchen and allusions to the technological 
era were explicit: "As the chief workshop of the house, the 
kitchen should be fitted up and furnished precisely as an 
intelligent manufacturer would fit up his factory." 3 

This enthusiasm for up-to-date home technology extended 
well beyond the kitchen to the house in general and even to 
social theory. Gwendolyn Wright sees the technological 

spirit linked to an accompanying concern with morality, the 
two combining to hasten social progress in the early twen- 
tieth century. She states, "New domestic technology was 
central to the aesthetic and cultural redefinition of the 
modern home, The systems ... regulated its temperature, air 
and light and supplied it with power and services." 4 

The gospel of technological progress, however, left some 
Americans doubtful. Even in the mid-ninteenth century, the 
open hearth in the kitchen had not completely disappeared, 
and its image and habits lingered much longer. The simple 
mechanics of the fire were relinquished to the new, scienti- 
fic engineers of stove design. "Many technical devices and 
improvements better understood by the thermodynamics engineer 
than the cook ... provided hotter, longer-lasting, less 
smoky, and more fuel-efficient fires." Thus convenience 
arrived hand in hand with technological alienation. While 
improvements mounted from specialized coal stove attachments 
to futuristic experiments with electricity, many remained 
wary of too great a dependence on modern technology. 5 when 
Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the "Little House" books 
about her life on the western prairie in the late 19th cen- 
tury, wrote about technology, she articulated this view: 

"If only I had some grease I could fix 
some kind of a light," Ma considered. "We 
didn't lack for light when I was a girl, 
before this new-fangled kerosene was ever 
heard of." 

"That's so," said Pa. "These times are 
too progressive. Everything has changed 
too fast. Railroads and telegraph and 
kerosene and coal stoves — they're good 
things to have but the trouble is, folks 
get to depend on 'em." 6 

Nostalgia grew from this attitude. The evocative symbol 
of the fireplace remained visible in many places, becoming 
more powerful as the real object faded from use. In 1893, 
Ivory Soap sponsored a poetry competition; their advertise- 
ment in the Ladies Home Journal featured an example entitled 
"A Kitchen Evening," illustrated with a romantic sketch of an 
open hearth. Even more striking is the cover of a coal stove 
trade catalog, which pictures a pot on an open hearth, en- 
titled "Ye Olde Way." This tactic enabled Isaac A. Sheppard 
and Company to attract buyers with a nostalgic illustration, 
while simultaneously pointing out the greater convenience of 
the modern way. 7 This combination of ideals was also vis- 
ible in the names given to kitchen ranges by the manufactur- 
ers. The names, which reflected the size and operation of 
each model, promoted images of power, reliability, neatness, 
and comfort: the warmth of the hearth powered by modern 
technology. The J.L. Mott Company featured the Saint George 
(complete with knight and dragon on the oven doors), [see 
Fig. 10] the Defiance, Imperial, Empress, and Duchess, among 
others. The Sears, Roebuck "Acme" line included the Hummer, 
Triumph, and Progress models. The range of names was 

considerable, and many, such as Plato, Choice, and Cappello, 
had little meaning other than an attractive sound. 8 Thus 
kitchen technology, however attractive, could benefit as 
well from nostalgic images. 

Section 2: Mechanics of the Cookstove 

The cooking stove as a distinct mechanical entity has 
existed since the early years of the nineteenth century. 
Basically it concentrates the heat and directs combustion 
gases to appropriate and efficient places for cooking. It is 
essentially a problem in physics that has occupied numerous 
inventors. Among the first was Benjamin Thompson, the Count 
von Rumford (1753-1814). He is credited with perfecting the 
range (so called because of the burners, or boiler holes, 
"ranged" along the top). He separated the functions of 
heating and cooking formerly combined at the hearth and 
produced a cast-iron stove that had its fire in a suspended 
grate beneath a pot surrounded by air space. This tactic 
both confined the heat source and made more air available to 
it. Von Rumford's range was U-shaped and built of brick. 
Each boiler hole on top corresponded to one of a row of small 
fireplaces along the bottom. 9 

The cast-iron range, which burned wood or coal, had 
evolved from the 18th-century Dutch stove of cast-iron 
plates. The new range expanded with the addition of a 


special grate, an ash chest, and a roasting oven on one side. 
Another inventor, Philo Penfield Stewart, patented the cast- 
iron Oberlin Stove, a most successful venture, in 1834. It 
became the base of the "technif ied" range with an array of 
specialized options. 10 These earliest American stoves began 
to establish themselves in the 1830s. By the 1840s, they 
were less of a novelty and had settled into the form of 
standardized kitchen units, which tended to be moveable and 
sit upon stubby iron legs. H [Fig. 3] These ranges re- 
placed the miscellaneous array of boiler holes for stove-top 
cooking, tin reflecting ovens for roasting before the fire, 
and brick-lined baking ovens in the wall beside the hearth. 
" A trade catalog author, looking down from the lofty 
technological heights of 1892, recalled that American cooking 
stoves had "originated among the lowly ... their inventors 
had never trained themselves, nor been trained in any art or 
science, ... they borrowed their ideas from the 'Baking Pan' 
and 'iron box'. ■* 

Though the inventors had probably not been quite so 
lowly as that, it is certain that stove improvements multi- 
plied quickly. The main problem was heating the oven and 
boiling water simultaneously, and most early stove makers 
tried to put the oven directly over the fire. The Little- 
field Stove Company claimed that their Premium Stove was the 


first to relocate the oven lower, behind the fire-box, while 
retaining two boiler holes on top. The step stove, so called 
because the elements were ranged in horizontal steps, came 
next. This model had the oven raised to receive heat from 
beneath the pots and kettles. Next, the oven was extended 
below the fire-box, and the single flue around the oven 
became two or three flues. Many such adjustments, altera- 
tions, and additions proliferated throughout the nineteenth 
century, many owing as much to fashion as to mechanical 
improvement. The cast-iron stove, while undeniably con- 
venient, presented a continuing problem in that it did not 
absorb moisture as a brick oven would. The endless experi- 
mentation with placement, currents, and flues sought to 
remedy the problem. H Once the oven was in place, the hot 
water reservoir cantilevered on the side of the stove was the 
last element to complete the traditional cookstove. 15 [Fig. 4 

These variations on the cast-iron range continued into 
the twentieth century. The coal-burning range persisted well 
past the introduction of the gas range in the 1880s, either 
because some areas were slow to receive gas, the stoves were 
well-built and lasted a long time, or cooks preferred coal. 
The electric range, in turn, did not gain a significant 
foothold until the rural electrification programs of the 
1930s. The coal burning stove was quite similar to the wood- 
burning stove and operated on the same principles. In fact, 


many stoves could burn both. The J.L. Mott Ironworks in 1882 
advertised a small number of wood stoves, generally smaller 
and simpler than their coal-burning models. Even as late as 
1905, Sears sold models for wood only, with names like 
Pioneer, Kenwood and Redwood, aimed at markets where wood was 
a cheaper, more plentiful fuel. ** 

Coal was nevertheless a more popular fuel, espcially in 
the cities, where it was cheaper and more readily available. 
It burned longer, making less work for the cook tending the 
stove, and because of its higher density, was lighter to 
handle in the long run. Coal came in several forms: anthra- 
cite, or hard coal; bituminous, or soft coal; and coke. 
While some stoves were made for coal alone, most could handle 
hard or soft coal, coke, or wood. Some primarily coal stoves 
could be ordered with "wood fixtures" or could convert to 
wood-burning by reversing the grate and removing the end coal 
lining. 17 

An early innovation was James Spear's "Gas-Consuming 
Cooking Stove." A forerunner of the later true gas stoves, 
this was a coal stove, in which air was introduced over the 
fire and the combustion flowed around the oven. [Fig. 5] 
Spear, who manufactured the stoves in Philadelphia in the 
mid-1860s, explained that the novelty lay in "the burning of 
the Gas arising from the Coal, by which means is saved 50 per 


cent of fuel, and a more intense heat is thrown to the bottom 

of the oven." 18 The stove was noticed in Godey's Lady's 

Book of 1866 as being recommended by a former missionary in 

China; the 

late Bishop Boone had found these stoves 
... of great service in Shanghai, where 
the dampness of the climate requires, at 
all seasons, artificial heat in the 
house. The bishop took personal interest 
in their introduction — parlor as well 
as cooking-stoves — into China, where 
Mr. Spear now has an agent for the sale 
of these stoves. 19 

World War I marked the end of the coal stove's promi- 
nence. After that time the Ladies Home Journal had no more 
ads for wood and coal stoves; nor were its articles concerned 
with their operation. By 1935, only five per cent of Ameri- 
can homes valued over $2,000 still cooked by wood or coal. 20 

Kerosene oil was another option for fueling stoves; it 
became available after the Civil War, but was never the most 
desirable fuel. Its manufacturers had to battle the "deep- 
seated prejudice ... that disagreeable smoke and odor must 
necessarily accompany the using of kerosene oil for heating 
and cooking purposes." On the other hand, it was always an 
inexpensive option, and many manufacturers advertised its 
possibilities. The Adams and Westlake Company of Chicago 
advised in 1884 their stoves could "readily be converted from 
an Oil to a Gas or G_a_s_Q.liJi£ stove, or vice versa." 21 


Gasoline or gas vapor was another minor alternative for 

fuel. The manufacturers boasted that it "Lights like Gas," 

"Bakes Better and Costs Less than any Coal or Wood Range," 

and, in 1894, that it was used in "more than a Quarter of a 

Million Homes in the United States." 22 A 1905 Sears, 

Roebuck catalog detailed its mechanical process: 

In operation, the fluid drips drop by 
drop (never runs) on the perforated brass 
evaporator, where it is divided into fine 
particles, which, passing through the 
air, evaporate; the vapor thus made being 
heavier than air, passes down through the 
evaporator tubes mixing with and carbur- 
etting a current of air, which is lighted 
at the burner, producing a smokeless blue 
flame of a great intensity and heating 
power .23 

Another, more popular fuel in the late 19th century was 
gas. Little natural gas was available until the 1920s; 
almost all "gas" was manufactured by burning coal and con- 
sisted primarily of methane. Nevertheless, as early as 
1903, the makers of Detroit Jewel Gas Ranges noted in their 
catalog that "Ranges for Manufactured Gas [are] shipped un- 
less Natural Gas is specified." 24 Tiie technology for gas 
stoves had been available since mid-century, but manufactur- 
ers had to struggle to insinuate their product into the 
public favor. It was not until the 1890s that they made much 
headway. Even in 1896, the Maryland Meter and Manufacturing 
Company lamented, "The work of introducing gas cooking ranges 


to the public is one of much effort, owing to the popular 
fallacy that its use is accompanied by great expense, and 
that the viands so cooked are tainted by gas." Rather, they 
protested, it was convenient, clean, and economical; it 
caused meat to lose less of its weight, and produced larger 
loaves of bread. The manufacturers even backed their 
promises with a table of cost comparison. 25 The American 
Meter Company printed in their advertising an award from the 
St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association, announcing 
that "we consider that their stoves give the least trouble 
from odors and deleterious gases." 26 

Given such material objections, it is little wonder that 
gas did not replace coal and wood as fuel on a large scale 
until the turn of the century, lagging far behind the use of 
gas for lighting. It did come into favor as an alternative 
fuel, especially in the summer, since it did not require the 
constant fire of a coal stove. Such preferences made combi- 
nation ranges that used both coal and gas popular. Finally, 
as gas use became established, other forces encouraged the 
change. In 1912-13, gas companies and appliance manufactur- 
ers sponsored a national advertising campaign to promote gas 

use. * # 

Even as the general conversion to gas got underway, 

electricity, the most revolutionary and novel means of power, 

was introduced. Its acceptance took far longer, however; it 


never really became popular until the 1920s, and a discussion 
of its use is beyond the scope of this study. Most people 
treated the first suggestions of cooking with electricity as 
a fantasy. The first practical experiments in its use were 
made in England around 1890, and there was an electrical fair 
in the Crystal Palace in 1891. In 1893, its culinary poten- 
tial came to America: "Many visitors to the Columbia Exposi- 
tion at Chicago got their first glimpse of cooking by elec- 
tricity in the section of the electrical building which 
showed the domestic work of this modern genie." 28 The 
exhibit included an oven, broiler, and kettles. [Fig. 6] 
Despite the strong impression it made, electricity had sev- 
eral drawbacks to domestic acceptance. First, it was expen- 
sive, although a few electric producers provided it more 
cheaply for cooking than for lighting. Second, it seemed 
almost too easy; that is, it left the housewife with (compa- 
ratively) nothing to do, a source of social upset. 29 Al- 
though various studies had praise for the new power and its 
efficiency (an official of the Central Electric Heating Com- 
pany of New York estimated electric cooking to be 3.3 times 
more efficient than coal), its real success would come much 
later. A 1929 analysis of American cooking methods showed 
the relative popularity of the various fuels: 30 


Gas (manufactured) 9,500,000 families 

Gas (natural) 3,470,000 " 

Coal and wood 8,290,000 " 

Oil 6,000,000 
Electricity 725,000 

Clearly, the transition between technologies was gradual. 
The reasons for the change are not always apparent from 
viewing the technology alone. The next section will examine 
the three major stove types from the viewpoint of those who 
used them. 

