June 23, 1852

1852 Stove Ad 002

Advertisement for cook stove, June 1852*

 

Wednesday June 23d  Work again weeding the garden

untill nine or ten and then about house

attending to the new stove that was put up

last night  Passed the afternoon at Mr

Howard Lothrops with Mrs Witherell, S Ames

& Helen.  Got 4lbs of butter of Mrs Harvey &

Eggs of Mrs Howard & Pratt

 

Evelina had a new, cast-iron stove, a high-tech appliance in the new, industrial age. Cast iron was “the wonder material of the 19th century and led to a prolific industry in making stoves for cooking as well as heating. Cast iron could take the repeated temperature swings of hot and cold, and it was an ideal medium for casting into complex, prefabricated parts, as well as for decorative surface ornament.”** Coal and iron mines were kept busy providing the raw material as middle-class households bought cook stoves for their transformed kitchens.

The new stoves had various brand names, naturally; one model was even named for everyone’s favorite opera star: the Jenny Lind Double Oven Stove. The dominant design for cookstoves was called “step-top,” which allowed two separate levels for cooking on. The choice of cooking surface facilitated the preparation of several dishes. Evelina could be confident that her kitchen was state-of-the-art, whatever her father-in-law had to say about it.

Evelina may even have talked about her new stove as she was out and about this afternoon, picking up butter and eggs, and visiting with her two sisters-in-law at the elder Lothrops’ home.

 

*Advertisement from Charleston, Illinois newspaper, 

** http://www.oldhouseonline.com/history-of-the-kitchen-stove

December 26, 1851

Stove

Dec 26th Friday  Mr Scott has been here to day and

painted the back entry chamber & stairs leading to my

room & Janes bedroom,  I have been knitting the border

to Susans hood and sewed it together ready for the 

lining  It is a bitter cold day  Augustus called this 

evening to get the direction for things to get me

tomorrow  Came down stairs after I went to bed and

made a fire in the air tight so that my plants should not

freeze

 

With the wind out of the north “[i]t was a cold day all day,” noted Old Oliver.  So “bitter cold” was it that after bedtime, Evelina slipped downstairs in her nightgown to check on the indoor plants. Determined that they “should not freeze,” she lit a fire in the “airtight” to keep them warm.

The airtight was another word for stove, in this case a coal stove. People often used the words stove and furnace interchangeably, so the air tight that Evelina speaks of may be the same furnace that is often lit by one of the servants. As was customary in many New England homes, it would have been allowed to burn down every night and started fresh each morning. Yet this evening was too cold to risk Evelina’s herbs and other plants being killed off, so the stove was kept going over night.

The presence of this and perhaps other stoves in the house tells us that the Ameses no longer burned wood fires in the original fireplaces, a transition in heating technology that had happened since the 1830s over most of industrialized New England. The change had provided a better, more even heating system, but at a cost. Many lamented the loss, for “the hearth had been the warm, bright center of the household, the provider of cooked food, heat and light and a symbol of the family’s shared life.”* Others, however, of whom Evelina was likely one, cheered for the added warmth and convenience of the furnace.

Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everytday Life, New York, 1988, p. 141