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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Looking for Pleis, Foering, and Thudium, Philadelphia Stovemakers {in progress}

Almost a year since I started a post here!  That, I suppose, is what happens to hobbies -- some become permanent, others episodic interests at best.  The only stove "research" I have done over the last year has been small searches stimulated by old-stove posts in one or another of the Facebook groups I follow -- Antique Stove Collectors, Bottom Gate-Marked Cast Iron Cookware, and The Iron Works!  Collectors of Early Iron -- or by emails from individuals (archaeologists, collectors, museum curators) asking assistance with identification of old stoves or parts.

One of these write-ins came yesterday, from the owner of a nice "Old Philadelphia" pattern 9-plate stove with a bit of visible damage (the back of the top plate is chipped but probably repairable), made by a company I had never heard of under that exact name -- Pleis, Foering, and Thudium of 97 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia.  




I knew of the firm under the second and third partners' names from a super 1846 engraving of a successor enterprise five doors down the street:



According to the catalogue information with that engraving, "Foering and Thudium, one of the city's first domestic stove manufacturers, started in business in 1828, and operated on North Second Street from 1845 until 1847." The picture showed a typical stove store on a narrow, deep city lot with a rear yard for unloading goods.  Stove mounters and finishers (white) are working at the upstairs windows, assembling the plates the firm has brought in from furnaces in the hinterland and foundries in the city; on the front steps, a partner or clerk is talking to a female customer, while a workman (black) is polishing a cooking stove much like the one above.  

The Library Company's information whetted my appetite rather than satisfying it: a firm starting in 1828 cannot have been "one of the city's first"; if the firm was in the heart of the "stove district" on North Second Street between those dates, where was it, and its members, before, or after?  And what about Pleis? 

The obvious thing to do was to check the city directories.  I had done a similar exercise for another firm, the Fougerays' Philadelphia Stove Manufactory, almost five years ago, and this had led me to work through the city directories from 1810-1845 at five-year intervals, charting the growth of the entire local industry. Pleis, Foering, and Thudium all figured in the resulting spreadsheet of firms and individuals, but not as a partnership.  So the next step was to do what I'd already done with the Fougerays -- go beyond the five-year intervals, and check every directory, to chart the men's emergence and disappearance, their changes of occupation, address, and business description.

The starting-point is the guide to city directories on the Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network's Resources page, which leads to a wonderful collection covering the entire period from 1785 to 1867.

1821 http://www.archive.org/stream/philadelphiadire1821phil#page/n487/mode/2up/search/stove 

The stove trade was already very well established, with a dozen stove stores or stove manufacturers, and one dedicated stove pattern-maker.  Foering's father, also a Frederick, was a Justice of the Peace and currier [dressing, finishing and colouring to the tanned hide to make it strong, flexible and waterproof].  Other Foerings were in the related trades of saddle and harness-making.

1822 http://www.archive.org/stream/philadelphiadire1822phil#page/n33/mode/2up

Frederick Foering & Co. had a drygoods store at 147 1/2 Arch St.  Young Frederick attained his majority in 1819; possibly this venture was his father's attempt to get him on his feet.  Neither Pleis nor Thudium is recorded.

1823 http://www.archive.org/stream/philadelphiadire1823phil 

Foering is now in partnership with Shober in the drygoods business, with a store at the Southwest corner of Second and Arch.  Jacob F. Pleis has a stove store at 173 North Second Street.

1824 http://www.archive.org/stream/philadelphiadire1824phil -- as 1823


Frederick Foering's drygoods store is now on North Second, near Vine.  Jacob Pleis is listed as a stove manufacturer at 171 North Second.


Foering's drygoods store is at 164 North Second, and he is listed as Frederick Jr.; Pleis's stove manufactory has moved to 131 North Second. 





No Frederick Foering; Pleis is still at No. 97.


Foering shows for the first time as a stove mr [maker or manufacturer], in business with Pleis at No. 97.  The only Thudium listed individually is a baker at 206 North Second, but there is a firm of stove finishers, Hess & Thudium, at 321 North Second.  John J. Hess has a stove store at 237 North Second.


Pleis, Foering & Thudium's partnership shows up for the first time, still at No. 97, and Foering and Pleis both get their own individual entries too as stove manufacturers, with Frederick's business address shown as 97 and 99 North Second.  The only Thudium with a separate listing is still John B. Thudium the baker, at the same address as in 1835, i.e. Pleis and Foering's junior partner C.A. does not seem to rate a business or residential entry in his own right.


Foering as in 1837; Pleis is listed simply as a manufacturer, and their business as Pleis, Foering, and Thudium, Stoves & Castings, 97-99 North Second.  Pleis is also a director of Philadelphia City Savings Institution, a manufacturers' bank with a capital of $200,000, whose address is 99 North Second.  Thudium still has no individual presence.


Foering as in 1835-1839, except that he is described as a stove mer. [chant]; firm details as in 1839.  There is no entry for Pleis, except as a bank director. Still no individual entry for Thudium.

1841 http://www.archive.org/stream/mcelroysphiladel1841amce#page/270/mode/2up/search/foering -- as 1840, except no entry for Pleis as a bank director either, perhaps because his bank had disappeared.