A last, but very important, technological element of the 
cookstove was its relation to the various mechanical systems 
of the American house. Quite often it played a significant 
role in heating, ventilating, laundry and bathing. Heating 
was the function most often discussed. Catharine Beecher 
made a detailed analysis of the most efficient way to heat a 
house in 1869. In it, an exhaust shaft fed into the kitchen 
stovepipe, creating a draft. She put non-conducting summer 
casings on the stove, and derived warm air from the stove- 
room itself, with added moisture from the water boiler. This 

system connected basement furnace, Franklin stoves, and the 

■j i 

kitchen range in a central system based on convection. JJ - 

Most writers, often advertising a particular range, were 
far less elaborate in their suggestions. Isaac A. Sheppard 
and Company, after praising the cooking prowess of their 
range, said it "does all this, and heats a room upstairs 


besides ... The air passages around the fire-pot are so large 
that as constant a volume of hot air is furnished by this as 
a 6-inch pipe will carry away. This is ample to heat an 
upstairs room 10 x 12 feet, with an ordinary ceiling." 32 
Ventilation was a subject of intense interest throughout the 
period. E.C. Gardner wrote in Homes, and How to Make Them 
(1874), "Direct radiation from stoves, or other heating appa- 
ratus, except open fireplaces, is ... economical of fuel, but 
... unless abundant ventilation is provided, the atmosphere 
in rooms thus warmed soon becomes unfit for respiration." 
Maria Parloa, a prolific writer on domestic science in the 
late 19th century, discussed another issue, that of isolating 
kitchen odors. She counseled, "when expense need not be 
taken into account, it will be well to have the kitchen 
chimney entirely separate. This is one of the best ways to 
prevent all the odors of cooking from reaching other 
rooms. "33 

Given the expense of heating the large houses of the 
late 19th century, ranges that could be used to heat as well 
as cook made the extra feature a selling point. Trade 
catalogs made note of the ranges that were "constructed for 
Heating as well as Cooking." The manufacturers of Bartlett's 
Superior Cooking Ranges said, "We guarantee to heat an ordi- 
nary size room without destroying the baking qualities of the 
Range." An oil stove, the Florence, converted from a cooker 


to a heater by changing a drum or cylinder, which also served 
as a portable lamp. [Fig. 7] Some manufacturers were more 
ambitious in their suggestions. The Mt. Penn Stove Works 
diagrammed a system whereby a hot water boiler attached to 
their stove would connect by pipe to radiators in every room 
of the house. ^4 

Hot water did far more than heat Victorian households. 
It was a necessity for bathing, cleaning, and laundering. 
Water for all these uses had to be heated by the stove, and 
the specter of running out of hot water was constant. More- 
over, a stove hot enough to boil so much water would be too 
hot to use for cooking. The truly well-equipped house would 
have a laundry stove as well, but for many homes the kitchen 
stove had to serve all needs. Manufacturers, of course, 
considered themselves quite equal to the task. One company 
assured buyers in 1914 that their stove "will supply All the 
hot water wanted for from 2 to 5 BATHROOMS ...." 35 

As the technology available to manufacturers grew and 
the tasks assigned to cooking stoves expanded accordingly, 
stove makers developed imposing technical resources and a 
confusing variety of specialized and patented features for 
their stoves. First, the early "stove-makers" gave way to 
technicians with training in physics and engineering. Their 
work was a respectable part of the World's Columbian Exposi- 


tion, a fair with a good share of technological marvels. 
Making it clear that they had gone beyond crafts, manufactur- 
ers proudly described their standardized, interchangeable 
parts. Sears assured customers that it could replace any 
broken part. Moreover, manufacturers stood behind more than 
just a functioning range. Besides making furnaces, heaters 
and cooking implements of all sizes and capacities, they 
invented and patented special features from oven doors to the 
special "Duplex" ash grate that required little effort or 
inconvenience to clean. 36 

The structure of the oven received as much, if not more, 
attention than its more visible features. Cast-iron con- 
struction gave way to steel by the turn of the century, 
making the stove lighter and less brittle. It was, in addi- 
tion, more suited to large-scale central production. The 
various steels and their special finishes provided yet an- 
other opportunity to boast of technological advancement. The 
Malleable Range of 1898 "utilized a combination of malleable 
iron and steel to give tensile strength and prevent burn-out 
or crystallization of the metal." Sears gave a detailed 
description of their asbestos-lined steel plate, featuring 
either black enamelled or blue polished steel. 37 i n this 
way, the manufacturers propelled much of the technology that 
changed stoves over the years. Equally their rhetoric often 
puffed out "improvements" beyond their actual influence. 


Understanding the technological evolution of stove materials 
makes it possible to follow the ways in which the various 
types of stoves affected domestic operations. 


Keeley Stove Company, "The Columbian Stoves, Ranges and 
Furnaces manufactured by the Keeley Stove Company" (Lancas- 
ter, PA: 1893), p. 2. 

Anthony N.B. Garvan, "Effects of Technology on Domes- 
tic Life, 1830-1880," in Technology in Western Civilization, 
ed. by Melvin Kranzberg and Carroll W. Pursell, Jr., vol. 1 
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 9, 546. 

3 E.C. Gardner, Homes, a nd How to Make Them (Boston: 
1874), p. 211. 

4 Gwendolyn Wright, Moralism and the Model Home 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), pp. 25, 235. 

5 David P. Handlin, The Amer ican Home: Architecture and 
Society. 1815-1915 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1979), 
pp. 478-79; Susan Strasser, Never Done: A History o f American 
Housework (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982), p. 38; Gwendolyn 
Wright, Moralism and th e Model Home , p. 21. 

6 Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter (New York: 
Harper and Row, 1953), pp. 192-3. 

7 Gwendolyn Wright, Mocal ism and the Model Home, pp. 31- 
2; Ladies Home Journa l X no. 11, (October 1893) , p. 33; Isaac 
A. Sheppard & Company, "Perfect Cooking" (Philadelphia and 
Baltimore, [1880?]), n.p. 

8 J.L. Mott Iron Works, "Illustrated Catalogue of 
Kitchen Ranges, Fire Place Heaters and Hot Furnaces Suitable 
for all Sizes and Styles of Buildings" (New York: 1882), 
passim; Sears, Roebuck and Company, "Book of Stoves," 2nd 
edition (Chicago: 1905), passim; Keeley Stove Company, 1893, 

9 Siegfried Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command (New 
York: Oxford University Press, 1948), pp. 529-31; Handlin, p. 
477; Linda Campbell Franklin, From Hearth to Cookstove 
(Florence, Alabama: House of Collectibles, 1976), p. 135. 

10 Giedion, pp. 533-35. 

11 Lawrence Wright, Home Fires Burning; The History of 
Domestic Heating and Cooking (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 
1964), p. 128. 



12 Lillian Baker Carlisle, "The Cookstove: Liberator of 
19th Century Women," The Antiques Journal , (August 1980), p. 

" Littlefield Stove Company, "West Shore Range" 
(Albany, NY: 1892), p. 15. 

14 Ibid., pp. 15-20. 

15 Carlisle, p. 39. 

16 Mott, p. 5; Sears, p. 642. 

1 7 

■*■' Strasser, p.41; Sears, p. 642; Keeley Stove Company, 
1893, p. 23; Stratton and Terstegge, "Burning Facts," (n.p., 
1898), p.2. 

±0 James Spear, "Spear's Gas Burning Cooking Range" 
([Philadelphia], 1867), p. 1. 

19 Godey's Lady's Book . 72 (January 1866), p. 92. 

20 Ruth Schwartz Cowan, "The 'Industrial Revolution 1 in 
the Home: Household Technology and Social Change in the 20th 
Century," Technology and Culture 17 (January 1976), p. 7. 

21 Dinsmore Manufacturing Company, "Price List and Cook- 
ing Receipts for the Florence Oil Cooking and Heating Stoves" 
(n.p., [1883?], p. 1; Adams and Westlake Manufacturing Com- 
pany, "Every Day Cookery, Table Talk, and Hints for the 
Laundry" (Chicago: 1884), p. 34. 

22 Ladies Home Journal XI no. 4 (March 1894), n.p.; 
Lad_ie_s Home Journal xi no. 5 (April 1894), n.p. 

23 Sears, p. 675. 

24 Detroit Stove Works, "Detroit Jewel Gas Ranges Cata- 
log No. 74" (Detroit: 1903), passim. 

" Maryland Meter and Manufacturing Company, "Perfect 
Gas Ranges" (Baltimore: 1896), pp. 3-4. 

2 *> American Meter Company, "Domestic Economy: Family 
cooking at a mere nominal cost," (n.p.: 1883), n.p. 

27 Sill Stove Works, "The New Sterling Range" 
(Rochester, NY: 1895), p. 9; Strasser, p. 72. 


28 Estelle M. Merrill, "Electricity in the Kitchen", 
American Kitchen Magazine 4 (November 1895), p. 60. 

29 Giedion, pp. 542-44; Handlin, p. 420. 

30 Merrill, p. 62; Lawrence Wright, p. 167. 

31 Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, 
The American Woman's Home (New York: 1869), pp. 66-68; 
Strasser, p. 153. 

32 "Perfect Cooking", p. 5. 

33 Gardner, p. 266; Maria Parloa, "A Model Kitchen," in 
Shoppell's Modern Homes 1 (1886), p. 148. 

34 Mott, p. 2; "Bartlett's Superior Cooking Ranges" 
(Philadelphia: [c.1885]), n.p.; "Florence Oil Stoves", n.p.; 
Mt. Penn Stove Works, "Penn Stoves, Ranges and Furnaces" 
(Reading, PA: 1903), p. 47. 

35 David Katzman, Seven Da ys a Week: Women and Domestic 
Service in Industrializi ng America (New York: Oxford Univer- 
sity Press, 1978) p. 124; Abram Cox Stove Company, "Novelty 
Stoves and Ranges," catalog 65B (Philadelphia and Chicago: 
1914), p. 8. 

36 Giedion, p. 529; Jeanne Madeline Weimann, The Fair 
Women (Chicago: Academy Chicago, 1981), pp. 459-60; Detroit 
Stove Works, p. 5. 

37 Strasser, p. 38; Carlisle, p. 39. 

CHAPTER TWO: The Stove as a Household Object 
Section 1: The Coal Stove 

When Catharine Beecher wrote 

Every woman should be taught the scienti- 
fic principles in regard to heat, and 
then their application to practical pur- 
poses, for her own benefit, and also to 
enable her to train her children and 
servants in this important duty of home 
life on which health and comfort so much 

she was unlikely to see her wish realized. Although the 

entire household economy revolved about the cookstove when 
she wrote, few women were interested in its "scientific 
principles." The situation was similar to that of the modern 
automobile: everyone needs and uses it, some understand its 
operation thoroughly, and many more concern themselves solely 
with how it looks and operates. So it was with the cookstove. 
Everyone, except perhaps the loftiest of the upper classes, 
was familiar with the appearance and general operation of the 
hub of the kitchen; everyone recognized its central import- 
ance to the smooth production of domestic comforts. Of 
course, women's experience with stoves ranged from that of 
professional cooks to ladies of leisure. The following dis- 
cussion of operation uses the work "cook" with intentional 
vagueness; for the present purpose it does not matter who was 



cooking. The matter is examined more fully in Chapter Three. 
The central importance of the cooking stove produced a funda- 
mental and lasting domestic image. In the case of the coal 
stove, with a more assertive size and presence, the image was 
most powerful. One woman recalled that in her girlhood, "she 
liked to [work] there at the kitchen table with the big coal 

range rustling and breathing like another person, a huge 

strong quiet person in the room." Such nostalgic evoca- 
tions recall little of the unrelenting work involved in 
tending a coal stove. Sometimes it was made even harder by 
women who never fully mastered its workings. Regardless of 
the relative success of the education campaigns of those such 
as Catharine Beecher, the everyday use of the stove continued 
to monopolize most cooks' concerns. The coal stove demanded 
a continuous daily ritual to ensure that it was warm enough 
at all times for the necessary cooking without wasting too 
much fuel. 

