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A Range of Ranges

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When I was writing the posts about the Capitol dome, I wrote one about the firm of Janes, Fowler, & Kirtland Co. and in the post I included an image of one of the stoves they manufactured.  At the time, I was pretty confident that I wouldn’t be doing much more research on cast iron stoves. I was wrong.

image shows four different models of stoves
Old fashioned coal stoves. ca 1830-1900.

Recently, while doing some research on a particular stove, the colorful cover image from a 1917 catalog for Excelsior Stove & Manufacturing Company caught my eye.

Image shows a woman in the kitchen sitting in a blue chair in front of here Excelsior Stove
Excelsior Stove & Manufacturing Company, 1917 catalog

As you would expect from a catalog, it features images and specifications of the numerous models they sold as well as helpful corporate and shipping information for those who wanted to inquire about the products and do business with the company. But it wasn’t just about the stoves and furnaces, because there were other things to buy — furnace parts, pipe fittings, register covers, and more.  They even included images of past and current locations — including the original factory, their headquarters in Quincy, Illinois and branches in Oklahoma City, St. Paul, and Paris, Texas — as well as a few images of the buildings where their products had been installed.  As interesting as the catalog was, it wasn’t the only interesting find.

I also found another title whose cover may not be as interesting, but whose content is a rich source for anyone interested in cast iron stoves and furnaces.  While we only have the first edition of Walden’s Stove Trade Directory, Containing a List of Stove Foundries in the United States from 1892/93, it is still very informative.  After turning page after page, I was amazed at the sheer number of manufacturers of stoves and furnaces throughout the country.

It took a bit to understand how to use this title, but it is mostly broken into distinct geographic parts  –  New York State; New England; Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the South; Western states — with each of those parts having subsections for foundries, manufacturers and dealers, and an alphabetical list of stove names with their manufacturer.  There was also a section that listed all the foundries found in each of the geographic parts and another that had a number of advertisements.

image shows and Excelsior stove with descriptions of the parts and benefits
Excelsior Stove & Manufacturing Company, 1917 catalog

I looked for Excelsior in the Western states part because it was located in Quincy, Illinois, but I didn’t see it in the List of Stove Manufacturers under Quincy, Illinois. I did find an Excelsior Manufacturing Company listed under St. Louis, Missouri along with other manufacturers in St. Louis at that time.  I also found an Excelsior Stove Repair Co. in Quincy in the subsection for “stove manufacturers, stove and tinware dealers” and another firm, Excelsior Steel Furnace Co. in Chicago listed under Stove Manufacturers.

In 2017, I doubt there are many who need to be convinced to buy or use stoves. However, in the early 20th century that was not necessarily the case because a full page piece “Stove Talk” in the Montgomery Tribune in 1910 sought to explain the “purpose of a range” – fuel economy, durability, improved cooking quality, and convenience.

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