1842 http://www.archive.org/stream/mcelroysphiladel1842amce

A Jacob T. (not F.) Pleis figures in respect of his store at 97 North Second; Pleis, Foering & Thudium, stoves and castings, is at "97 and 97," i.e. 99, the old bank address, has disappeared.  Foering's profession and addresses (business and domestic) as before, and no entry for Thudium.

1843 http://www.archive.org/stream/mcelroysphiladel1843amce

No Jacob T. or F. Pleis, and P, F & T's address has been rationalized to just No. 97. Still no Thudium except John D., the baker.  Foering's details as before.

1844 http://www.archive.org/stream/mcelroysphiladel1844amce

Foering as before; Jacob F. returns again, as a stove mr., at the firm's address; no Thudium except John D.

1845 http://www.archive.org/stream/mcelroysphiladel1845amce

Foering is now in business, as Foering & Thudium, at 87 North Second, i.e. the address in the engraving; he has been joined in the business by A.R., his son Albert (they share the same home address), but his son's business is given as simply "stoves," whereas his ?father is still a "mer.[chant]".  Pleis as in 1842-1844, i.e. the partnership has ended and he is back in business at No. 97 in his own right; no Thudium at all.

1846 http://www.archive.org/stream/mcelroysphiladel1846amce

Foering and his firm as in 1845, except that there is no mention of A.R.  Pleis as in 1842-45. Still no Thudium. 

1847 http://www.archive.org/stream/mcelroysphiladel1847amce

Albert R. Foering reappears, as a clerk, with a home address of his own. Frederick, and the firm, as before.  Pleis as before.  There is a C.A. Thudium, a merchant, at 75 North Third, identified in the library record of the 1846 engraving as Foering's partner.

1848 http://www.archive.org/stream/mcelroysphiladel1848amce

Albert R. is now a stove mr., Frederick's details as before, but the firm is now Foering & Son, stoves & castings.  Pleis as before, Thudium ditto.

1849 http://www.archive.org/stream/mcelroysphiladel1849amce

All as in 1848.

1850 http://www.archive.org/stream/mcelroysphiladel1850amce

All as in 1848. 

Basically, I've done what I planned -- tied down P, F & T's dates, and thus the 9-Plate stove, as 1837-1841 (or 1844?) -- and then some.  What is impressive is the stability through time.  This impression is confirmed by reverting to the quick-&-dirty five-year-interval survey.


The Foerings' and Pleis's details are unchanged, pp. 177 and 443.

1860 -- http://www.archive.org/stream/mcelroysphiladel1860amce

Foerings unchanged, p. 133; Pleis has been joined by his son Jacob F. Jr., so his firm is now Jacob F. Pleis & Son, p. 788.  (Jacob Jr. was born in 1836).


Foerings are now Foering & Co., at 113 North Second, p. 237.  Arthur R. has moved out to the suburbs, and runs the firm by himself.  Frederick has moved house too, and retired (he is 67, and has no listed business or profession). Jacob F. Pleis's address is given as 123 North Second, p. 543, the premises of William H. Hyde & Son (John), Stove Dealers, p. 341, i.e. this is probably Jacob Jr., still in the same trade, but as an employee in another (successor?) business.

If another wet day comes, I might fill in the gaps.  But probably not. 


* * * 

What else can one learn about Foering online?

Frederick Foering:

During the War of 1812, a Frederick Foering, holding the rank of Major in the Philadelphia Legion (a volunteer company), played an active role in meetings designed to commit the city wholeheartedly to the national cause [see also p. 564].  But as our Frederick was only born in 1798, this must have been his father, a Currier and Justice of the Peace.  He served as a Deputy Quarter-Master General.

In 1815-1817 his father was a Republican candidate for Township Inspector in the Northern Liberties district of the city.

His son Albert was born in 1823, i.e. after reaching his majority in 1819, and going into the drygoods business by 1822, Frederick Jr had also married.

The firm won an award (an honorable mention) for a stove that he had invented at the Franklin Institute's Twelfth Annual Exhibition of American Manufactures in 1842 -- "a salamander stove with a very convenient appendage for heating sad irons."  There are no patents recorded in his or Pleis's name, but another Foering (Benjamin F.), from a branch of the family that had become coal dealers, did patent a mechanically self-cleaning stove grate in 1856 (US Patent 14356).  

By the mid-1840s he was a Life Member of Philadelphia's Apprentices Library Company, a benevolent institution supported by members of the mercantile elite.

There is a fire insurance survey of his and his son's 87 North Second Street store available online, but unfortunately for subscribers only.

He died in 1875 from "senile gangrene of the foot."  His son survived him by 13 years.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Henry Stanley and the Rotary Stove {in progress}

[I've been motivated to do this because (a) having just done, or at least started and then parked, my "John Strong Perry" post, I've decided that I'll pull out more biographical chunks from draft chapters and elsewhere as individual posts; (b) a while ago I came across a really good picture of a Stanley Rotary, and it's worth showcasing.] 