Directions for the proper way to tend a coal stove 
appeared in innumerable articles and advertisements as long 
as coal was in widespread use. Seemingly, everyone needed 
instruction, and instructors repeated how simple the problem 
really was. Maria Parloa articulated the 

general principles [which] are these: to 
have a free draught, causing the fuel to 
burn easily and quickly, and to have 
dampers that will so control this draught 
that the fuel shall burn quickly or slow- 
ly as one may desire. 3 


In practice, these principles became an arduous ritual that 
began in the morning and lasted all day. First, the cook 
closed the draughts and removed the range top. Then she 
brushed the ashes and cinders into the grate and recovered 
the top of the range. She then dumped the grate (in fancier 
models this was a minimal operation involving turning a 
handle) and waited for the resulting dust to settle. That 
done, she again removed the top and placed crumpled newspaper 
and kindling at the bottom of the grate, opened the draughts, 
and again covered the top. When the fire had well started, 
she would cover it with coal, adding more as it continued to 
burn. These stoves required constant tending to avoid adding 
wood or letting the coals burn white. The fire would burn 
all night so as to be ready to be stoked to prepare breakfast 
in the morning. There was no way to differentiate in a coal 
stove between stove top and oven cooking; the single fire 
that heated both had to burn if one wanted no more than a cup 
of tea. Once or twice a week, the fire would be allowed to 
die out and the stove thoroughly cleaned. 4 This simple, if 
detailed, operation had its pitfalls. If the cook did not 
understand the principles on which the dampers operated, she 
might leave open the damper to the chimney flue, sending the 
heat up at the chimney and using up the coal at an unneces- 
sary rate. 


Wasting fuel was more likely to worry the head of the 
household than the cook; she had other vexations with the 
constant work involved in tending a coal fire. The fire 
would generally last three to four hours if properly checked; 
with skillful operation it could last six. A cook might have 
to tend the fire as often as every ten minutes, which added 
up to a great deal of her time. In fact, in 1899, Boston's 
School of Housekeeping found that tending a stove occupied a 
full hour out of the day. Moreover, hauling the coal and 
ashes was heavy work, not to mention various other incon- 
veniences. Before manufacturers installed thermometers on 
their oven doors the cook would have to gauge the temperature 
more crudely; she would stick her hand in the oven and count 
until she was compelled to remove it. A count of twenty 
would do well for a roast. 6 

Keeping the stove clean was another duty entirely. The 
cook would first wash it with soap and water, then rub it 
well with a stove brush. The body and top of the stove would 
be rubbed with a rag once or twice a week. The more careful 
housekeeper would have blacked the tops of the range as well, 
but not the sides, which would have spread stove-blacking 
onto the cook's skirts. The more elaborate models of the 
late 19th century were decorated with nickel trim. To clean 
this, the housewife applied ammonia whiting and water, then 


polished it. Some models had removeable trim to facilitate 
cleaning. ' 

The coal stove was more complex than others not only 
because of the work it entailed. Since a single fire heated 
the entire apparatus, various cooking elements could be at- 
tached on the top or sides without altering the stove's basic 
operation. Consequently, there was a range of optional ele- 
ments to be ordered with the stove that could considerably 
increase the stove's work capacity. Early models contained 
removeable ash boxes, soot trays, double ovens, warming 
closets, a separate fire-box and the useful water back, a 
built-in tank often attached to the side of the stove to heat 
large quantities of water. Catharine Beecher, "after exten- 
sive inquiry and many personal experiments, found a cooking 
stove constructed on true scientific principles, which unites 


convenience, comfort, and economy in a remarkable manner." 
Her choice had attachments all over the stove's surface. 
[Fig. 8] The broiler might be a simple gridiron placed by 
the heat, or a separate element resembling a cash register 
that was set on the roaster or next to the range. The roast- 
er could be a separate attachment to turn the meat by the 
fire, or a separate operation within the oven. [Fig. 9] 
Finally, in the 1870s, a vertical, uninsulated copper boiler 
came into use alongside the range. This item evolved into an 


addition of considerable complexity, sometimes even placed 
horizontally above the range. Other possibilities included a 
hot water tap at the side, and a special ash pan beneath the 
fire-box. The coal stove had nothing like the standard stove 
arrangement of today; use and appearance changed from manu- 


facturer to manufacturer, and almost from year to year. * 

The most noticeable difference corresponding to the 
choice between gas and electric stoves today, was between 
"set" or "portable" ranges. Set ranges were set into the 
wall with brickwork around three sides, whereas the so-called 
portable ranges were still virtually immoveable, but free- 
standing. [Figs. 10, 11] Maria Parloa dealt with the 

Many housekeepers find it difficult to 
decide which is better ... Each has 
merits. Less room is required for set 
ranges; broiling and roasting can be done 
before the fire, and a constant supply of 
hot water is insured. But set ranges are 
rather slow to respond to draughts and 
checks; they consume a great deal of 
coal; the hearth becomes hot, and uncom- 
fortable to stand on; and there is but 
one side of the range to approach, which 
necessitates the frequent lifting and 
moving of heavy utensils. 

Now, a portable range can be so placed as 
to permit of one's walking almost around 
it; it can be used as advantageously as a 
set range, with about half the same quan- 
tity of coal; there is a prompt response 
to the opening or closing of a draught; 
one's feet do not get heated by standing 
near it; there are no dark corners; the 
need of moving utensils is to a large 


extent avoided, and it can be so managed 
that there shall be a hot oven at any 
time of the day. But roasting must be 
done in the oven, and broiling over the 
coals, and the supply of hot water is 
limited. 10 

In addition, set ranges required a hearth and a chimney 
breast, while portables could be placed anywhere in the 
kitchen, whether in a corner or away from the wall entire- 
ly. 11 One manufacturer of portables reminded buyers that 
its "first cost is low, as the services of a bricklayer are 
not required to set it," although it did require placement 
against a brick flue. "They may be placed upon a brick hearth 
if desired, but all that is necessary is to protect the floor 
upon which they stand is heavy sheet zinc or galvanized 
iron." These arguments should not indicate that the portable 
was necessarily more desirable; the better cooking qualities 
of set ranges ensured their use. The B.C. Bibb Company was 
induced to build the brick-set Susquehanna, "[t]he great 
popularity of our portable Ranges having created a large 
demand for a similar Range to build in Brick ...."12 

Set ranges were generally larger than their portable 
counterparts, but differences in appearance among all ranges 
were striking. A double-oven set range in the mid-1880s, the 
largest home model, would have been 3 to 3 1/2 feet wide, 1 
1/2 to 2 feet deep, and, with elevated ovens or warming 
closets, 5 to 5 1/2 feet high. Single-oven and portable 


models would be smaller accordingly. There were, in addi- 
tion, various functional elements that influenced the stove's 
appearance. The doors might open laterally with knobs like 
regular doors, although in 1898, Stratton and Terstegge of- 
fered an oven with doors that opened via a pedal on the 
floor. Some models had "tea shelves" at about eye level, 
attached to a high ornamental backing. These round project- 
ing shelves would hold warm teapots. A "fender rail" in 
front of the firebox protected the cook and her skirts from 
heat and burns. Finally, the addition of warming closets, 
usually two side by side and large enough to hold a large 
dish, could add height to the range if placed above, or could 
fill in the unused space near the floor. 13 [Fig. 12] 

More purely decorative elements included legs upon which 
the stove sat and the general lines and decorative details. 
Whether the stove sat on stubby iron legs about six inches 
high or had solid skirting to the floor appears to have been 
a decision of taste. If there was a difference, the skirting 
was slightly more elegant and desirable, perhaps because it 
made the range appear more solid. The J.L. Mott Company 
described one such range as "strong, heavy and durable in its 
construction, beautiful in its proportions....! 4 An 1893 
catalog charged fifty cents extra for skirting over the 
legs. All ranges with legs sat on a flat plate, of zinc or 
galvanized metal to protect the floor. * 5 


The general design and decoration of coal stoves, while 
following functional requirements, generally reflected popu- 
lar decorative trends. With the exception of the most pro- 
gressive and design-oriented models for the wealthy and ad- 
venturous, the majority of stoves were made to suit the more 
conservative middle-class taste of the larger part of the 
buying public. Accordingly, the decoration borrowed design 
elements from the most popular styles of the period. 
Elaborate curves, curls and raised designs were featured on 
many ranges. Ornamentation in great detail sprouted on oven 
doors, skirting, pedimented tops and sides, supplemented with 
gleaming nickel trim.^6 [See fig. 12] 

This trend continued through the 1890s, as manufacturers 
praised such designs as being "striking, bold and attrac- 
tive." However, not all ranges were necessarily so elab- 
orate. Simpler designs were also available, exhibiting 
little applied ornament other than logos or names on oven 
doors. Nevertheless, the ranges that received the most 
praise from their makers were those that sported such "ele- 
gant and thoroughly modern" ornate decoration. " Such 
tastes were in favor throughout the second half of the 19th 
century. In fact, one explication of stove styling could 
just as easily suit a crowded and befringed 1890s parlor: 


The design of the exterior plates is the 
work of an accomplished Philadelphia 
artist; and while it is highly ornate, it 
is yet so well balanced, appropriate and 
harmonious, as to be in entire keeping 
with the surroundings in which it is to 
be placed aad the uses to which it is to 
be applied. 18 

Such designs and their rationale held enough appeal to per- 
sist well into the 20th century; that is, while coal stoves 
remained in use. In 1905 Sears, Roebuck featured models that 
were as elaborate as any ever produced. 19 Thus, the use and 
appearance of coal stoves is as characteristically varied as 
the period in which they were in use. 

Section 2: The Gas Stove 

The gas stove, considering the remarkable reduction in 
kitchen labor it offered, came slowly into general use. The 
preference of cooking over live coals was one cause, although 
the use of a gas stove was truly revolutionary in its ease 
and simplicity. Early recognition for its promise came, not 
surprisingly, in the relatively technical forum of the Scien- 
tific American architects 1 and builders' edition in 1889: 

Among the most interesting uses to which 
gas may be put are for cooking in the 
kitchen, and at the fireside. The first 
cost of gas ranges is not half that of 
good coal ranges. The exact degree of 
heat required for any special purpose is 
at once obtained. Since combustion is 
perfect, there is no smoke or odor, and 
no flue is required. The certainty of 
its results, its cleanliness, convenience 


and comfort, are obviously in its favor. 
Any coal stove may be fitted with a burn- 
er suitable for burning air gas without 
smoke or odor. 20 

Such benefits received further publicity at the World's 

Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. There visitors saw 

in the Women's Building a gas stove on which a cook gave 

demonstrations. The Horticultural Buildings contained a 

completely gas-equipped house, including cooking apparatus. 21 

The early glimpses of gas stoves must have occasioned 
much wonder, for operation was almost ridiculously simple. 
All the cook had to do was light a match, hold it to the jet, 
and turn the cock. The oven would have a pilot light, which 
had to be lit first. These operations changed little, even 
as the stoves themselves became more sophisticated. In 1905, 
Sears, Roebuck enticed housewives with the ease of merely 
turning a wheel and lighting a match. The difference between 
a cock and a knob was merely a mechanical one. Both altered 
the flow of gas, the former with a flat closure, the latter 
with a pointed stopper that screwed in or out with a turn of 
the knob. 22 

There were several reasons that kept gas stoves from 
sweeping the market. Consumers were, not unnaturally, suspi- 
cious of gas odors, and many claimed that the resulting food 
was tainted with the flavor of gas. This problem was worse 
with the less efficient early gas models. As technology 


improved, especially in the early 20th century, means of 
overcoming the problem found their way beyond trade publica- 
tions to the fashionable pages of House Beautiful . There, 
the experts advised, 

A generous hood should be placed over the 
kitchen range and connected with the 
ventilating flue, or if there is any 
register in the chimney connect it with 
that. This will carry the smoke and 
odors of cooking out of the room. Gas 
stoves have been improved in recent 
years, so that the odor no longer fills 
the kitchen as formerly, but such a range 
should be placed so that all possible 
odors can be carried up under the range 
hood. 23 

To overcome the suspicions of fumes and contamination, 

manufacturers marshalled a host of selling points for gas 

ranges, most focusing on the ease and cleanliness of their 

product. The Detroit Stove Works, manufacturers of Detroit 

Jewel Gas Ranges, became one of the premier manufacturers. 

Their advertising suggestions seize upon the wide range of 

conveniences. Besides the housewife's obvious "relief at not 

having to carry in coal," they pointed out that there would 

be "Less soap and scrubbing...." They directed the housewife 

to "Strike a match — that's about all ...," and pointed out 

that gas ranges made for "quick and noiseless work ... when 

sickness comes." Finally, they proclaimed the relentless 

force of progress by chiding coal stove users with the 

thought that "Grandmother's way is no longer popular." 


