Early American Heater Masons

The following is an excerpt from Fire on the Hearth, The Evolution and Romance of the Heating-Stove, Written by Josephine H. Peirce and published in 1951:

Captain John Dodge, a brick mason, inserted the following advertisement in the Salem Gazette, Dec. 18, 1810

The subscriber last winter invented a BRICK STOVE for the purpose of warming dwelling-houses, churches, computing rooms, &c…..which will give all effect to the principles by which rooms may be warmed at a reduced expense of fuel, and a great increase of comfort.  He will now erect said Stoves, for any who may wish, or empower others to set them up.
John Dodge
Salem, Dec. 18, 1810

Captain Dodge kept up to date on all new ideas in heating and two years later was ready to install a type of brick stove like those used in Russia for two centuries, but new to Salem.

It seems that Captain Solomon Towne of Salem, master of the ship Galatea, spent the winter of 1810-11 in Russia, at the port of Revel.  Together with other Americans there, he was intrigued by the efficiency of the brick stoves in use, and decided it would be fine thing to have some of them built at home.  Through diligent hunting he found an ingenious German potter who made tiles for stoves.  Although it was an expensive job, Captain Towne thought it money well spent, for the  German made two models in porcelain, one round, the other square, and wrote out the directions for making them.

Captain Towne’s next port was St. Petersburg, where John Quincy Adams was serving as ambassador.  Adams, too, was greatly pleased with the models-in fact he wanted some made but had been unable to find anyone to do the work.  And it was he who had the German directions translated into English for the Captain.

Captain Dodge too was delighted with the models.  He made a stove immediately, then advertised;

GREAT SAVING OF FUEL AND PROMOTION OF WARMTH AND COMFORT.

The subscriber, having obtained a complete model of the the most approved RUSSIAN STOVE and, in order to ascertain its merits, set one up in his own house, has found by experiment that he can warm a common room for 24 hours with ten sticks of wood each 3 inches in diameter and 24 inches long, keeping the room at about 60 degrees of Fahrenheit’s thermometer on an average for the 24 hours.  The Russian Stove would be excellent for large public rooms, and especially for meeting-houses, by which three-fourths of the fuel commonly used can be saved, and being of brick, the expense is not great.  The stove he has constructed may be seen in operation at his house in Barton Square, and he will attend to any calls for putting up Stoves of this or his own construction.

His first Customer was Samuel Putnam, ESQ., who wanted it in his office.  but it was only partially finished when Captain Dodge died, apparently of a heart attack.  However, Allen Marsh, the Captain’s apprentice, assisted by Mr. William Roberts, advertised they would continue the work, for when finished Mr. Putnam’s stove “exceeded the most sanguine expectations.”

Records show that more than thirty of them were installed.  One, very ornamental, was build in the Essex Bank; two were set up in the South Meeting House, and others in dwellings.

The principle of the stove was that heat should pass through various compartments, so as to heat a large surface of brick in a small space.   The directions for using the stoves stated:  “the wood should be light and dry, so as to quickly burn down to a coal, when, all the smoke having passed off, the damper is immediately closed, by means of which the heat is retained.”

Brick stoves were built in New Hampshire during the first quarter of the 19th century.  By the owners these stoves were known as “Copenhagens.”  They were not “quick heaters” but did not cool off quickly, and kept the living room at a livable temperature all night.”

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