See also (1) "The Pioneer Cooking Stove, Indiana, Late 1830s" -- a humorous recollection of a frontier family's acquisition of a rotary stove; (2) "Vermont Stove Inventors, Inventions, and Their Makers, 1817-1850," from which most of this text was taken, and which provides much of the context; and (3) "Who Invented the Step (or Jews Harp, Premium, or Horseblock) Stove?" -- also relevant because Stanley's stove was essentially a modified step stove.]




Stanley Cookstove, 1832-1838, Object ID 31.691.2, The Henry Ford Museum.  Dimensions: 31" Wide, 50.5" Long, 46" High. 

Henry Stanley was the most important stove inventor and maker to emerge in Vermont.  His stoves sold nationwide and influenced many other makers to imitate or attempt to improve on them.


Here's the text from my Chapter 5, which I will have to amend, but it's OK for starters:



An even more successful example of a similar strategy [integration of manufacture at a foundry with direct sale to consumers] did not enjoy the protection of distance from the main sources of stove supply, but depended instead on the quality of its innovative products, as well as on the dramatic improvements to internal transportation that took place in the 1820s. These enabled a Vermont machine-builder, Henry Stanley (b. 1795), to reach out and invade the urban markets of the seaboard in head-to-head competition with established manufacturer-wholesalers themselves.

Stanley, originally a maker of wool-carding and cloth-dressing equipment in the small, stagnant town of Poultney, turned disaster into opportunity in 1829 when a fire destroyed his machine-building facilities and left him with nothing but the foundry he had recently erected, reputedly the first in the state to use anthracite as its fuel. So he started making stoves, then just “coming into general use,” instead. At first he manufactured from other designers' patterns, and also produced prize-winning “handsome ... very light and smooth” cast-iron cooking utensils which he sold through dealers on New York's Water Street. Stanley relied on the Champlain Canal, completed in 1827 and at its nearest just ten miles west of Poultney at Whitehall, New York, to connect him with this market.1

By 1832 he had invented his own cooking stove, with a literally revolutionary layout. It was quite unlike most others, which had hardly any moving parts. But Stanley was a machinist, and his rotary stove featured a crank-operated turntable top, which enabled the cook to control cooking temperature by moving the pots closer to or further away from the hottest parts of the fire, and, like Conant's step-stove design a decade earlier, minimized heavy lifting. It was also craftily designed to permit the easy replacement of the parts subject to the most wear, something important to win the confidence of consumers buying an expensive new item of essential household equipment and living tens or even hundreds of miles away from the maker. [See this 1834 advertisement in a Hudson Valley newspaper, for the stove's many claimed advantages.2



Henry Stanley's rotary-top cooking stoves, Patents 7333X (1832) and 4238 (1845). The upper three pictures show its original derivation from low-topped flat stoves; the lower two are of its mature version, with a large oven and downdraft flues G much like other stoves of the 1840s.  In Stanley's original model, no oven is shown on the design, but one could be sited at in the usual position behind the fire; or a reflector oven (tin kitchen) could be placed on the hearth plate; or, as in the picture at the head of this post, an elevated oven could be fitted, as well or instead.  It is not clear when this feature was added to the stove.


* * *


Stanley acquired a blast furnace of his own, the Mount Hope, about eight miles outside Fort Ann, New York, a town on the Champlain Canal south of Whitehall, thereby securing his pig iron supply. He went on to establish sales outlets in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Troy, run by other family members, and to become one of the most distinctive and also successful stove makers in the emerging national market of the 1830s. 

A part of Stanley's competitive advantage depended on the control he enjoyed over all stages of manufacturing. His stoves' Albany distributor claimed in 1838 that “the quality of the castings and general workmanship of them, is unequalled by any other in this country.”  The best that other firms not doing their own casting could promise at the time was that they gave careful directions to the furnace or foundry making their stoves, and inspected the work in progress. Stanley's production system was a variation on the usual decentralized pattern, but with one crucial difference: furnace, foundry, and factory were all owned and managed by the same few men, and the transactions among them were all internal to the firm and coordinated by it. Castings were packed flat in boxes and barrels at the foundry, teamed to Whitehall, floated to the Hudson on their own dedicated canal boat, the “Rotary,” and shipped downriver from Troy for his brothers to assemble, finish, and sell at their waterfront wholesale and retail depots.3

Sales of Stanley's stoves spread far beyond the East Coast territories that he supplied from his own foundry, because he also licensed his design (at $5 per stove) to be made and sold in markets that he could not easily reach. For example, 3,000 were produced in Cincinnati alone between 1832 and 1839, where its local maker claimed that “in the parts of the country where it had been introduced, it had superseded all others.” [In 1837, his dealer in Cleveland claimed that "Those who have used them say that they are superior to any others."] By the early 1840s the Stanleys were even making direct sales in the Midwest themselves: stove merchants in south-east Michigan were their second-largest group of customers, after New York's, and they were also doing a significant trade in Wisconsin and Illinois.4

But they lost control of their overextended business at the pit of the post-Panic depression in 1842. Henry Stanley was “enterprising” and “intensely active,” though let down by a “want of caution” -- or simply of luck. His firm came spectacularly unstuck, with liabilities of $82,274 ($55.1 million at 2014 values, using the nominal GDP per capita method of comparison), the largest business failure in the New York stove trade. This was not the end of his career as a stove inventor, but from now on he depended on other companies to licence his patents and make his products. Ironically, by the time that Stanley's thirteen-year experiment in vertical integration of all stages of manufacture and distribution of stoves bit the dust, the pattern of business organization that he had helped pioneer was becoming the industry's new norm.5


Joseph Joslin, Barnes Frisbie, and Frederick Ruggles, A History of the Town of Poultney, Vermont: From Its Settlement to the Year 1875 (Poultney: Journal Printing Office, 1875), pp. 53 [population], 95-97 [quote], 298; The American Advertising Directory [1831], p. 117, for his hollow ware.