Gas was not uniformly available throughout the period. 
Especially in early years, only urban centers large enough to 
support a gas manufacturing plant had the option of this 
fuel. Even when it was available, many housewives added a 
gas range to their kitchens without discarding the coal 
stove, preferring coal for cold-weather cooking. [Fig. 13] 
Once having adopted gas, homemakers had a host of convenient 
options. Since the stove apparatus was no longer dependent 
on a single firebox, the oven became independent and remove- 
able from the range. The ranges themselves sometimes shrank 
to simple "rangettes" of two or three burners on a stand. 
Such features as a "simmering burner", which ensured a low 
fire before the gas feed became easier to control, enormously 
simplified cooking processes. 25 

The absence of the firebox and the greatly increased 
flexibility of the elements changed the stove's appearance 
more than any advance since the introduction of the cast-iron 
stove. First, it made possible skeleton-frame ranges with no 
oven, just a few burners on iron legs that resembled the 
early treadle sewing machines. More commonly, since most 
families required an oven, the space below was filled in. 
The gas pipes would be outside the stove, one running along 
the front by the range controls, another along the side to 
the gas cock for the oven. 26 [Fig. 14] 


The gas stove soon acquired at least as many side and 
top attachments as the coal stove ever had. The housewife 
might add shelves for stacking dishes at the sides, canti- 
levered extensions with extra burners on the range top, as 
well as the familiar water heaters and broilers. These 
attachments usually appeared on the left side of the range, 
with a scrolled bracket supporting the water reservoir. Oven 
doors dropped down instead of swinging laterally. Manufac- 
turers made separate canopies and shelves, which they sold as 
individual elements. The stove top as well acquired a new 
look with the advent of gas. The Detroit Stove Works adver- 
tised "one piece, star-shaped, removeable, non-leaking 
burners ...." Star-shaped burners were common, in contrast 
with the modern circular style. A useful option was a single 
large burner in the front, possibly with a simmering burner 
in its center. Finally, burner covers came in concentric 
ring sections, to accomodate various pot sizes. 27 

The exterior finish for gas stoves underwent a greater 
change than any other type of stove, reflecting both its 
flexibility and enduring popularity. The earliest models 
looked similar to the coal stoves they replaced, but new 
finishes soon appeared. Detroit Jewel Ranges featured 
casings of "blue planished steel," and the Sears, Roebuck 
"Advance" model of 1905 was japanned. The shift from cast 
iron coincided with the changes in popular fashion after the 


turn of the century to produce stoves that appeared lighter, 

smaller, and more compact, with less applied ornament. The 

change was not immediate, and elaborately decorated cast-iron 

legs appeared on gas models until World War I. Nevertheless, 

porcelain enamel, a harbinger of the future look for gas 

stoves, had appeared by 1910. At that time, manufacturers 

applied it only to the top of the range and the splashback 

area behind. 28 This easier-to-clean surface spread in the 

1920s and 1930s to cover the entire stove. The A-B Stove 

Company displayed a 1931 model that featured "full porcelain 

enamel, navy with slate-grey grain and Brewster Green trim." 

Another maker's description shows how radically the gas 

stove's appearance had evolved to fit new tastes: 

Toned in a lasting finish of white porce- 
lain enamel, a combination of gray and 
white on soft ebonite, the Red Cross 
Range is a thing of real beauty. 29 

Although gas stoves were from the beginning fundamental- 
ly different in operation and appearance from coal stoves, 
they were by no means incompatible. In fact, combination 
ranges were quite popular for a number of reasons. First, 
they enabled cooks to use gas in the summer, a vastly more 
comfortable alternative to running a hot coal stove all day. 
Conversely, using coal or wood in the winter heated the 
kitchen as well as cooked the food. Early natural gas sup- 
plies were unreliable and sometimes gave out in the coldest 


weather, making it wise to have an alternative. Even in the 

winter, however, gas broiled well and was undeniably quicker 

to use. 30 Another option was to own two ranges, one for 

winter and one for summer. In 1902, according to House 


Most people nowadays have, beside the 
coal-range in their kitchen, a smaller 
cookstove for gas, gasoline or oil, ac- 
cording to their possibilities. This is 
an act of mercy to the cook in our vio- 
lent summers, is sometimes a saving, and 
at all events, is never dearer than using 
coal all summer. 31 [See fig. 13] 

The true combination range, in contrast, came in several 
forms. It might have a gas range top with a coal oven or 
both coal boiler holes and gas burners side by side. Each 
worked according to its own arrangements, and trade publica- 
tions included instructions for their model. One explained 
that "to operate [the oven], the burner plate is simply 
turned up, with the cover lifted, for use with gas, ... or 
down flush with the oven bottom for use with coal. * 

Combination ranges offered the same optional elements as 
plain coal or gas ranges. These included an oven thermometer 
and a gas burner in a high warming oven that could be used 
for baking pastries. The Red Cross Brand proudly came out 
late in the period with the "Wilcolator Oven Heat Control" 
for the combination range. It was a labelled temperature 
control knob available at first only for the elevated baking 


oven. 33 i n appearance, the combination ranges were similar 

to single-fuel models, with functional modifications. [Fig. 15] 

Throughout the period, gasoline vapor and kerosene oil 
stoves were available as well, although their use was gener- 
ally limited to areas where those fuels were most readily 
purchased. They shared with gas the advantage of eliminating 
the constant and dirty labor of a coal stove. Oil stoves had 
a large central burner set upon a stand, above which was a 
heating surface on which to place pots and pans. Illustra- 
tions show the pots crowded together on the heating surface 
above the narrow burner base. [Fig. 16] 

Section 3: The Electric Stove 

Electricity for cooking remained a novelty throughout 
most of the period; it never came into wide use until the 
1920s and 30s. The exhibit of electric cookery, contained in 
an electrified house, at the Columbian Exposition, excited 
considerable interest and comment. The setup proposed then 
was unlike our later electric stoves, as it divided range and 
oven work among separate appliances. Instead of a range, 
individual electric utensils sat upon a soapstone or metal 
slab, with a series of cords in a "switchboard" above the 
slab. To turn them on, one plugged the wire into the utensil 
and turned the switch. The switch also regulated the heat, 
with a light glowing above to show how hot it was. The 


separate oven was lined with asbestos and wood and had 

separately controlled heating plates above and below. 34 

This seemingly magical system fired the imagination of 

many who saw it. Although gas was widely available by that 

time, the use of coal stoves was still general enough to 

cause women to wish for an easier way. 

Anything which will save the carrying up 
of coal, the carrying down of ashes, the 
noise and dust and dirt and odor and heat 
and hard labor and time consumed in at- 
tending to fires and getting the desired 
amount of ... work from them, will do 
nothing short of revolutionizing the 
domestic life of the day. 35 

This heartfelt cry of 1895 sought an answer with elec- 
tricity, and the ease of pressing a button or flicking a 
switch held great appeal. Moreover, various extra conveni- 
ences enhanced the basic labor-saving attractions of electri- 
cal cookery. Clocks, thermostats, an incandescent light in 
the oven, and a timer, went far beyond the possibilities of 
coal or gas at the time. 6 

Electricity promised great things for cooking as well. 
Proponents of electricity held that it was more sanitary and 
not as dry as cooking with gas. The steadier heat of the 
oven found particular praise. "Meats particularly are cooked 
more evenly and in much less time, while retaining a larger 
percentage of their nutritious and delicious juices." Diffi- 


culties in broiling and toasting disappeared with the easily 

regulated electric utensils. 

Some highly artistic effects are possible 
in the toasting of bread as well as in 
frying buckwheats, etc., as monograms, 
borders, the club, restaurant or family 
name can be done thereon with neatness 
and despatch. ' 

These magical possibilities were not to come into common 
use for quite a while. A 1919 report from Purdue University 
that sought to promote the use of electricity in cooking 
lamented its high cost. Estimating that 3 cents/kilowatt- 
hour was an economical rate, it found that only some parts of 
the country had rates low enough to encourage further use. 
They concluded that "electrically heated stoves will be 
barred from the kitchen of the average family" unless rates 
for cooking could be lowered. 38 

To follow the painstaking evolution of these various 
types of cooking stoves is to realize the complex forces that 
worked against quick change. First, the uneven availability 
of different fuels limited widespread changes at any one 
time. Moreover, the more important the stove was to the 
running of the household — and its importance decreased as 
other machines took over some of its functions — the less 
likely would a family be to scrap it for a remarkably differ- 
ent type. Thus the disproportionate space spent here on the 
different types of stoves reflects their relative popularity 


in the period. The appearance of the stove was less signifi- 
cant, reflecting a combination of function and decorative 
fashions. Families gradually traded custom for convenience, 
as new technology outstripped the longevity of outmoded types 
of stoves. The next questions are those of exactly who in 
the family benefited from such conveniences, and what con- 
siderations beyond the stove itself led purchasers to look at 
new kinds of stoves. 


1 Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, 
The American Woman's Home (New York: 1869), p. 66. 

2 Elizabeth Enright, "When the Bough Breaks," in TJae. 
Moment Before the Rain (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 
1951), p. 116. 

3 Maria Parloa, His_s Parloa's Kitchen Companion 
(Boston: 1887), p. 62. 

4 David M. Katzman, Seven Days a Week; Women and Domes- 
tic Service in Industrializing America (New York: Oxford 
University Press, 1978), p. 128. 

5 Maria Parloa, Ms_£ Parloa's Kitchen Companion. p. 63. 

6 Ibid., pp. 63-64; Gwendolyn Wright, Moralism and the 
Model Home (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 36; 
Susan Strasser, Never Done: A History of American Housework 
(New York: Pantheon Books, 1982), p. 41; Faye E. Dudden, 
Serving Women: Househol d Service in Nineteenth-Century America 
(Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1983), 

p. 13. 

7 Maria Parloa, iias Parloa's Kitchen Companion , p. 64; 
Lillian Baker Carlisle, "The Cookstove: Liberator of 19th 
Century Women," The Antiques Journal . (August 1980), p. 53; 
Dudden, p. 131; Sears, Roebuck and Company, "Book of 
Stoves", 2nd edition (Chicago: 1905), p. 632. 


Beecher, p. 69. 

9 Strasser, p. 36; J.L. Mott Iron Works, "Illustrated 
Catalogue of Kitchen Ranges, Fire Place Heaters, and Hot 
Furnaces, Suitable for all Sizes and Styles of Buildings" 
(New York: 1882), p. 2; Siegfried Giedion, Mechanization 
Takes Command (New York: Oxford University Press, 1948), p. 

10 Maria Parloa, &Ls_S Parloa's Kitchen Companion. pp. 

11 Mott, p. 5; Keeley Stove Company, "The Columbian 
Stoves, Ranges, and Furnaces manufactured by the Keeley 
Stove Company" (Lancaster, PA: 1893), p. 6. 



1 9 

Isaac A. Sheppard & Company, "Perfect Cooking" 
(Philadelphia and Baltimore, [1880?]), p. 9; B.C. Bibb 
Company, "Susquehanna Cabinet Range" (n.p.: [1880?]), n.p.. 

13 Mott, p. 7; Stratton and Terstegge, "Burning 
Facts" (n.p., 1898), p. 16. 

14 Mott, p. 2. 

"I c 

Littlefield Stove Manufacturing Company, "Little- 
field Stove Works" (Albany, NY: 1874), pp. 6-7; Richardson 
and Boynton Company, "Perfect Heaters, Furnaces, Ranges" 
(New York: 1890), passim; Keeley, 1893, p. 39. 

16 Mott, p. 2. 

1 7 

Keeley Stove Company, "The Columbia Stoves, 
Ranges, Furnaces and Hot Water Specialties" ([Lancaster, 
PA]: 1896), p. 6; The Reading Stove Works, Orr, Painter and 
Company, "Sunshine_Stoves, Ranges, Furnaces," catalog no. 31 
([Reading, PA]: 1897), pp. 64, 81; '"Burning Facts", picture 

18 "Perfect Cooking", p. 2. 

19 Sears, p. 632. 


Scientific American Architects' and Bui lders' Edi- 

tion 7 no. 2 (February 1889), p. 35. 
21 Strasser, p. 73. 


** Maryland Meter and Manufacturing Company, "Perfect 
Gas Ranges" (Baltimore: 1896), p. 5; Sears, p. 675. 

23 George E. Walsh, "Scientifically Designed 
Kitchens," House Beautiful 30 (November 1911), p. 184. 

24 Detroit Stove Works, "Detroit Jewel Gas Ranges," cata- 
log no. 74 (Detroit: 1903), pp. 123-25. 

2 Maryland Meter and Manufacturing Company, p. 1; 

Sears, p. 676. 


26 Denys Peter Myers, Gaslightina in America: A Guide 
for Historic Preservation (Washington: U.S. Department of 
the Interior, Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, 
Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Technical 
Services Division, 1978), p. 231; Detroit Stove Works, pp. 
16, 77, 103. 

27 Detroit Stove Works, pp. 16, 20-21; "The New Homes 
of New York," Scribner's Monthly 8 (May 1874), pp. 78-79; 
Ann Oakley, Woman's Work: The Hous ewife. Past and Present 
(New York: Pantheon Books, 1974), p. 9. 

Detroit Stove Works, p. 5; Sears, p. 675; Giedion, 
pp. 539-40. 

2 ^ Cooperative Foundry Company, "Gas Ranges" 
(Rochester, NY: [c.1925]), pp. 3, 10. 

30 Detroit Stove Works, p. 90. 

31 Isabel McDougall, "An Ideal Kitchen," House Beauti- 
fjll 13 (December 1902), p. 30. 

32 Cooperative Foundry Company, "Red Cross Combination 
Ranges" (Rochester, NY: [c.1915?]), p. 5. 

33 Cooperative Foundry Company, "Combination Ranges 
— The Welcome" (Rochester, NY: [c.1915?]), pp. 9, 11.; 
Abram Cox Stove Company, "Novelty Stoves and Ranges," cata- 
log 65B (Philadelphia and Chicago: 1914). p. 9. 

34 Estelle M. Merrill, "Electricity in the Kitchen," 
American Kitchen Magazine 4 (November 1895), pp. 60-66. 

35 Ibid., p. 60. 

3 *> C.W. Piper, "Electric Ranges" (Purdue University, 
Publications of the Engineering Departments, vol. Ill, no. 1, 
bulletin no. 2, March 1919), pp. 34-35; Merrill, pp. 61-62. 

37 Merrill, p. 62. 

38 Piper, pp. 7, 31. 

CHAPTER THREE: The Stove in its Physical Context 

In the previous chapters, which focused on the mech- 
anics of the stove itself, the "cooks" and "housewives" 
mentioned were shadowy figures. It is necessary to pierce 
this one-dimensionality to understand how largely the stove 
figured in the daily life of the household. Using the 
single family home as the average domestic unit still leaves 
a broad range of questions open. Whether a family employed 
domestic servants and how much of the kitchen work such 
servants did were variables that would strongly affect the 
family's awareness of the modernity of its kitchen. The 
placement and appearance of the stove within the kitchen 
introduces issues of style and design that influenced and 
transcended the appearance of the stove itself. Further- 
more, as family units evolved with a changing society, their 
homes changed and altered the placement and idea of the 
kitchen itself. 

Section One: The Servant Question 

The person most concerned with the condition of the 
stove was naturally the person who cooked on it. If this 
person was also someone with power of decision in the house- 
hold, the frequency and selection of a new stove would 
likely be more important than if a servant alone dealt daily 



with the stove's foibles. Moreover, the use of servants was 
generally associated with the work of larger houses. Domes- 
tic servants were never universal, but their employment was 
an ideal that has persisted as an historical myth. Even in 
1880, the heyday of large houses, only 20-25% of urban and 
suburban households had even one servant; the percentage was 
even lower in rural areas. Not only was the "traditional" 
servant scarcer than traditionally believed, but from the 
end of the 19th century to World War I, the number of ser- 
vants fell dramatically. Between 1910 and 1920, the number 
of paid servants per capita fell by half. 1 

The household servant was nevertheless a desirable 
reality for many households in the second half of the 19th 
century. For those with the means to employ them, life 
without constant domestic help was unthinkable. "The trials 
of doing housework in a servantless home were discussed and 
they were regarded as just that — trials, necessary chores 
that had to be got through until a qualified servant could 
be found." 2 The size of a stylish house created this 
situation. One reformer wrote in 1874, 

The average house is little else than a 
string of stairs, with more or less ex- 
tended landings. The kitchen is under- 
ground .... Up and down, up and down, the 
women folk are perpetually toiling as on 
a treadmill .... Very few Amerian women 
can endure it, let alone do their house- 
hold work besides; hence the power of 
Bridget. 3 


Taking into account the passage's typical ethnic preju- 
dice, it is still evident that heavy and dirty household 
tasks were considered unsuitable for proper ladies. Hence 
both fashionable house and apartment plans included servants' 
quarters. As late as 1902, house planners were advised that 
"a small kitchen with a separate sitting room is much better 
than a large kitchen to be used by the servants for all 
purposes." 4 In such cases, it went without saying that 
kitchen work was the domain of the servants. Charles Francis 
Osborne's Notes on the Art of Hou se Planning diagrammed the 
kitchen area as a "servants' private thoroughfare," as op- 
posed to the family areas. -> 

Most Americans never had the luxury of such elaborate 
households, and many women, however reluctantly, did their 
own cooking and cleaning. In the 1860s, Catherine Beecher 
and Sara Josepha Hale, "editoress" of Godey's Lady's Book , 
urged women not to use servants even if they had the means. 
They felt that servants were an undemocratic institution that 
usurped women's most important work. They were never entire- 
ly successful, since even then not all women were inclined to 
domestic tasks. Many women were nonetheless glad to dispense 
with the worries of managing servants. As late as 1902, the 
ambivalence between the desire to live stylishly with ser- 
vants and the reality of economic circumstance surfaced in 


the counsels of House Beautiful . In describing their ideal 
kitchen, the writer supposed "a family of slender means; 
[where] the wife probably does the cooking but neither dines 
nor sits in the kitchen." 6 

Stove manufacturers knew that the range of their custom- 
ers was wide. An 1887 household instruction book advised the 
"housekeeper" how to acquaint herself with a new range. Even 
ladies of fashion who rarely touched a stove were expected to 
retain some familiarity with and control over their kitchens. 
7 Sensible stove marketers took all customers into account, 
even when they assumed the presence of a cook. The Philadel- 
phia Stove and Iron Foundry Company postulated three parties 
interested in each stove: 

The tired cook asks: "Will it make my 
labor lighter?" The man who pays the 
bills asks: "Will it save my coal?" The 
careful housekeeper asks: "Will it do 
good cooking?" 8 

Although households without employed cooks existed 
throughout the period, their numbers increased, slowly at 
first and quickly at the end of the century, through a combi- 
nation of technological innovation and social changes. Ruth 
Schwartz Cowan sees a "dynamic interaction" between them, 
with neither as the primary cause. The result for the 
middle-class family, with new appliances ready to lighten the 
housewife's load and fewer satisfactory servants available, 


was the trend toward the self-sufficient modern nuclear 
family. 9 

We have already seen the enormous reduction in work that 
gas and electric ranges produced. When servants were still 
the ambition of most households, advocates of technological 
progress in stoves argued to persuade even those who would 
rarely cook. A guidebook to the Columbian Exposition praised 
electrical appliances as saving the housekeeper trouble if 
her servants left. Gas range manufacturers adopted the same 
tactic: "Cook left? No matter. Light your gas range and see 
how easy it is to bake, broil, roast and stew ...."10 
Detroit Jewel Gas Ranges, in their advertising suggestions, 
sought to attract both types of housewives. "A gas range in 
your kitchen will give you more leisure time," they told the 
wife who cooked, but "when the cook leaves, a gas stove is a 
blessing," was the message for the lady with servants. For 
ladies having increasing trouble finding cooks, Detroit Jewel 
advertisers encouraged doing their own cooking. Here they 
recalled the old distaste for unladylike labor, declaring, 
"Cooking by gas is more like woman's work." 

Coinciding with the decrease in the available servant 
pool, the 1890s witnessed a widespread change in domestic 
attitudes. For the first time it was fashionable for the 
lady of the house to be involved in her kitchen work under 


the aegis of domestic science or domestic engineering. Edu- 
cated housewives would employ modern scientific ideas to 
replace the outmoded servant mentality. Nevertheless, old 
ideals did not die easily. Magazine ads through Wold War I 
addressed their copy to "you", the housewife, but showed 
servants doing the actual work while housewives managed and 
supervised. Similarly, the spacious homes of the turn of the 
century had kitchens planned for use by servants, although 
the housewife was likely in reality to do most of the work. 
This ambivalence lasted into the 1920s, when all but the 
wealthiest abandoned dreams of finding cooks and maids. 12 

Given the confused situation among women who had ser- 
vants, women who wanted servants, and women who did their own 
cooking and cleaning, it is difficult to generalize about who 
most often used the stove. It is safe to say that as ranges 
became cleaner and easier to use, more housewives did their 
own work, at least more often than before. The stove became 
a more civilized occupant of the house, accessible even to 
the fastidious. Ease of operation and social changes became 
so closely interrelated that they created a single force for 

Section Two: Kitchen Design 

The kitchen itself reflected the changing amount and 
type of attention it received from housewives. The design 


and arrangement of kitchen furniture and appliances gave 
cooking stoves their physical context, influencing their use 
and appearance. Kitchen design was not unique to the turn- 
of-the-century domestic engineers. Many earlier writers took 
an interest in efficient and healthful kitchens, with sugges- 
tions ranging from appliance selection to utensil arrange- 
ment. The American Woman's Home (1869) was the most influen- 
tial of the earlier housekeeping guides. Written by 
Catharine Beecher with her sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, it 
covered every aspect of home life and management, always 
encouraging the housewife to do all her own work as effici- 
ently as possible. Their ideal kitchen was divided into two 
roons: a 9' x 9' kitchen for food preparation, and a 9' x 7* 
stove room for cooking and storage, separated from the 
kitchen by sliding doors. The intent of the separation was 
to keep heat and smells from the kitchen, especially since 
the stove contributed to heating the house itself. In this 
arrangement, the portable stove sat in the center of the wall 
opposite the sliding doors and on either side were ranges of 
storage shelves. The kitchen held the sink and food sup- 
plies. 13 

The minutely detailed directives for this ideal kitchen, 
specified to the inch, emphasized a practical efficiency that 
would enable the housewife to complete her chores well and 
quickly, and go on to the myriad other duties expected of 


her. Beecher and Stowe contrast their plan with that of 
"most large houses, [where] the table furniture, the cooking 
materials and utensils, the sink, and the eating-room, are at 
such distances apart, that half the time and strength is 
employed in walking back and forth to collect and return the 
articles used. "^ 

This single-minded approach discounted the old image of 
the kitchen hearth as a social area. The kitchen as a work 
area became less important to the family, who came to use it 
only when necessary. 15 other writers as well fostered the 
idea that the kitchen and home must be run seriously and 
expeditiously to insure a satisfactory home life. Housekeep- 
ing was to be a skill, approached with rigor and logic. 
Eugene C. Gardner wrote in 1874, 

If our housekeepers ... will learn their 
most complicated and responsible profes- 
sion half as thoroughly as a mechanic 
learns a single and comparatively simple 
trade, ... we shall have a domestic re- 
formation that will bring back something 
of the Eden we have lost. 16 

Despite the mildly condescending tone common to male writers 

on "women's work" in the period, the passage nonetheless 

expresses the same scientific and thorough approach to 

kitchen design as the American Woman's Home . Gardner couched 

his ideas in the form of a series of letters between an 

architect and a young married man exhanging ideas for a new 


house. The husband had 

overheard [the teacher who boards with 
them] explaining to Jane how the cooking- 
stove is to be in a sort of recess by the 
chimney, with tin-lined doors to shut it 
out of sight; the wash-boiler at the 
opposite side, enclosed in the same way, 
and having a contrivance overhead to 
carry off the steam; ... and everything 
else in the room contrived so it can be 
shut up or folded out of sight when not 
in use. 17 

Thus the stove, along with the rest of the kitchen, would 
occupy only as much space and attention as use required. 
Even the hood over the stove received praise for removing 
even the olfactory evidence of cooking. Such hoods were 
valuable for other reasons as well: they helped kettles boil 
faster by concentrating the heat on the stove and then pull- 
ing it up the chimney to cool the kitchen. 18 

It is questionable how many kitchen designers actually 
followed such superlatively efficient plans. Certainly there 
were few with separate stove rooms. By the 1880s, the large 
single rooms that The American Woman's Home deplored were 
featured in all the plans of Shoppell's Modern Houses . The 
actual size of the kitchen varied with the size of the house, 
from as small as 7' x 9' to one 14' x 16', the largest single 
room in the house. 19 Maria Parloa, a popular writer on 
housekeeping matters, recommended 16' x 16* or 15' x 17' as 
the optimal compromise between enough room for equipment and 


too many steps. Miss Parloa's kitchen included a range, a 
sink, a dresser with shelves, drawers and cabinets for table- 
ware and utensils, tables and chairs, and a pantry for the 
refrigerator and food storage. [Fig. 17] She suggested some 
furnishing details for sanitation and the cook's comfort, as 
well as flowers on the window sill. Washable hard wood floor- 
ing was preferred; if the floor was to be covered, she sug- 
gested lignum (linoleum), as tiles "tire the feet." She 
stressed plenty of light and easily cleaned surfaces, with 
light-colored walls and tiles (blue and white Dutch) around 
the range, tables, and sink. 20 