2 Stanley's key patents were “Cooking Stove,” 7333X (1832), “Revolving Cooking Stove,” 9282X (1835) [lost in the 1836 Fire at the Patent Office], and [same title], 91 (1836), probably its replacement.  The text of 91's is the same as 7333X's, a new copy of which Stanley would have supplied to the Patent Office after the Fire, because he took advantage of the destruction of earlier versions of his patent and a critical court ruling on it to make it more litigation-proof in future.  Stanley & Co.Remarks and Directions for using Stanley's Patented Rotary Cooking Stove: For Sale at No. 50 S. Calvert-street Baltimore, by Stanley & Co., and at No. 6 Chesnut-street, Philadelphia, by John P.E. Stanley & Co. (Baltimore: Sands & Neilson, 1834), for a full description in probably the oldest surviving stove instruction-manual, essential because Stanley's stove was so different in operation from any other. [Other editions: 1833 Troy; 1834 Cincinnati; 1835 New York]

3 William W. Mather, Geology of New-York (Albany, NY: Carroll & Cook, 1843)Part 1pp. 575-6; D. Kittle advertisement, Albany Evening Journal 1 Feb. 1838, p. 1 [quote], cf. J. & A. Fellows ad., same page; Stanley & Co.'s operations reconstructed from their 1843 Bankruptcy, Box 155, File 2099. The file is unusually rich, including small debts for unpaid wages to laborers, farmers, teamsters, and others in the villages along the Vermont-New York border area where they were based, as well as to their trade creditors in Troy, New York, and Baltimore. It also contains an inventory of the Water Street depot in New York, which contained both a steam-powered stove-finishing and assembly shop and the varied assortment of completed stoves, spare parts, and kitchen accessories vital for its wholesale and retail business. The assessed value of the stock and equipment was almost $8,000.

4 Stanley v. Whipple (1839), reported in James B. Robb, compiler, A Collection of Patent Cases Decided in the Circuit and Supreme Courts of the United States (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1854), Vol. 2, pp. 1-10, provides details of his licensing arrangements and Cincinnati sales [quotation at p. 5]; Stanley Bankruptcy, Schedule A, 25 Feb. 1843, for the geographical distribution of the firm's $32,000 worth of outstanding trade accounts.

5 Stanley Bankruptcy, Schedule A, 25 Feb. 1843, for liabilities; Joslin et al., History of the Town of Poultney, p. 353 [quote]. Stanley had moved to Albany by the time of his 1845 heating-stove patent 3876 (“Stanley's Coal Burner”), and assigned it to Charles Eddy, a Troy stove maker, whose firm valued it enough to reissue it in 1860 in order to maintain their exclusive rights (Reissues 944, 958, and 1078). Stanley himself went into a new business in Troy that also depended on high-quality charcoal-iron castings, the manufacture of railroad car wheels – Freedley, Leading Pursuits, p. 323.

[Ruggles v. Eddy et al. 1872; Ruggles v. Eddy et al., 1874 -- https://law.resource.org/pub/us/case/reporter/F.Cas/0020.f.cas/0020.f.cas.1319.html re #3876]


************************************************************

That's what I had about Stanley and his stove in my book MS when I did it, back in 2012 I think.  There is, of course, plenty more, particularly about the context for Stanley's invention (or, as his contemporary critics argued, "invention"), which is best treated in two parts.  



  • The fate of Stanley's patent claims in the federal courts.  
  • The place of the rotary stove in the history of stove design and invention. 


(A) Stanley and the Law


Two of Stanley's many stove patent cases were important enough to be reported: Stanley v. Hewitt (1836) and Stanley v. Whipple (1839).  What they make clear is that Stanley's claim to originality was fiercely disputed right through the 1830s, the period of his greatest commercial success, partly because, like so many at the time, his patent stove was not in fact altogether original, but also simply because it was a sufficiently attractive idea, eminently useful and marketable, to attract imitation and challenge.


Stanley v. Hewitt, a case before the Circuit Court for the Eastern District of New York (which would become the most important in the nation for stove patent cases), show Stanley as a novice inventor, navigating the uncertainties of the pre-1836 patent system.  At this time patentees did not have the services of experienced agents and attorneys at their disposal, as they soon would, and until 1836 patents were granted without being examined professionally for their originality or the extent to which they met the other criteria of the law.  Instead, these matters -- and thus the validity of the patent -- were only settled by jury trial, if they were contested, which the best, like Stanley's, usually were.


Stanley's patent was, according to an advertisement in the Troy Daily Whig in the summer of 1836 by two of his most persistent rivals, local stove makers and merchants Maynard French and Rensselaer D. Granger, doing very badly in the courts before this case was decided.  In case after case, none of them unfortunately recorded or reported in The Federal Cases, and at a cost to him of between $4,000 and $6,000 in legal fees alone, he had been unable to defend his patent successfully.  [Advertisement "New Rotary Stove Store," 29 Aug. 1836, p. 4].  The Hewitt case gave him at least a partial victory, and established sufficiently important principles that the judge's decision was published in the leading national technical journals, notably the Journal of the Franklin Institute, and thereby entered the lasting record of the making of federal law.


Henry Hewitt (whom I have not been able to trace yet) had been making and selling direct copies of Stanley's stove -- recording at least a hundred sales in Vermont alone before being detected and sued -- and defended himself by arguing, amongst other things, that the principle of the rotary had been invented by Elisha Town of Montpelier, the state capital, almost a decade before Stanley, and that he had even had a prototype of it made.  

Stanley counter-argued "that Town's stove, whatever it was, was useless, and had been abandoned as such; and that the plaintiff had no knowledge of it when he made his invention and improvement, and that his stove, in all the important improvements by him claimed, was wholly unlike Town's stove..."

[Stanley], by several witnesses, proved the originality of the invention in him, its importance and usefulness and that the defendant had, from patterns taken from the plaintiff's stove, made and caused to be made and sold a large number of stoves, and was still pursuing the business. The defendant [Hewitt], to show that the plaintiff's patent was void, called Elisha Town and his son, and others, to prove that in 1823 and 1824 he invented and procured to be cast a rotary stove, and that the plaintiff's stove revolved like it; also a Mr. Gould, to prove that the plaintiff took the collars and flues in the cap of his stove from said Gould's stove, and also other witnesses to show that the plaintiff, as well as others, had used the collars and flues long before the plaintiff's improved cooking stove was invented; and also that the defendant attempted to show that the plaintiff had sold his stoves and given his invention to the public before he applied for his patent.   [Stanley] in reply, called numerous witnesses to show that Town's stove, whatever it was, was useless, and had been abandoned as such; and that the plaintiff had no knowledge of it when he made his invention and improvement; and that his stove, in all the important improvements by him claimed, was wholly unlike Town's stove; and that collars and flues were not claimed by him as his invention, independently of his rotary plate in which they were attached; and that when they were put upon the Gould stove it was done at the plaintiff's suggestion; and that all the stoves delivered out before the application for the patent were delivered to be used on trial, and with a view to test the utility of its improvements. The trial was a very labored one, and occupied five or six days; but finally resulted in a question of law, growing out of the wording of the specification, which appeared to have been drawn up by the plaintiff without proper legal advice.   On the part of the plaintiff it was insisted that the claim, in his summary, was for a, combination of certain improvements he had made in the cooking stove, connected together and attached to the top or cap of his stove, put in motion; and that it was the combination which he claimed, and not the parts forming the combination separately, and that his specification would bear that construction.
   On the part of the defendant it was insisted that the plaintiff had so worded his specification that it would not bear that construction, and that it really claimed the different parts comprising the top and cap of the stove separately and independently of any combination, and that his specification was otherwise defective.
It is possible that the detailed testimony, not all of it necessarily true, may survive in the Court's records; but in any event the judge, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Smith Thompson, while quite sympathetic to Stanley, reached clear conclusions after sifting through the murk of claim and counter-claim.  On the one hand, the fact that he had made examples of his stove and put them "out on trial and for the purpose of experiment and improvement" before filing for his patent in October, 1832, did not invalidate it, as Hewitt argued; but, on the other, Stanley had indeed claimed too much in his original patent, including elements of his design that Town and Gould had probably originated. 

So his patent was voided, but he was invited to resubmit an amended version.  This is probably why the original patent X7333 was buttressed or replaced by the lost X9282 in 1835, and when Stanley reinstated his patent after the 1836 Patent Office Fire he made sure that the new version of X7333 was identical to his new patent 93. They had both been rewritten to meet the requirements Judge Thompson had sketched out so helpfully, essentially that an original combination of new and old design principles and features was also quite patentable.


The significance of Stanley v. Hewitt was that, while the case was pursuing its way through the courts, and until Stanley had registered his revised patent and tested it at law, other inventors were in effect almost invited to find their own ways around it, and rival makers could use their own patents or imitate Stanley's rotary more or less closely with little risk.  It would take until Stanley won in Stanley v. Whipple (1839), by which time his rotary stove was soon to be superseded by newer designs, before his intellectual property was really secure, or at least as secure as statute and case law then provided.  In other words, for the entire period during which Stanley's stove enjoyed technical advantages over much of the competition, which his production and distribution methods probably increased, and right through the stove boom of the mid-1830s, he was never able to capitalize fully on his intellectual property or escape his imitative competitors.


Stanley and Emor Whipple of Cincinnati had agreed in October 1832, i.e. before Stanley's original defective patent had even been granted, that Whipple would pay Stanley a $5 royalty for every stove he made and sold in the Cincinnati market (an area much larger than the city itself, but not precisely delimited).  Whipple made, advertised, and sold the Stanley stove for years, approximately 3,000 of them, but what he did not do was pay the royalty, apparently confident that the patent would not be sustained, even after Stanley had in 1836 remedied the defects that Justice Smith Thompson had pointed out to him.  He miscalculated; this time, Stanley won outright.  This does not necessarily mean that he succeeded in collecting any or all of his money, but it does mean that his patent had been validated in court, and the risk and price of violating it had been increased sharply.  The pity of it was that this deliverance came too late to help save the Stanley firm from insolvency. 