The 1890s witnessed a much greater variety of sugges- 
tions for kitchen design as the idea of "domestic science" 
turned the kitchen from a basic workplace to a sophisticated 
laboratory. The popularity of a new semi-scientific 
rationality made the kitchen the center of interest in pat- 
tern books, domestic science texts, and women's magazines, 
replacing the parlor as the favorite subject for advice. 
Every article or book on the home reiterated the point that 
the kitchen was the most important room in the modern house. 
21 The reason for this particular attention was the growing 
interest in nutrition, sanitation, and related topics. The 
kitchen as the site of food preparation became the object of 
an assiduous search to destroy germs. This motive produced 
major changes in the appearance of both stoves and kitchens 


in the years before World War I. The new aesthetic canon 
became "the beauty of economy." " 

These new progressive kitchens became compact and well- 
planned, generally occupying about 120 square feet. They in- 
cluded a cabinet with drawers and bins (known as a "Hoosier 
cabinet"), wooden worktables, a breakfast nook, an enamelled 
iron or — in later years — white porcelain sink and drain- 
board, an automatic pump for hot and cold running water, a 
brine- or ammonia-cooled icebox or metal basin, and a gas 
range with a hood. By 1910, the pantry had evolved into 
built-in cabinets. 23 Th e simply efficient kitchen of ear- 
lier years became a center of operations whose "legitimate 
function" was "merely [that of] a workroom." The flowers and 
plants that Maria Parloa had suggested twenty years before 
had little place in this environment. Despite the general 
economy of approach, the enthusiasm for outfitting the new 
kitchen could give it unwonted size. The house magazine 
Indoors and Out recommended in 1906 a kitchen 17* x 19'6" — 
almost 325 square feet — while stating, "a large kitchen is 
not at all necessary or desireable." 24 On the whole, how- 
ever, compactness was the key. House Beautiful told its read- 
ers in 1902 that the modern cook wanted 

a small, spotless space, conveniently 
planned, with the tools of her occupation 
all in easy reach — something on the 
lines of a Pullman-car kitchen, or a 
yacht's galley, or a laboratory ...." 25 


Within these remarkably new kitchens, the cooking stove 

naturally came in for its share of reforms. The urge for 

economy and cleanliness prompted smooth finishes and rounded 

corners to avoid attracting dust. Improvements in technology 

made possible the combination range, although House Beautiful 

in 1906 assumed that the preferred arrangment was two ranges, 

one coal and one gas, depending on the season. 26 Continual 

adjustments were suggested for the cook's comfort, especially 

as more women of means came to do their own cooking. One 

writer in 1911 advised, 

The stove should be high enough that the 
oven can be opened and closed without 
stooping to an unusual degree. The top 
of the stove should be on a level with 
the waist, and the oven as high up as 
possible. A low stove should be placed 
on a concrete base raised to a sufficient 
height to overcome its defect in this 
respect. 27 

The placement of the stove or stoves within the kitchen 
did not alter greatly in this period, although the accoutre- 
ments for ornament and comfort did increase. The coal and 
gas ranges would "both [be] set on a spacious hearth of red 
English quarries. These occupy the center of one wall," 
while "in front of the range and the table, to ease the 
cook's feet, are laid strips of cork carpet ...." Another 
article suggested practically that the chimney location would 
determine the placement of the range. To reduce odors, it 


recommended a hood over both ranges or "a register ... in the 
chimney near the ceiling which connects with the ventilating 
flue." The latter was an iron smoke pipe in a brick flue, 
the space between the two serving as a ventilating shaft. 
Some placement suggestions were more specific, usually for 
the cook's convenience. An article on "Scientifically De- 
signed Kitchens" advised centering the range on the wall 
adjoining the dining room, near the dining room or butler's 
pantry door. 28 

The most influential force upon the appearance of stoves 
and kitchens was the drive for absolute cleanliness. House 
Beautiful declared in 1902 that the kitchen really should be 
"clean with the scientific cleanliness of a surgery, which we 
all know to be far ahead of any mere housewifely neatness." 
Such a goal inspired a great use of white tile and enamel, 
although the range itself generally remained black while coal 
stoves were current. Nevertheless, manufacturers advertised 
stoves with easily removeable parts, "making it possible to 
keep the interior of the oven clean at all times." 29 The 
mania for sanitation had a greater effect on external appear- 
ances all over the kitchen. Walls were painted in light 
yellows and greens of shiny oil-based enamels, or were 
covered in washable tiles, enameled sheet metal, or light 
oilcloth. 30 [Fig. 18] 


Despite fashionable variations, white was the key ele- 
ment in these kitchens, "the sign of visible sanitary aware- 
ness." Its attraction was twofold: first because of its 
popular scientific associations, second because of its radi- 
cal rejection of traditional kitchens filled with heat, smoke 
and odor. Kitchen reformers raved over the new levels of 
sanitation that white signified. One recommended design 
spoke of pots and pans 

of the finest white granite-ware kept in 
their special closets, and this, like the 
king's daughter of the Psalms, "is all 
glorious within" with hard white enamel, 
easy to keep clean, and presenting an 
immaculacy inviting in anything that has 
to do with eatables. 31 

Even the least health-conscious cook was probably not immune 
to the rising contrast with "the black beast of her despair", 
the metal stove. While white porcelain enamel had begun to 
creep over the American kitchen, the last holdout of tradi- 
tion was the stove. Its dark appearance was so ingrained in 
the minds of its users that it did not become a design ele- 
ment in the "light kitchen" until well into the 1920s and 
1930s. One woman, writing in 1902, reported with vast amuse- 


In what might be called "a freak kitchen" 
the woodwork and furniture were stained 
black, to harmonize, the owner solemnly 
declared, with the iron stove. 32 


It need not be imagined that such kitchens were uniform- 
ly stark white. In addition to the light greens and yellows 
already mentioned, stylish kitchens benefited from the Arts 
and Crafts movement with touches of earth colors and natural 
materials. One model described in a 1906 magazine featured 
buff-color glazed tiles on the walls and ceiling, with a 
floor of dull red tile bordered with white marble. With the 
unquestioned presence of dark coal and gas stoves, the de- 
signers held that the tile colors gave the room "a homelike 
air quite different from the laboratory or hospital appear- 
ance of a white tiled room." 33 [Fig. 19] Such materials 
were generally beyond the reach of the middle-class house- 
wife, and the love affair with white in the kitchen persisted 
long beyond the echoes of other decorative trends. Neverthe- 
less, even the stove manufacturers recognized the new decora- 
tive possibilities of enamel finishes, and after World War I 
it was possible to buy a stove described as "paneled mission 
style with pearl grey enamel and brilliant black touches with 
sparkling nickel castings ...."34 Thus even the most 
tradition-bound element of the kitchen was rethought in the 
early years of the 20th century. 

Section Three: The Kitchen in the House 

Unique as it was, the kitchen was never isolated from 
the changes of the home itself. New fashions of size, de- 


sign, and plan affected the size and therefore the contents 
of the American kitchen. In this period the home ran the 
gamut from rambling houses of even four or five stories to 
small flats. In the large Victorian house with the luxury of 
size and easy room arrangement the kitchen would generally be 
in a back corner of the house. [Fig. 20] The heat generated 
by wood and coal stoves burning all day was sufficient, 
especially in summer, to discourage a central location. The 
large work area, often shared by several women, was segre- 
gated from the rest of the house to allow easy movement for 
elaborate food preparation and plenty of storage space, in- 
eluding a separate pantry. JJ 

After the Civil War, suburban homes grew in popularity 
with the increasing congestion of cities. Such homes re- 
tained the antebellum appeal of wealth and independence, but 
were now aimed at the growing middle class. The prolifera- 
tion of electric streetcars made access to the suburbs pos- 
sible. In the new towns, large houses held sway, but were 
quite close to each other, sharing the new amenities of 
public utilities and standardizing equipment and appliances. 
Magazines such as Godey's Lady's Book featured house plans to 
suit families of various sizes. A house "for a small family" 
had a separate kitchen, 12' x 10'2", attached at the back. 
Larger houses had kitchens as large as 16' x 20', always in 
the back corner, for designs described variously as "in the 


French style" (1866), "in the English Gothic style" (1872), 
or an "Italian ... suburban residence" (1872) with the 
kitchen between the scullery and dining room. The dining 
room naturally accompanied the kitchen, and designers de- 
veloped various barriers between the hot, odoriferous work- 
filled kitchen, and the cultivated privacy of the dining 
room. As E.C. Gardner explained, "we do not like, in the 
summer weather, to be broiled in the same heat that roasts 
our beef ...." 36 &t the same time, convenience required 
that the pantry and larder be close at hand. 

By the turn of the century, homes tended to be somewhat 
smaller and simpler. Accordingly, kitchens became smaller 
and more compact, but not without protests and compromise 
from builders and housewives accustomed to the roomiest ex- 
panses they could afford. The craze for efficiency had not 
yet converted most kitchens to minimal galleys. Designers 
recognized the trend to smaller kitchens and reorganized 
their plans. They relegated elements like servants 1 sitting 
roons, tubs and boilers to the basement, and left only essen- 
tials to the kitchen. Depite this easy adaptability, some 
housewives still desired large, old-fashioned kitchens. Pro- 
gressive designers despaired over this tendency. George E. 
Walsh wrote in "Scientifically Designed Kitchens" in 1911: 


The American kitchen of to-day is only 
from one-half to three-quarters as large 
as it was a decade ago, yet it contains 
even greater facilities for the work 
transacted in it ... yet architects fre- 
quently have to argue long to dissuade 
women from having a "huge kitchen" that 
would occupy one-third of the ground 
floor area. 37 

As the idea of small houses and kitchens became more general- 
ly accepted, stove manufacturers responded with special 
models to fit into kitchens with limited space. 

The growth of urban living spurred these changes in the 
house. Even in earlier years, houses on smaller city lots 
had kitchens in the basement. In the country, they would 
have been in a separate wing or "summer kitchen" to isolate 
heat and smells. Urban basement kitchens were also handier 
for receiving fuel, such as coal, which could be shoveled 
down a chute from the street or alley. As land became scarc- 
er, lots grew smaller, and with them homes and kitchens, so 
that "the actual space to be occupied by a range [became] a 
question of considerable importance." The Sill Stove Works 
of Rochester, New York manufactured a "City Style" range with 
a "Patent Lift-Hearth" that did not require additional space 
when open, and could be "set up snugly in a corner." ^° 

As cities became ever more crowded, merely reducing 
house size and squeezing the kitchen was not an adequate 
solution. Various experimental and short-lived alternatives 
developed for working women to ease their kitchen responsi- 


bilities. From the 1880s through the early 20th century, 
organizations formed to make and deliver cooked meals to 
working families. They emphasized both reduced work and 
improved nutrition, and later ones sought to avoid waste and 
inefficiency. All these ventures were relatively short- 
lived, and at best they could serve only a few families with 
success. It soon became clear that traditional houses with 
traditional housewives could not work for the growing number 
of city dwellers. An article in Scribner's Monthly as early 
as 1874 voiced concern that worthy citizens, 

unable to find [in New York City] the 
shelter they require for the money they 
can afford to pay, ... plant their fami- 
lies elsewhere, depriving them and them- 
selves of the privileges of recreation, 
social life and culture which concentra- 
tion makes possible, and the city of 
their social and political presence, 
which it sorely needs. 39 

The exciting and revolutionary solution to such problems 
seemed to be the apartment house. Apartments first emerged 
in the 1850s in limited numbers, and gained greatly in popu- 
larity in the last quarter of the 19th century. Americans 
did not quite know what to make of the new phenomenon. At 
first they were called "French flats," in recognition of 
their European origins. The sensible efficiency of their use 
in cities had a hard time overcoming connotations of European 
decadence. The idea of having the bedrooms on the same floor 


as the public spaces seemed shockingly communistic and promi- 
scuous to the middle-class American mind. After the Civil 
War, the term "apartment-hotel" came into use as the early 
examples included many of the luxurious amenities of a hotel. 
The Hotel Pelham, built in Boston by Arthur Gilman in 1855, 
was the first, followed by R.M. Hunt's Stuyvesant Flats in 
1869 in New York. These fashionable buildings began a trend, 
and by 1876 New York had two hundred apartment buildings. In 
Chicago, 1,142 were built in the year after the devastating 
1871 fire. 40 