(B) The Circular or Rotary Stove Idea in Other Inventors' hands


There is no trace of the supposed rotary stove inventions that were said to have preceded and invalidated Stanley's, except perhaps in the case records in the Court archives, if they still exist.  His challengers, Elisha Town of Montpelier, VT, and Gould Thorp, of New York, did not register their own first stove patents until after he had.  (I assume that Gould Thorp is the "Mr Gould" in Stanley v. Hewitt; there is no other pre-1836 stove patentee with Gould in his name, and there is no Gould among all of the pre-1836 patentees who invented anything remotely similar.  The Gold brothers of Cornwall and Norwich, CT, were prolific stove inventors, but all of their patents before 1836 concentrated on improvements to sheet-metal ovens.)



Elisha Town was "a most ingenious inventive Cabinet Maker" with a history of commercially unsuccessful mechanical invention stretching back more than twenty years.  He was, according to the town historian, writing in 1860, a "genius."  "Montpelier [the state's capital, second-largest town, and biggest center of manufacturing and trade] never produced, and it is doubtful whether the whole state ever produced, a man of a more truly inventive mind. But his book knowledge of mechanics and previous mechanical inventions, was quite limited; and he was known to have studied out principles and spent much time in building machines for their application to inventions, which,though perfectly original in him, were found, at last, to have been long before made and put in operation by others. And although he was continually getting up something new, yet we now find his name coupled with no invention of much importance... Like most men of inventive genius, he was through life emphatically poor, but was ever esteemed, up to the time of his death a few years ago, a most inoffensive and worthy citizen."  Announcing his final patent, in 1837 -- a device to enable railroad locomotives to climb steep inclines -- the Vermont Telegraph, of Brandon, used similarly respectful language to praise the efforts of "our worthy and persevering fellow citizen." ["Vermont Against the World," 30 Aug. 1837, p. 3]



Town, Elisha. Montpelier, VT. Stove, Cooking. 7871X. 1833.  Class 126/2



"Elisha Town's Improved Crane Stove" was not a rotary at all, but a modified step-stove.  The drawings are of the revised (1836) version of his patent including a removable furnace (for charcoal or, more probably, anthracite) fitting underneath the oven of his baking stove.  This was designed, though the patent was silent about its purpose, to enable the oven and large rear boiler hole to be used in summer, with less fuel consumption and a correspondingly reduced amount of heat in the kitchen.  


The distinctive features of the original and improved versions of the Crane Stove were the swinging covers, or "cranes," for the front two boiler holes.  They served a similar purpose to the turntable top on Stanley's stove, allowing the cook to regulate the heat applied to a vessel by moving it away from the fire.  Apart from these, Town's was a pretty standard step-stove, except perhaps for the double plates, with an air gap between them, at the front of the oven.  The intention of these was to prevent a hot spot within the oven, and (probably) reduce the problem of burning out of the oven plate immediately behind the fire, a weak spot in any stove design.  Other step-stove designers in the 1830s attempted to achieve the same object with slightly different means of reinforcing and/or insulating the vulnerable plate.  


Town's was evidently a commercial product rather than a design destined to get no further than the Patent Office.  Jonathan Wainwright, a local manufacturer and dealer, explained and highlighted its advantages in an advertisement.  It was, he claimed, a stove "that will make its way into almost every family. This stove takes in a large round boiler back, and two smaller in front, that can be swung off the fire: a convenience not found in other stoves -- also, has a Furnace attached underneath that can be used without heating the whole stove, and will be found very convenient for summer use -- has a large oven, and taken altogether will be found a perfect stove."  Wainwright operated his own furnace, which probably answers the question about how the impecunious Town managed to get his stoves made and sold.  [Jonathan Wainwright ad.Burlington Free Press 30 Nov. 1838, p. 3 -- this ad ran until 1 Mar. 1839, i.e. throughout one stove sales season, but it is the only such advertisement for Town's stoves in the Vermont newspapers in the Library of Congress's collection, which suggests that Wainwright may have had exclusive rights to the stove but did not find it went as well as he had hoped.]