As the new style proliferated and developed variations, 
names such as "family hotel" and "residential hotel" appeared 
to cover the possibilites from studios and bed-sitting rooms 
to much larger suites. Idealistic proponents of apartment 
housing sometimes had much more specific views on the best 
kind of apartment. One lamented to see fine houses standing 
empty while city dwellers sought vainly for more manageable 
housing. He suggested, "apartments containing the required 
number of rooms and no more, grouped for easy and economical 
housekeeping, and shielded from undue publicity." E.C. 
Gardner recommended flats as the best system for urban liv- 
ing. "Even the fourth story in such a building is preferable 
to a house of eight or ten rooms, two on each floor. "41 
Nevertheless, not all the early efforts were so admirable. 
Scribner's complained of "sham elegance and general incon- 


venience ... marble mantles and much paint vainly trying to 
atone for the absence of ventilation, and the too abundant 
presence of dark rooms, narrow passages, and back-breaking 
stairs." 42 

On the other hand, many apartment houses featured lux- 
urious and truly novel communal features, including communal 
servants and dining rooms. Some Americans balked at the idea 
— the Architectural Record criticized the rejection of home 
values and organization, which deprived women of traditional 
tasks. In exchange, apartments offered a concerted community 
life both within the building and as part of the city. With 
efficient planning, each unit in a fashionable apartment 
could have access to courtyards, gardens, cafes, central gas 
lighting, central hot water heat, bathrooms, hot and cold 
running water, elevators, switchboards, and even electric 
light. 43 

The question of common food preparation and dining en- 
tailed controversy well beyond the lure of modern conveni- 
ences. For the first time, there was a practical alternative 
to daily cooking for those without money for domestic ser- 
vants. The options included the complete offerings of the 
Haight House in New York, which featured a public kitchen and 
dining room in addition to the dining room, butler's pantry, 
and kitchen in each apartment. Some advocated removing the 


kitchen from the living quarters entirely as an aid to people 
of moderate means, to save space, and to improve sanitation. 
Elaborate variations on the dumbwaiter would convey meals to 
each apartment. The main kitchen would, as in a house, be in 
the basement. 44 such schemes held appeal for many reasons. 
In Henry B. Fuller's novel The Clif f-Dwellers (1893) a young 
couple moves to such a building at the wife's insistence, 
after her husband had confronted her "essential slightness 
and incapacity." Their flat had four or five rooms and 
facilities for fixing breakfast, and "they could breakfast 
and dine with a few hundred persons of like requirements and 
like situation," in the common dining room. Their new quar- 
ters without a kitchen or dining room were "a shade more 
compact and ... a shade more luxurious," than their previous 
house. 45 

However convenient such an arrangement might have been 
for the middle class, it was not widespread. After the 
wealthy had taken the daring edge of novelty off "French 
flats", more self-contained apartments oriented to the middle 
class became popular at the end of the 19th century. Each 
unit would have a small kitchen with all the normal appli- 
ances, including stove and refrigerator. The luxurious 
apartments of the wealthy allotted ample kitchen space for 
the servants' work. Room arrangement in general was often 
somewhat uncomfortable, as most pre-World War I apartments 


had long, dark hallways, with rooms along the passage. 
Kitchens could well be remote from both the dining room and 
the service entrance, compensating for the saving in vertical 
steps. The size of the kitchen itself could be anywhere from 
15* x 19' with a butler's pantry in the most elegant build- 
ings to much smaller areas that merely fit into the floor 
plan. In 1911, George E. Walsh described the new popularity 
of spacious kitchens as "a revolt from the pantry-like 
kitchens so common in apartments .... 6 

Stove manufacturers noted the new variety in kitchen 
size and placement, and included models suited to the most 
cramped apartments. The J.L. Mott Iron Works in 1882 
featured a single oven elevated range only 2'2" wide and 1'5" 
deep, which they considered "peculiarly adapted for use in 
French Flats, the style of houses now so popular in our large 
cities." They also described a portable model that made "a 
very complete cooking apparatus for family use in Flats and 
Apartments where it is not practical to build a chimney 
breast." 47 The height and central systems of apartment 
buildings made gas preferable to coal for stove fuel. Gas 
did not require hauling, ash disposal, or complicated smoke 

ventilation. Some more elegant apartment plans indicated a 

4 R 
gas range alone in the kitchen. 


Not all apartments had such pleasant appointments. 
While French flats became the rage for the urban rich, the 
poor crowded into tenement housing. It is important to 
remember that the term "tenement" did not differ much in 
meaning from "apartment" in the 19th century. As conditions 
for the urban poor worsened with the influx of Eastern Euro- 
pean immigrants late in the century, the term became perjora- 
tive. At any rate, the tenement kitchen shrank over the 19th 
century, from the antebellum double tenement to the railraod 
tenement to the infamous dumbbell. These rooms served the 
family for "bathing, cooking, eating, washing, studying, and 
socializing." 49 [Fig. 21] 

Thus the kitchen stove, one of the few common posses- 
sions of rich and poor, was infinitely adaptable to its 
situation. As a vital, however unobtrusive, element of every 
household, it was affected by both social and aesthetic 
changes around it. As servants disappeared, interior 
fashions changed, and families and their homes shrank and 
moved, stove manufacturers made sure that their products kept 


1 Gwendolyn Wright, Building the Dream: A Social His- 
tory Of Housing in America (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983), 
p. Ill; Ruth Schwartz Cowan, "The 'Industrial Revolution 1 in 
the Home: Household Technology and Social Change in the 20th 
Century," Technology and Culture 17 (January 1976), p. 10. 

2 Cowan, p. 16. 

3 "The New Homes of New York," Scribner's Monthly 8 (May 
1874), p. 67. 

Esther Stone, "The Modern Kitchen," Indoors and Out I 
(February and March 1906), p. 219. 

5 David P. Handlin, The American Home: Archit ecture and 
Society. 1815-1915 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1979), 
p. 334. 

6 Susan Strasser, Never Done: A His tory of American 
Housework (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982) pp. 166-67; 
Isabel McDougall, "An Ideal Kitchen," flojiae. Beautiful 13 
(December 1902), p. 27. 

7 Maria Parloa, Miss Parloa's Kitchen Companion (Boston: 
1887), p. 63; Stone, p. 299. 


Philadelphia Stove and Iron Foundry Company, "Clover 
Triumph Ranges" (Philadelphia, n.d.), n.p. 

9 Cowan, p. 22; Anthony N.B. Garvan, "Effects of Tech- 
nology on Domestic Life, 1830-1880," in Technology in West- 
ern Civilization ,, ed. by Melvin Kranzberg and Carroll W. 
Pursell, Jr., vol. 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 
1967), p. 550. 

10 Strasser, p. 76; Ladies flojne. Journal X no. 7 (June 
1893), p. 22. 

11 Detroit Stove Works, "Detroit Jewel Gas Ranges" 
catalog No. 74 (Detroit: 1903), pp. 124-25. 

12 Gwendolyn Wright, Moral ism and the Model Home (Chi- 
cago: Univeristy of Chicago Press, 1980), pp. 36, 150, 154; 
Strasser, p. 174; Cowan, pp. 10-12. 




Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, The 

American Woman's Homp (New York: 1869), p. 32. 

14 Ibid., p. 34. 

15 Garvan, p. 554. 

16 E.C. Gardner, Homes, and How to Make Them (Boston: 
1874), pp. 208, 211. 

17 Ibid., pp. 239-40. 

18 ibid., pp. 215-16. 

19 Shoppell's Modern Houses. I (1886), pp. 7, 25. 

20 Parloa, Kitchen Companion (Boston: 1887), pp. 10-12. 

21 Gwendolyn Wright, Moralism and the Model Homer p. 239, 


Handlin, pp. 411, 429. 

23 Gwendolyn Wright, Building the Dream , p. 170; 
Gwendolyn Wright, Moralism and the Modern Home . p. 239. 

24 Stone, pp. 218-19. 

25 McDougall, p. 27. 

26 Gwendolyn Wright, Moralism and the Model Home , 
p. 165; McDougall, p. 27. 

27 George E. Walsh, "Scientifically Designed 
Kitchens," flo_us£ Beautiful 30 (November 1911), p. 183. 

28 McDougall, pp. 27-28; Stone, p. 223; Walsh, p. 183. 

2 9 McDougall, p. 27; Cooperative Foundry Company, "Red 
Cross Combination Ranges" (Rochester, NY: [c.1915?]), p. 10. 

30 Gwendolyn Wright, Moralism and the Model Home f p. 
39; Gwendolyn Wright, Building the Dream , p. 162. 

31 McDougall, p. 28. 

32 Faye E. Dudden, Serving Women: Household Ser- 
vice in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan 
University Press, 1983), p. 131; McDougall, p. 32. 


33 Stone, p. 220. 

Cooperative Foundry Company, "Oil Stoves" 
(Rochester, NY: n.d.), p. 3. 

35 Dudden, p. 132; Wright, p. 111. 

36 Godev's Lady's Book 76 (June 1868), p. 560; 84 
(1872), pp. 163, 200, 296; Gardner, pp. 209-10. 

3 7 McDougall, p, 27; Walsh, p. 146. 

38 Dudden, p. 132; Sill Stove Works, "The New Sterling 
Range" (Rochester, NY: 1895), pp. 6-7. 

p. 66. 

Handlin, pp. 394-95; "The New Homes of New York", 

Gwendolyn Wright, Building the Dream , p. 135-38. 

41 Dolores Hayden, The Gran d Domestic Revolution 
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981), p. 317-18; "The New Homes 
of New York", pp. 64-65; Gardner, p. 59. 

42 "The New Homes of New York", p. 68. 

43 Handlin, pp. 221, 399, 403; Gwendolyn Wright, 
Building the Dream r pp. 138-39. 

44 "The New Homes of New York", pp. 68, 75. 

45 Henry B. Fuller, The Cliff-Dwel lers (New York: 
Harper and Brothers, 1893) pp. 254-56, 271. 

46 Andrew Alpern, Apartmen ts for the Affluent (New 
York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975), pp. 2, 12, 54; Walsh, 
p. 183. 

J. L. Mott Ironworks, "Illustrated Catalogue of 
Kitchen Ranges, Fire Place Heaters, and Hot Furnaces, Suit- 
able for all Sizes and Styles of Buildings" (New York: 1882), 
PP. 2, 3, 5. 

48 Mott, pp. 2, 3, 5; Alpern, p. 32. 

49 Gwendolyn Wright, Building the Dream , pp. 119, 124. 

CHAPTER FOUR: Marketing the Cookstove 

Stove manufacturers must contact their customers effec- 
tively to sell stoves in a competitive market, but this 
simple premise leaves much unexplained. Since cooking stoves 
are virtually a fixture in a house, although one that can 
wear out or become outmoded, the manufacturer is obliged to 
advertise to both the dealer and the consumer. The relative 
importance of each and the ways in which they were reached 
reflect changes in the family, the home, and the stove it- 
self. This chapter will investigate what Ruth Schwartz Cowan 
calls "the role of the advertiser as connecting link between 
social change and technological change." 

The advertiser of a product was not a single person or 
even a single company. Advertising resulted from the concer- 
ted efforts of the manufacturer, the advertising agent, and 
the medium of communication. Of these, the last was general- 
ly limited to trade catalogs, newspapers, magazines, trade 
cards and other advertising ephemera. Trade catalogs, pub- 
lished by the manufacturer primarily for dealers, were the 
most complete source of information for the purchaser. These 
catalogs included illustrations and descriptions of all cur- 
rent models, dimensions, installation information, and often 
information on how the stove worked, its patented features, 



and any other inducements to purchase. Virtually every 
cooking stove manufacturer also made heaters, parlor stoves, 
and boilers; some included furnaces and kitchen implements 
as well. 

Trade cards contained more pure advertisement and less 
information. Often displaying little more than the company 
name and logo, these postcard-sized cards were decorative and 
kept the manufacturer's name in a prominent place. Besides 
the amusing or arresting cartoons, some cards listed prices 
or touted special features. [Fig. 22] 

Magazine advertisements could not carry as much informa- 
tion as trade catalogs, but they reached a wider audience. 
In the period covered by this study, the science of advertis- 
ing grew from tentative experimental ventures to large-scale 
battles for recognition and sales. At mid-century, producers 
communicated their wares mainly to retailers, who seldom 
advertised specific brands. However, advertising increased 
threefold between the Civil War and 1880, with the enormous 
growth of American manufacturing. The growth of steel and 
fuel industries in turn spurred stove manufacture and sales. 
The size of the actual advertisements grew as well. After 
this time, heavy brand advertising established itself, and 
with this trend came the necessity to differentiate products 
with such features as patented ash grates on coal stoves. 