Town, Elisha. Montpelier. Cook Stove /..., Rotary. X8206. 1834. Class 126/1R




However successful or otherwise Town's Crane Stove may have been, as a design and/or as a commercial product, in the following year he determined, or was persuaded, to compete with Henry Stanley even more directly
, producing a rotary of his own. (Whether this was a version of the stove he claimed in court to have invented a decade earlier is impossible to tell.)  It differed from Stanley's in being operated, not by rack and pinion, but by raising and lowering the whole top stove plate with the foot-operated lever projecting at the side of the stove.  Town did not explain how the plate was supposed to be rotated once it had been elevated -- probably by the cook giving a hefty push to the hot iron, balancing on one leg while the other held the lever down; a tricky operation made all the less pleasant by the smoke and heat pouring into the kitchen at waist level while the stove top was raised.  This cannot have been a very attractive feature of it, and indeed one of the advantages that Stanley claimed for his rotary over all of the competitors was the quality of the seal between the top plate and the rim it sat on.  [M.N. Stanley & Co., "To the Public," Albany Evening Journal 1838 frame 0854.]  On the other hand, Town's rotary had a perfectly flat top, claimed to be easier to cook on and keep clean than Stanley's, because he provided flue space below it for the bottoms of cooking utensils to project into.  Stanley relied on his system of raised collars and flues above the rotating plate, so vendors of his and Town's rival rotaries had something other than just their claims to originality, precedence, and thus legality to argue and advertise about.  Town's stove was made by Maynard French of Albany and sold by Rensselaer Granger of Troy, and W.H. Cheney of Albany.  According to French's advertisement in the Albany Evening Journal, his "Improved Rotary" was "made of the best Scotch and American pig iron, and for smoothness and beauty of casting, is not surpassed by any. ... [W]herever the stove is seen, it is taken in preference to any other," more than 2,000 being sold in the spring and summer of 1836 alone [5 December 1836, p. 4]. 


In another advertisement that same summer Granger promised to "warrant and defend all who may purchase Rotary Stoves of me, from all damages."  This was a necessary part of their sales pitch to buyers, because Stanley's lawyers had already advertised "forbidding all persons from purchasing or using Rotary Top Cooking Stoves  made by Mr. French, and others."  
Town's rotary stove was, Granger claimed, "the one that defeated [Stanley's] pretended rights [in the suits in 1835 before Stanley v. Hewitt], and will hold the application of the rotary motion as applied to a cooking stove, and every stove Mr. Stanley makes that the top revolves is an infringement of Mr Town's patent, and he will be prosecuted for such infringement."  [There is no record that this actually happened, but given the lack of reporting of most federal cases absence of published evidence does not necessarily mean that something didn't happen.]


An incomplete record of the battles between Town's rotary design and Stanley's, in the courts and in the market, is all that we have, but it seems clear that Town's was a serious challenger.



Thorp, Gould -- New York, NY -- Cooking Stove Pat. No. X9778 June 25, 1836


This patent survived, or was restored after, the Patent Office Fire of 1836, but unfortunately not its drawing.  However, the description is pretty clearly of a standard three-boiler stove, which Thorp describes as an improvement of the lost Philologus Holly (or Holley) cooking stove patent of 1 March 1822, X3462. Holly was still alive, showing up as an active but untrustworthy Freemason in 1832, and then in successive New York City directories in the early 1840s as a land agent, real estate broker, and architect, so he would presumably have been available to serve as a witness against Stanley alongside or instead of Gould or Town, had his testimony been useful.  


Thorp himself was a New York City stove merchant, recorded in the directories between 1834 and 1838, and trading just five doors away from Stanley's own Water Street warehouse and manufactory.  As so often in the stove industry's patent wars, these pitched neighbour against neighbour.   



Nott, Eliphalet -- Schenectady, NY -- Cooking Stove Pat. No. X7948 January 9, 1834

Nott's stove was large, heavy, and far more complex than Stanley's.  It was probably intended for big, prosperous households, commercial, or institutional customers, like his anthracite heating stoves.  Its design principle differed from Stanley's in that its key object was fuel economy -- extracting the maximum in cooking capacity from its fire.  Though its plate of boiler holes was circular, like Stanley's, it was not rotating: the stove depended instead on a system of "valves" (dampers) to direct heat to one side of the plate or the other.




Burnell, Levi -- Elyria, OH -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. X8509 November 25, 1834


Burnell's stove differed from Stanley's in that the circular top plate was fixed, while the firebox was mounted on casters or rollers so that the direct fire could 

be brought under one boiler hole or another.  This seems to be more of an imaginary design than a practical one -- moving a hot, heavy metal firebox with no assistance from a gear or lever could not have been easy.

Burnell was Secretary and General Agent of Oberlin College, and very well acquainted with Philo Penfield Stewart, a much more successful stove inventor also active at Oberlin at exactly the same time.  He was the former head of the defunct Lorain Iron Co., and before that a druggist in Rochester, NY as well as an abolitionist pioneer.  This was not his only patent -- like Town, he also addressed the important problem of making it easier for railroad locomotives to climb hills (X8284), as well as developing improved steam boilers (X8212) and means of propelling boats in canals and shoal water (X8211), all in the same year.  He and Stewart were probably engaged in the same task -- trying to boost the finances of the fledgling college by making and selling useful inventions.  Stewart's stove succeeded in this respect, though only to a moderate extent; Burnell's does not seem to have got any further than the Patent Office.