The prominent and decorative display of names on the stoves 
served much the same purpose. *- 

The J.L. Mott Iron Works, Garland Stoves, and Bay State 
Ranges were some of the earliest stove makers to take advan- 
tage of magazines. 3 Naturally, different periodicals could 
have vastly different audiences, and cookstove ads generally 
appeared in publications aimed at housewives or architects 
and builders, such as the Ladies Home Journal. Godey's Lady's 
Book , the Scientific American architects' and builders' edi- 
tion, and others. The women's magazines carried standard 
stove ads, generally with a picture and short decription of 
that brand's virtues, including materials, such as "Bessemer 
Steel Plate Ovens and Bodies"; honors, such as World's Fair 
Prizes; and prices. ^ As a rule, advertising in such maga- 
zines ran more to small fashion and housekeeping items that 
women were more likely to buy for themselves, such as food, 
patent medicines, needles, corsets, soaps, utensils, and 
seeds. The more expensive items advertised included sewing 
machines, typewriters, pianos, and heaters. Stove acces- 
sories, such as Rising Sun stove polish and the Alaska stove 
lifter to remove lids of boiler holes from hot coal stoves, 
also appeared. 

These items, for household management and cultivated 
leisure, reflect an audience of middle-class women with some 
familiarity with kitchen work. The stove ads in periodicals 



such as Ths. Philadelphia EsAl Estate Record and Builders' 
Guide reached a far different readership that included build- 
ers, contractors, architects, and even men planning to build 
houses. There the stove ads mingled with those for building 
materials and other fixtures. [Fig. 23] 

The many avenues for advertising cookstoves reflected 
the dealers, builders, architects, homeowners and housewives 
concerned with their purchase. Builders and architects in- 
stalled stoves in unfurnished houses, while housewives could 
have much to say in the selection of a new stove. Advertis- 
ing strategies took this wide audience into consideration, 
aiming inducements at all these parties in turn. 

Much of the information in trade catalogs — except for 
general catalogs, like those of Sears, Roebuck — was in- 
tended for the use of dealers. This material included tech- 
nical information: 

Retail dealers in stoves and ranges ... 
will do well to read this chapter suffi- 
ciently to enable them to ascertain what 
the matter is when a well-constructed 
range fails to operate as it should. 5 

Others had introductions addressed specifically "To the 

Trade" or included lists of telegraph codes for ordering 

merchanidise. The Mt. Penn Stove Works described their 1903 

"Esther" model as, among other virtues, "Under one name. 

Easy for the dealer to advertise. Profitable to handle." 


The Detroit Stove Works provided in their catalog sample 
lithographs of ads to promote gas stoves. The ads were 
available to the dealers for their use. [Fig. 24] 

The final purchaser was not necessarity imagined to be 
the householder. Architects and builders often selected and 
installed cookstoves, especially if they were large and 
heavy, integrated with chimneys and ventilation systems, or 
(for brick-set coal models) required special installation. 
The J.L. Mott Iron Works catalog noted they "would particu- 
larly call the attention of Architects and Builders to ..." 
the ease of installation. ' Installation was a perennial 
problem in the case of brick-set coal stoves, which demanded 
the building of a chimney breast. In consequence, any adver- 
tisement for portable stoves, especially in builders 1 maga- 
zines, always mentioned the absence of extra brickwork. An 
ad appeared in the Scientific American architects* and build- 
ers' edition for one stove whose manufacturer attempted to 
minimize the work involved. "It requires no brick work except 
the jambs, all the flues being in the body of the range. 
Therefore it can be set by any bricklayer." ° 

Naturally, no manufacturer dared to neglect the final 
purchaser. To keep him always in mind, many trade catalogs 
addressed their prose to the householder as well as the 
intermediaries. Some would speak of "your house" or "your 


kitchen." Others, such as the Sill Stove Works, made strong- 
er appeals: 

You sometimes wonder why breakfast is so 
long coming on the table or why that 
"early dinner" was so late that you al- 
most missed a train. 9 

Such tactics addressed the husband unfamiliar with the stove 
in his house. Other catalogs took notice of the cook her- 
self. The Adams and West lake Company of Chicago produced a 
pamphlet entitled, "Every Day Cookery, Table Talk, and Hints 
for the Laundry." In this pamphlet, they promoted their 
convertible stoves that used oil, gas, or gasoline. 

This is important to the housekeeper, and 
of equal importance to the dealer: to the 
former, as any one fuel, for some unfor- 
seen cause, may become too expensive, or 
for a hundred and one reasons a change 
may be desired; to the latter, because he 
can fill from .his stock orders for either 
kind of stove. ° 

Sears, Roebuck became masters in the art of appealing to the 

widest possible range of customers. They declared "whether 

you are a dealer ... a farmer, a mechanic or a laborer ... 

[our stove] requires no expert, no experience, you take no 

chance ...." They also reminded dealers that the Sears, 

Roebuck name did not appear on any of their stoves, enabling 

the dealer to market the product as he wished. 11 

The purchasers envisoned by advertisers were generally 

those in fact as well. Architects did specify ranges in some 


cases. A few brands appeared in Sweet's catalogs for their 
consideration, making mention of installation options. 
Others made reminders that their brand required the specifi- 
cation of a double flue or other provisions. 12 Magazines 
that detailed house plans for builders, such as Shoppell's 
Modern Eojues. and the Scientific American sometimes showed the 
position of the range. For coal burning models, the chimney 
flue dictated the position, while gas stoves required a 
location near the pipe system. House plans in the 1880s 
tended to show set coal ranges, while elegant apartment plans 
of the early 20th century generally featured gas ranges. 
Many of the house plans noted that the cost of the range, as 
well as heaters and grates, was excepted from the estimated 
price of the house, indicating that the range would be selec- 
ted locally by the builder and could vary considerably in 
price and refinements. 13 

As consumers became more aware through advertising of 
the options available to them, they influenced the choices 
that builders made. One manufacturer in the early 20th 
century warned, 

the time is rapidly passing by ... when 
any range that a builder or owner might 
choose to put into a house would be ac- 
cepted as satisfactory without further 
question on the part of purchaser or 
tenant. 14 


Thus, encouraged and prodded by advertising, the options in 
buying and owining a cooking stove had widened remarkably 
since 1865. Prospective stove purchasers had become part of 
the new breed of educated consumers, with the stove industry 
participating fully in the new styles of marketing. 


1 Ruth Schwartz Cowan, "The 'Industrial Revolution' 
in the Home: Household Technology and Social Change in the 
20th Century," Technology and. Culture 17 (January 1976), p. 22. 

2 David M. Potter, People of Plenty: Economic Abun- 
dance and the American Character (Chicago: University of Chi- 
cago Press, 1954), pp. 168-69, 172. 

Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Maga- 
zines. 1885-1905 5 vols. (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of 
Harvard University Press, 1957) 4:24. 

4 Ladies Home Journal XI no. 4 (March 1894), p. 16. 


Littlefield Stove Company, "West Shore Ranges," 
(Albany, NY: 1892), p. 11. 

6 Plymouth Iron Foundry, "Illustrated Catalogue of 
Cooking and Parlor Stoves, Portable Ranges, etc.," (Ply- 
mouth, MA: 1874), p. 1; Mt. Penn Stove Works, "Penn Stoves, 
Ranges and Furnaces," no. 11 (Reading, PA:1903), p. 5. 

J.L. Mott Iron Works, "Illustrated Catalogue of 
Kitchen Ranges, Fire Place Heaters and Hot Water Furnaces 
suitable for All Sizes and Styles of Buildings," (New York: 
1882), p. 5. 

Scientific American: Architects' and Builders' Edi- 
tion 6 no. 6 (December 1888), p. i. 

Sill Stove Works, "The New Sterling Range" 
(Rochester, NY: 1895), p. 2. 

10 Adams and Westlake Manufacturing Company, "Every 
Day Cookery, Table Talk, and Hints for the Laundry" (Chicago: 
1884), p. 34. 

11 Sears, Roebuck and Company, "Book of Stoves" 2nd 
edition (Chicago: 1905), pp. 622, 625. 

12 Sweets Indexed Catalogue of Building Construction 
(New York: The Architectural Record Company, 1906), pp. 553- 
55; Philadelphia Stove and Iron Foundry Company, "Clover 
Triumph Ranges" (Philadelphia: n.d.) , n.p. 



13 Shoppell's Modern Houses. I (1886), pp. 52, 99, 

Isaac A. Sheppard & Company, "Perfect Cooking" 
(Philadelphia and Baltimore: n.d.), p. 1. 


The cooking stove offers a good opportunity to examine 
the many influences at work on the evolution of the American 
home. By choosing a period between the revolutionary shock 
of the cookstove's introduction and the swift postwar changes 
that made the kitchen range an unobtrusive piece of household 
equipment, it is possible to watch the forces of technology, 
social change, fashion, and economics play against each 
other. From the stove's point of view, so to speak, we can 
watch the American fanmily reshape itself into smaller, more 
efficient spaces in part because of crucially important items 
like the stove that evolved in response to society's needs. 
Thus cooking stoves did not create social change; nor did 
family needs miraculously produce new technology. Rather, 
the interaction of the two, viewed in slow motion during this 
period offers an opportunity to examine both. The slow rate 
of change in this period, when other technologies progressed 
so quickly, was a result of practical economics at work in a 
special environment, the kitchen. Since so many fuel types 
were available at once, the housekeeper able to choose com- 
promised between newly available convenience and comfort, 
attachment to trusted methods of cooking, and the prudence of 
discarding a possibly outmoded but well-built and functioning 
older stove. Naturally, not everyone made the same deci- 
sions, and the resulting miscellany provides a fascinating 
look at domestic technological evolution. 



Abendroth Brothers trade card 

Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Smithsonian 

Institution, Washington DC 

""ffliiBam iiim, 

1)1. I Kill I slllll WilRK- 

Detroit Jewel Stove Works, 1903 

Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 


Illustration on 1865 Barstow Stove Company bill 
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Smithsonian 
Institution, Washington DC 


It* Sjj jo !,6 ,5 $,; 

"Burning Facts," Stratton and Terstegge, 1898 
Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 



»> Patented April 13th and June 1st, (858. *£ 


5. "Spear's Gas Burning Cooking Range, " 1867 

Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

6. Electric kitchen at the World's Columbian Exposition, 
Siegfried Giedion, Mechanis ation Tak es CommapH, p. 544 


7. Adams and Westlake oil stove with removeable lamps, 

Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Smithsonian 
Institution, Washington DC 

8. Catharine E. Beecher's ideal coal stove 
The American Woman's Home . 1869, p. 74. 



9. Brick-set coal range with broiler and roaster at left 
J.L. Mott Ironworks, 1882 
Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Elevated Double Oven Ranges. 

10. Brick-set coal range with elevated double oven 
J.L. Mott Ironworks, 1882 
Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 


dtt's Portable Double-Oven Defiance Range 

11. Portable coal double-oven range 
J.L. Mott Ironworks, 1882 
Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Columbian Choics. 

With Cosy High CloMt 

12. Portable coal stove, Keeley Stove Company, 1893 

Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 


13. 1897 kitchen with coal and gas ranges, by Anne Sievers 
Susan Strasser, flever Done , p. 48 

2 No. 8 Pearl, &. 


PB^B ciwn- Hiking ami lii'tilitljt (Jvvu. 
«■« ><S »-bc luck. 

14. Early gas stove, Henry C. Bowen Company 

Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Smithsonian 
Institution, Washington DC 



15. Detroit Jewel combination range with sectional view of 
broiler, 1903 
Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

16. Florence Oil Stoves trade card 

Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Smithsonian 
Institution, Washington DC 


SlIOITI I I S Millil-KN II' 

17. Maria Parloa's model kitchen 

Shoppell's Moder n Houses , vol 1, 1886, p. 148 


18. White tiled kitchen 

House Beautiful , v. 13, December 1902, p. 29 


19. Dark tiled and vaulted kitchen 

Indoors and Out , v. 1, no. 5 February 1906, p. 220 

■ Dining Room H ' " ' 

20. Sample house plan, first floor, with kitchen in rear 
Shoppell's Modern Houses , v. 1, 1886, p. 55 







* iaio - jo b isso-ao c i674,<ioi 



21. 19th-century tenement plans, with progressively smaller 
Gwendolyn Wright, Building the Dream , p. 119 



22. Adams and Westlake trade card, 1881 

Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Smithsonian 
Institution, Washington DC 


for ih*ir puopklet "PvfM OmUB| " |Ulof full dwcrifMioi 

23. Isaac A. Sheppard and Company advertisement 

Philadelph ia Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide 
v. 5, no. 23, June 11, 1890 






24. Detroit Jewel suggested advertising lithographs, 1903 
Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 


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American Meter Company. "Domestic Economy: Family Cooking at 
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Barstow Stove Company. Bill for payment. Providence RI: April 
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Bibb, B.C. Company. "Susquehanna Cabinet Range." n.p.: n.d. 
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.. "Red Cross Coal Ranges." Rochester, NY: n.d. 

Franklin Institute, Philadelphia PA. 

.. "Red Cross Combination Ranges." Rochester, NY: n.d. 

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Detroit Stove Works. "Detroit Jewel Gas Ranges," cat. no. 74 
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phia PA. 



Dinsmore Manufacturing Company. "Price List and Cooking Re- 
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