Spoor, Abraham D. -- Coxsackie, NY -- Cook Stove Pat. No. X8573 January 7, 1835


Spoor's "Salamander Cooking Stove" was designed to solve a particular problem for the first generation of users of anthracite stoves, accustomed to the very different way that it burnt as compared with the wood they were used to, and the stoves suited to it:

the want of sufficient flame and the limited extent of the horizontal surface of the fire in stoves cooking with an thracite coal hitherto in use have made it difficult if not impossible to expose more than one or two boilers at once to the degree of heat necessary to carry on culinary operations to advantage and ... also it has been found difficult in such stoves to increase or diminish the fire suddenly for different purposes...
Spoor's answer was to place the fire directly under the middle of the top plate, 
The ... top of the stove has several openings for boilers and kettles or other cooking utensils, the openings for them being in such order and arrangement that all of them to the number of three or more stand partly over and are directly exposed to the fire and may consequently be kept boiling at the same time, thus avoiding the necessity of removing one after another successively to the fire, or of giving a rotary motion to the plate in which they are contained to attain the necessary degree of heat.
Like Nott's, Spoor's was thus a circular rather than a rotary stove -- "The circular form, tho' not essential, being the best adapted to the arrangement that is to be made of the boilers and other utensils for cooking..."  The heat applied to individual boiler holes was also provided by a secondary flue controlled by dampers, so that one or more could receive a double dose.  Spoor's stove had no oven, except for reflector ovens ("tin kitchens") that could be placed around the hot radiating iron column on which the top plate stood.

Spoor, b. 1791, was a physician in Coxsackie in the Lower Hudson Valley. Evidence for the production and sale of his cooking stove is scant, but there must have been enough of both to encourage him to persist with it.  This was neither his first stove patent (that was X8084 the previous year, an anthracite heating stove of more conventional appearance and arrangement, worth reissuing in 1838 to defend it better against imitators and infringers), nor his only round stove (there was also X8574, taken out the same day as its partner), nor yet his last (8043 for "Agitating Grate-Bars," in 1851). Whatever the fate of Spoor's circular cooking stove design, he was certainly a serious and quite successful inventor.  His anthracite heating stove and grate design was bought, brought into production, and sold widely, first of all by the Nott family's Union Furnace in Albany, and then by J. & A. Fellows of Troy.  [J. & A. Fellows, "Notice," Troy Daily Whig 1839 frame 1130.]



Gill, Bennington -- New York, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. X9285 December 9, 1835



French, Maynard -- Albany, NY -- Stove-cap, Rotary Pat. No. X9451 March 2, 1836



Douglas, Beriah -- Albany, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. X9805 June 30, 1836



Douglas, Beriah -- Albany, NY -- Heating Stove Pat. No. X9806 June 30, 1836 [records for these two patents are confused -- the description of one is with the drawing of the other, and vice versa]



Granger, Chester. Pittsford. Stove, Cooking. X9875. 1836. Class 126/1R   




Granger took out his rotary stove patent after Stanley's had been voided as a result of the judge's decision in the Hewitt case.  The text is a long, detailed, and complicated description, not helped by a drawing providing no information about the stove's internal structure and workings.  In essence it seems to be a closer imitation of the Town patent than of Stanley's, lacking the former's impractical lever action to raise and rotate the turntable, but also the latter's rack and pinion to move it easily.  Instead it had roller bearings, which were supposed to make it possible to turn the hot stove top by hand.  Otherwise, it's a very standard flat cook stove, with sunk hearth and a side door for feeding wood into the firebox.


Chester Granger (b. 1797) came to Pittsford from the Salisbury, Connecticut, iron district in 1826, to join his father Simeon who had bought a blast furnace producing pig iron and stoves which was where the first Conant stoves had been made in 1819.  In 1829 they built a foundry for stove-making near the blast furnace.  The Grangers were important local citizens -- the community that grew up around their works, a mile out of town along Furnace Road, is still called Grangerville.  Simeon died in 1834, and Chester took over as the leading member of the family partnerships that continued to run and develop it until after the Civil War.  Chester was remembered at the end of his long career as an ironmaster, bank director, and railroad promoter as "a man of energy, public spirit, and sterling integrity, and many a poor person can testify as to his private charity and benevolence."  As in the case of Elisha Town, it is unlikely that Henry Stanley would have spoken as kindly of him, and certainly not in 1836.  Granger's stoves were advertised and sold, for example in Brattleboro and vicinity in the 1837-1838 seasons, but it's not clear that his patent rotary and the "celebrated conical stove" were one and the same; it is however possible that the curious raised collars forming the boiler holes on the top of the stove gave it its name, to distinguish it from all of the other rotaries thronging the market.


Granger, Rensselaer D. --  Troy, NY -- Stoves, Adding ovens to rotary Pat. No. 282 July 17, 1837

Mott, Jordan L. -- New York, NY -- Stove, Combination cooking Pat. No. 466 November 20, 1837

Heermance, Garet G. -- Poughkeepsie, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 852 July 24, 1838


Ketchum, Micah -- Boston, PA -- Stove Pat. No. 1,159 May 25, 1839


French, Maynard -- Cincinnati, OH -- Stove, Rotary-top Pat. No. 2,666 June 11, 1842


Hart, Albert D. -- Pittsfield, MA -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 3,164 July 8, 1843


Mott, Jordan L. -- New York, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 7,347 May 7, 1850


Mott, Jordan L. -- New York, NY -- Stove, Cooking Pat. No. 7,366 May 14, 1850


Hill, W.W. -- Greenport, NY -- Dampers in rotary stoves, Arrangement of, Pat. No. 11,010 June 6, 1854